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Opening time in England: joy unconfined?

July 3, 2020

The English pubs are opening tomorrow morning at 6am, thanks to our government’s kind indulgence. I can’t wait. I shall be up at 4, best bib and tucker, have a big breakfast and join all my mates for a couple of pints of lager. Then I shall return for lunch, and once more in the evening. Different pubs each time. After which I shall probably be quite ill.

Not. Not the ill bit, and not the pub bit. Though if I wanted COVID to take me down, better after a marathon drinking session than as the result of an accidental encounter with a handrail on the Tube.

I might be encouraged by a stream of messages from Boris Johnson urging me to go out and raise a few glasses, but there’s one small problem. I don’t drink. Not because of some hidden past as an alcoholic, not because I disapprove of others drinking, and not because of any religious belief. Something to do with falling out of the habit during a decade of watching people poisoning themselves in Saudi Arabia, followed by being the designated driver for two young kids.

I admit that these days I tire of watching people make total arses of themselves at an age when they should be decrepit. dignified, and ready to die. And as far as pubs are concerned, the joy of crowding into a yellow-stained biosphere of nicotine, sweat and eau de saveloy in the hope of meeting your next girlfriend palls a bit when you’ve been married for 35 years and your noise-induced hearing loss makes the braying, squawking chaos more like torture than fun.

Yes, I know pubs are a lot more civilised these days. No more jukeboxes playing Nights in White Satin or Johnny B Goode on an endless loop. A choice of more than white, red or rosé. Food options a little more varied than chicken in a basket. And if you live in the home counties, beer gardens that serve a more convivial purpose than somewhere in which to fight and throw up.

And if you’re lucky, you might be treated as a customer by the bar staff, as opposed to their best mate or a stranger to be viewed with the utmost suspicion.

I admit that I quite enjoy overhearing conversations of ladies who lunch on the next table. Makes me feel like Alan Bennett listening out for ideas for my next Talking Heads monologue. I absolutely don’t mind a halfway decent pub lunch either, provided it doesn’t take nine years to arrive.

I’m also quite happy, being the self-righteous bastard that I am, to sit among drinkers, with a tolerant smile that says that I don’t need a dose of C2H5OH to enjoy the company of others. Or, to put it another way, I don’t feel the need be at any party where I have to be the life and soul. Perhaps that explains that I don’t get to be invited to parties these days.

I certainly wouldn’t want to see pubs fade away and die. There’s certainly a lot to be said for getting drunk and making a fool of yourself in a place where your kids can’t see you, and when the only person who witnesses your return home in a wheelbarrow is the babysitter. And anyway, most people can’t afford to get drunk more than once a week, can they? Not with a pint or a glass of wine at five quid a hit.

This unfortunately explains why so many people drink at home after buying their booze at the supermarket at a quarter of the price, and why in the summer teenagers slink off into parks with cans of cheap lager bought for them by their elder brothers.

The other thing about pubs is that it would be nice if the conversation was a bit more interesting. Brexit, Boris, football and detailed descriptions of memorable sexual encounters pall after a while.

Oh for the days when in ancient Athens people used to get together for a symposium (as above), which were posh, men-only piss-ups in which participants talked of war, philosophy and their latest boyfriends while they posed for potters who would immortalise them on the side of drinking bowls.

The only equivalent we have in recent times were literary pub crawls of Dublin where great writers would drag themselves from pub to pub talking about, I guess, great writing. Or places like the Coach and Horses in Soho, where people who thought they were great writers would gather and, as in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, would drink themselves stupid while being insulted by fellow drinkers or by the malevolent landlord with a strawberry for a nose, before beating the hell out of each other.

Not my cup of tea at all, I’m afraid.

Just give me some place where I can get a decent cup of coffee, with a good internet connection and a nice garden. Somewhere where I don’t have to talk to anyone if I don’t want to without appearing an anti-social old git.

Ah. Come to think of it, that would be home. No better place for the complacent, the boring and the sad. That’s me folks!

From → Art, History, Social, UK

  1. Andrew Robinson permalink

    We complacent, boring and sad anti-social old gits need to stick together! NOT!

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