There might be a lot fewer of them these days, but the English pub is still revered all over the world.
There must still be a few dozen of them left in Hartlepool, but in my young days there were so many more.
Just drive around town now and you can play a game of trying to remember which pub used to be on a redeveloped site.
Just head along Catcote Road, for example, and you pass the place where the Shakespeare pub used to be at the junction with Oxford Road, followed by the well-remembered Pink Domino.
Both sites are now food stores, so perhaps we are eating more and drinking less.
Time was that there was a public house just about within walking distance of most homes in town, and “the local” was very much that.
Times change, and we probably spend more time at home and with families these days, and some of the busier licensed premises in town have cottoned on to that with facilities aimed at youngsters with their mums and dads.
In the end, though, it’s about atmosphere, and successful pubs seem to offer a place where the customer feels genuinely welcome.
Outside this country, you find that many people have a very idealised idea of life in an English pub with an image of cosiness and great conversation in nooks and crannies.
On my travels, I’ve seen some amusing attempts to replicate the English local a long way from home.
A classic was in Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, where the Queen Vic, as in Eastenders, made a pretty lame effort.
It was hard enough with blistering temperatures outside, but they were let down by the fact that their only two beers were Dutch Amstel and Egyptian Sakara.
Having said that, we also seem to think that anything with foreign roots is more exotic and attractive than the home-produced article.
I don’t think we have an Irish style pub in town anymore (do we?) but I remember Fibber McGinty’s in Whitby Street which boasted draught Guinness, bare wooden boards and Irish music.
Not too far away, there are Australian and American-themed bars, but they all seem to be a pale copy of the genuine article.
Perhaps the modern way is to go exotic at home.
You just have to look around the drinks aisle in a Hartlepool supermarket to see a range of imported beers which would have made my granddad’s eyes pop out.
The big question is whether a San Miguel tastes the same in the Spanish sunshine as it does on a grim January night at home.
My favourite mock exotic bar is an Irish pub in Aalborg on Denmark’s east coast.
As you can see in the picture, it looks right – and has a New Zealander for a landlord, free wifi and live English cricket and football on TV.
It’s just occurred to me that I have pubs on my mind as, perhaps like you, I’m in the middle of my “dry January” attempt with no alcohol in sight – but a man can dream.