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Pubs: National Drinks/Bar Writer of the Year.

Byline: Mike Chapple at the bar

'AY MATE - you've dropped yer pie,' said Mr Surly in the seat adjacent with a look of disgust that suggested wind had been broken in front of his wife.

He was mistaken. It was a half munched pasty not pie that had fallen out of the shoulder bag and into the aisle of the Lime Street-bound train as the munchee, yours truly, slumped into his seat nursing a hangover and sweating like Bernard Manning in a dominatrix outfit.

It was an ignominuous end to a rewarding 24-hour adventure in London, featuring a night of stars and bars plus the winning of a prize that's as much a credit to you as anything else.

The Glenfiddich Food and Drink awards are the Oscars of the culinary world and at the 35th ceremony held at the swish Albannach in Trafalgar Square the six judges decided to give the national Drinks/Bar Writer of the Year award to this column. It meant drinking numerous glasses of amber nectar, noshing any number of exotic canapes (haggis and haddock flavour anyone?) and sharing the stage with a host of luminaries. These included the great Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall, who won best TV programme award for Beyond River Cottage, Gordon Ramsay the FFood and Drink Personality of the Year and Jamie Oliver's dinner lady Nora Sands who picked up the Essex Lad's Independent Spirit Award.

Being a non-personality unnaccustomed to such attention, the most daunting prospect in receiving such a prestigious award is adopting the Dalglish-style dribbling skills needed to get from the back of the venue to the stage without flipping over Jack-Douglas-style on the jacksy. The other is the dilemma of what to say on getting there. The MC, the writer/comedian Tony Hawks, however, was a prince who posed just one simple question as he handed over the trophy. It was: 'What makes pubs so special?'

The answer was simple. And it was 'you lot' meaning the ordinary real people of Merseyside, who frequent both this column and the hostelries across the region.

What makes these pubs so special is not so much the food and drink that we serve in them but the people who drink there. Let's face it, to write a 600 word eulogy every week about a pint of Old Scrote would test the staying power of anybody.

It's the people that make pubs and it was this which seemed to have struck a real chord with not only the judges but the general audience who seemed to look on the award as a kind of win for Liverpool itself.

After being villified for so long, the perception of this city by outsiders seems to have switched to the positive, something akin to the underdogs being 2-nil down with ten minutes to go, who clinch a 3-2 victory in stoppage time.

'Liverpool - Great! Great!' or 'Well done - that's one in the eye against the nationals' were typical of the comments made throughout the night. This transcended any personal achievement that might have been felt and tunred into something much more powerful.

The judges - which included GQ editor Dylan Jones, the drinks writer and broadcaster Dave Broom and Sue Lawrence the president of the Guild of Food Writers - all made a point of coming over and saying how much they enjoyed reading about the people of this city.

And they were especially moved by the column which typified probably more than anything else the sense of community which pervades this city. It mourned the death of Richard Shaw and the subsequent celebration of his life at a packed service at Walton Church and the wake at the Fly in the Loaf.

It made winning that much more precious not just for me and you but for the memory of a good man still missed by many.

This one's for you, Rich

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Mike accepts his award from host Tony Hawks
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 14, 2005
Words:655
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