My brother used to espouse the theory that Pubs were the new Churches. This sermon was inevitably delivered in a beer serving hostelry, which neither of us had any intention of leaving its’ warm fug for the cold hostility of God’s place round the corner. He felt therefore that the overwhelming empirical evidence was with us, and the sooner the Church got a few barrels on and replaced the Cross with a dartboard, the more chance they’d have retaining their few, aged customers.
I was never quite sure it was so clear cut, and – even at that young age – a balanced view between atheism and the outside chance there might be something in this divinity stuff kept me firmly on the fence. Spiritually that is, physically I was getting shit-faced down the local on a multi-year research project to calculate the exact quantity of tequila chasers it took to render one permanently blind.*
I’m so much older now. Hangovers last for days, occasionally weeks. So I find myself capping the bottle early doors or substituting a nice cup of tea on a school night. And, since moving out of the beery post work paradise that was our old office, pubs have little gravitational hold on me nowadays. This has absolutely whatsoever with some kind of long term Puritan abstinence, more a slide into the habit of home based drunkenesss.
Why not eh? It’s not far to fall into your bed, and even if you do find a single flight of stairs too challenging it is unlikely you’ll be mugged on your own sofa. You know exactly what you’re drinking**, there’s unlikely to be an unseemly crush for the toilet, and your boorish behaviour is generally only exposed to a long suffering spouse. Or the in-laws, and let’s face it that’s sport “Go on, tell me again exactly who it is taking our jobs, and more on that great idea of your to arm the border guards”
We do pubs as families now. There may be a pub closing every day, but that’s more about demographics, social habits and – this seems to be lost in some of the hand ringing – because some are undeniably shit. The No Smoking ban may have forced out the hardcore pubbist, but the vacuum has been filled by those who fancy a pint, and know this comes with a no cooking option. But I can count on the fingers of one hand*** the frequency in which I’ve gone to the pub for a beer with a few mates in the last year.
Sometimes after riding in far off places, with good old friends and a thirst that only a day spinning pedals can bring. Or forced stopovers in our lovely capital where there is nothing to do except get properly lathered. But no, going for a drink after work has been substituted by getting on my bike or driving sixty miles. And lover of alcohol as I am, it really mixes not well at all with tons of metal driven by people who have “Cock” tattooed in their DNA.
Until last Thursday when a combination of mono-lung, bastard strong prescription steroids and a visitation from those normally confined to the London hutch saw me stuck in a poncy Pub drinking orange juice and wondering what the fuck had happened. Context is required here; all round the Birmingham office is a gentrified Canal Basin full of identikit gastro-pubs and Canary Wharf wanabees. Even in these straightened times, Thursday night was full of champagne, sycophancy, forced laughter and testosterone braying.
Juxtaposed between these raging bulls and bored looking bar staff were two hen parties singing their way through a back catalogue of Karaoke favourites. Occasionally they’d hit the right note, but the general noise was as flat as the fizz they were drinking. I looked around and though “Jesus, either I got very old, or they’re all on some kind of sponsored acid trip“. The Son of God failed to illuminate my mind with any answers, so I made my excuses and got the hell out of there.
I do like pubs. Old pubs, or pubs that are made to look old. Hand Pulled beer. Pies. Jolly, fat publicans who know what they are serving. I’ll even put up with some nailed brass-ware and unidentifiable agricultural relics. I like sitting down in a creaky old chair and being able to hear a conversation without an ear bleeding accompaniment from a base speaker the size of Croydon, or the incessant beeping of some flashing machine.
You can put your bloody crackberry away as well. What’s all that about. Reading email IN THE PUB. How important do you think you are? And if you are, get your fat arse back to the office. It’s bad enough talking about work in the pub, never mind doing it.
You know I’m not sure my Brother was right. Pubs are not the new churches. I’m not exactly sure what some of them are, but I’ve absolutely no intention of spending any more time finding out thanks. Of course, you could argue I’m a grumpy old bugger that’s failed to move with the times. And, right now, I’d probably agree because next to me is a large glass of wine, and inside I’m already feeling a rather warming glow. Maybe I should open up to the public.
* I never found out, but it wasn’t through a lack of determined application. Really it would have been kinder to spoon my liver out with a rusty trowel, before affixing it to the wall with a nail gun.
** Until that horrible moment where you’re sober enough to be able to find the “Bio Hazard Drinks Bottles” but too pissed to care why you stashed them ten feet underground guarded by a tiger.
** Six. I’ve been inducted to the ways of the Herefordshire man.