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Prevailing opinion is that to succeed in the pub business, generally you have to be free of tie, or if not, the only pub for miles around and in a highly populated area. I know - not always the case - but I'm sure you recognise the broad picture I'm painting.

On Friday evening, a time when I am rarely in the pub due to "meeting E at the station duties", I met with a fellow CAMRA committee member to discuss some business. We decided to kill two birds with one stone and rendezvous in a conversion from smooth to cask. The pub is tied to Thwaites and at 7 pm it was heaving. We found a relatively quiet spot in the games room with our (excellent) pints of Wainwright, but lasted only 30 minutes or so before sheer weight of numbers and the volume of conversation drove us out. We decamped along the road to a Lees pub, hoping to try the new seasonal offering, Fool's Gold and complete our form filling. The pub was again full to bursting, with nowhere to sit in the lounge and just two seats in the packed vault. We squeezed into them enjoying the very bitter Fool's Gold and doing our best to finish our business against an atmospheric background of happily supping customers. It took us back to the old days, so beloved of Curmudgeon, when most pubs were like this and was heartening in the extreme.

It did make us realise though that pubs are regretfully rarely like this, but nonetheless we both felt real delight to see them doing so well.

The pubs were: Thwaites' Hare and Hounds, Oldham Rd, Middleton; Lees' Rose of Lancaster, Haigh Lane, Chadderton