A unique way of life is disappearing across Britain, possibly never to return, and I’m not talking about town centre shops here (although many are doomed to a similar fate).
The traditional British pub is under attack as never before, and the consequences are rather grave for the civilised world.
My village local, The Old Crown at Wigginton, near Tamworth, closed recently for the third time in four years after the tenants found it impossible to make a decent living.
Trevor and Barbara Astin quit the bar trade after racking up considerable losses over a 14-month period.
The pub has since re-opened with agency staff at the helm but its fate remains uncertain.
Disturbingly, the Old Crown, which dates back as a drinking haunt to 1834, is far from alone in facing an unequal struggle to survive.
Only around 15 to 20 years ago, a pub closure was rarer than a trophy these days for Arsene Wenger. Licensees came and went, but the average Briton’s love of a night out underpinned a vibrant, if volatile, industry.
But the world has changed, not necessarily for the better. An unholy alliance of cheap supermarket booze, the smoking ban, profiteering pub groups and the X Factor generation has driven tens of thousands of potential pub drinkers indoors.
The British Beer and Pub Association says around 70 per cent of alcohol sales are now through off sales, such as supermarkets or shops.
Meanwhile, duty and VAT on beer has reached £1.05 a pint, 12 times the beer duty level of Germany, another nation partial to a drop or two.
Nothing lasts forever, and the many victims of alcohol abuse at the hands of drunken partners would scarcely mourn the demise of the great British pub.
Alcohol is a dangerous stimulant, which often causes far more misery than joy.
But it would be rather tragic if the British pub were to die a slow death. For centuries, ale houses have been a clearing house for wisdom, a refuge from a harsh world, a genuine mark of friendly civilisation.
For all their faults, our pubs are still the best in the world. You can’t say that about too much of British society these days.