Saturday, 7 June 2008
Who's Round Is It?
It occurred to me the other day that we've not been to the pub for a drink. This is very remiss of us, and I think it would be great if you and your other halfs could come to my local next Wednesday for a few jars. Shall we say 8? Fine.
I'm told that the British Pub is an institution, and that they don't have such things in America, where bars are pretty much pick-up joints. I'm not sure I believe this, since I've been to bars in the US and I've never been picked up.
Of course, things aren't the same as they were in the good old days. They never are. In the good old days people were moaning saying that it was terrible that things weren't the same as they were in the good old days before that. When I started drinking 20 years ago, pubs were full of people drinking. Many didn't serve meals, though you might get a sandwich at lunchtime. Nowadays almost all of them do a wide range of food, and fewer people are going out just for beer.
A few years ago pubs tried to appeal to families. They put in ball pits and children running around were at risk of ending up being set on fire by a stray cigarette. Nowadays a lot of the play areas have been removed. As have the cigarettes. Smokers can now been seen outside pubs having a fag break, and where there is enough land, smoking shelters have been constructed in pub gardens.
You will of course want to sample the real ale. When I was working as a barman years ago, a group of Americans came in. They'd obviously been here for a few days, since they had learned to say "please", rather than "Give me a beer", which is impolite in this country. One of them had a look at the pumps and chose a real ale. Then he asked for salt. I thought that maybe he was going to do some kind of party trick, probably involving matches - most pub tricks do - but instead, he put it in his beer. And drank it. Then came back for another...
I hope that none of you are fans of cocktails, or of those shots they serve in the US which seem to contain very little alcohol. Pretty much the only cocktail you'll get here is a Gin and Tonic. If they have any tonic. If you're lucky you might even get a slice of lemon in it. You will be pleased to know that these days bottled drinks are chilled, and that ice is readily available. Although, you usually get about 2 lumps, not half a glass full.
We might get the chance to play some games. I'm embarrassed to say that I have never played shove ha'penny (nor do I know what it is), though I did once try bar billiards, which is a bit like pool, in that you have to hit balls into holes, but the holes have scores, and there are mushrooms on the table which you musn't knock over. There is also "table skittles", which involves knocking pins over with a ball on a string.
Pubs tend to have pool tables, and a dart board, though I wouldn't trust myself not to hit some unfortunate bystander.
My local doesn't have a skittle alley. Skittles is a bit like 10 pin bowling, except that there are only 9 skittles, they're wooden, there are gaps between them, and the ball is smaller.
However, the main activity is of course conversation. Solving all the world's problems, and complaining that you can't get a proper ploughman's lunch any more...