Pubpaper 856 – Random Pub Conversations

Posted: 14th May 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing

The random wandering pub conversation.  We’ve all been there, where chat starts between a couple of people talking about one topic and several hours later it’s still going, participants have come and gone with only the bar staff being a constant, the topic of conversation has gone through 6 degrees of separation to get to it’s current theme with a few tangential turns on the way, usually including one avenue you didn’t want to go down.   The people involved during it’s lifetime are not all friends, many just pub acquaintances, but that does not matter.

Think of other public social spaces where this would happen, if you want a friend are in a coffee shop, would you be as accepting of a relative stranger pulling up a chair and joining in? Probably not.  This is why the pub is special when compared to other places where we socially interact outside of our friends and family.  Alcohol no doubt plays a part in breaking down need for our “personal bubble”, that is no bad thing, anything which helps us bond as a society is good.  

If you are sitting at a table then your privacy is respected unless invited in, but if you are propping up the bar then the consensus seems to be that it is an open forum for anyone to join in, be they based there or just coming to order a pint.  If the conversation involves any member of staff, then it definitely falls into public domain.    This is a great thing, you find out things about people you’d never find out otherwise, other people will have more interesting experiences than you and you them in different aspects of life.   

Sometimes this leads to you helping people out, both from an informational and practical point of view.  There was a case of this a few months ago at the Cross Keys, where through the pub’s social network someone found out I had the same medical condition as their father who was about to start treatment, leading to me spending an hour talking to them one to one answering questions and telling them what to expect.  This is nothing special, this happens everyday in some form in our pubs.  This also shows the community side of our pubs, people’s willingness to give (sometimes) complete strangers their time.

Most of the time it is lighter topics, from recommendations of pubs in Weymouth that sell a wide range of rums to discussing our experiences at a new bar in town (it comes as no surprise that a lot of pub chat is about pubs and drinking).   If I am at a familiar pub I’ll generally try and sit at the bar, the buzz around the serving area is what makes a good pub for me, the more banter the better and it is an accepted rule that the better known you get at the pub the more friendly abuse you can come to expect especially from certain landlords.

We are all social animals and crave interaction with other human beings.   You look at people in long term isolation in prison and you find after a while they start to impress a human personality on inanimate objects or insects which fly into their cell as a substitute.  That is how intrinsic this is to the human psyche.   Of course we all crave our privacy at times and often you can find me with a pint and paper in the back room wanting to just chill out.

The pub is even more important now for facilitating these “community links”.  In an era where the local row of shops with the butchers, the baker, the post office, the corner shop is pretty non existent outside of towns and bigger. Where we drive our cars to the local supermarket or shop online.   Where people know a handful of people well on their street.  In the pub there is always someone who knows someone and introductions can be made in a more chilled out and casual environment, especially after a few beers.

If you become friends with the landlord, this is facilitated even more.  I’ve been introduced to a number of people by Landlords, people who are genuinely interesting people and are involved in the pub and beer scene in some way.  You don’t have to be in the pub every day drinking 5 pints a night, just being a regular visitor brings you into the pubs social circle as long as you are open to being involved in it.    This may happen at coffee shops, but how many times do you hear “Oh, I know this man at Caffe Latte who does that”, not many.

The pub has been the centre of the British social scene for hundreds of years and I can see it being supplanted anytime soon.