WATCHING the TV, Mr Johnson blurts out, in his faux casual, indifferent style "everyone will know what to do" after telling people not to go to the pub, whilst not telling the pubs that they must shut, my immediate thought was "go to the pub". But which one?

Pubs are an important part of British life. The Bull’s Head, a genuine free house in Delph, Saddleworth, has been struggling to survive this last few years, its owner trying all sorts of ideas to get people over the doormat.

On Monday, there were just five people in, spread out in good social-distancing manner, three of us sat wide at the bar. I’d never met the other two and we were laughing at pre-apocolypse humour, joking, enjoying our "last pint" together.

In fact, what we were really doing was shoring up the landlord, who was looking at a bleak future with no customers coming over the horizon.

"I can’t afford to close," said Stewart "…so I will stay open until the police tell me I have to shut." His smile did not hide the obvious fear and trepidation of a future with zero income and no control.

The prime minister telling people to stay away from pubs and restaurants, whilst not telling those premises to close, was a calculated mixed message, confusing communication that lacked any logic and most likely supported the insurance industry as opposed to ordinary people and small business owners like Stewart. Boris was recently paid £25,000 by the British Insurance Broker Association [Biba]to speak at its conference in Manchester May 2019.

The day after, I happened to be driving past what is reputedly the oldest pub in Yorkshire and one of the oldest pubs in the country, The Bridge Inn, Ripponden, another totally independent Free House.

This is a pub I have been visiting for over 34 years since I went to school nearby - a pub that has been in continuous business since 1307. That is 713 years, including the Great Plague of 1665.

Tim the landlord walked into the room where I was sat alone. "Hello John, thanks for coming over, that’s very kind of you, much appreciated," he said. "I had to come, Tim," I replied. He looked flatly into the mid distance, turned on his heel and left the room.

It was a tearful moment.

John L Matthews

Film director and a writer from Uppermill. His new book "Butcher Boy", a memoir of his time as an apprentice butcher, is released in time for Father’s Day – details and pre-orders via