The sharing of beer can signify happy or sad times, good or bad health, seeing or friends or being alone. It is the most social of our drugs of choice in this country. All of the occasions above can be shared with the general public in one of our thousands of licenced premises. Despite the negative and positive side of life being played out daily in our pubs, the are still the most common point of communal congregation for the populous despite the claims of the big coffee shops and their ever expanding chains.
Take Old Pete who comes in for his few pints every weekday lunch, always Johns Smiths despite the pub selling five other far better real ales. Pete comes in, has 2 pints, reads his paper and goes on his way, no one really knowing a lot about him. But what he does build up is a routine, which when broken is noticed if he doesn’t turn up. There are individuals in society who chose to live a relatively solitary life, leaving very few stamps on the world, but when that stamp is not made, people ask questions.
I’ve been meaning to mention the Commercial / Railway Inn in this column for a few weeks, but space kept running out or me just plain overrunning. I really like Trevor and Sue, along with Jason and the rest of the team behind the bar. Hosting all of the usual amenities with darts next to the bar and pool in the back room. A kettle in the corner for those who want a tea or coffee, with piles of the recent local papers (if we can call them that now in Halifax and Brighouse) alongside publications such as Private Eye and New Scientist, very much to my taste.
In the front room are walls decorated with album covers and stringed musical instruments of all varieties, a piano sitting in the corner as you enter, having hosted numerous impromptu jam sessions. The pub is decorated like someone’s front room and making you feel just as welcome. Three pump clips adorn the bar with a mix of Copper Dragon, Saltaire or other smaller breweries from mainly Yorkshire and the north of England according on when you visit. It doesn’t do anything better than other pubs, but it pulls it all together so it feels right, you aren’t going to get the latest crafts brews, but you will get 3 good well kept ales.
I refer back to Old Pete, called so just so he had a name, The Commercial and other pubs have a number of customers like this, people who are kept an eye out on. The landlords of these pubs consider part of their role in the area as a social one as well as a dispenser of beer, spirits and cider. I know from talking to people who deal with the elder generation that there are many of them who go to the pub for lunch a few days a week or even everyday, also witnessed from personal observation with places like the William IV at King Cross benefiting greatly, plus any branch of Wetherspoons equally valid in the context of usage. Think of the benefits from their perspective, a warm room you don’t have to heat, a cheap hot meal you don’t have to cook and as much social interaction as you desire. Lets not forget a couple of pints of beer on top, being able to stay as you want plus exercise from the walk to and from the pub.
Most people of my age (just turned 40) don’t have the luxury of such routine, my pub visits and destination generally being decided in the preceding hour or two unless I have a particular reason to visit, like Vocations Smash and Grab going on the bar at the Cross Keys the other weekend. Look at the writings of myself and Chris Dyson, you’d have a good idea where you might catch us drinking in the area from a list of 5-10 pubs, but predicting a routine, you’d have low chances of success.
People of the generation above myself are far more likely to have a regular pub they visit a few times a week or daily, I’m not sure if those of us who started drinking in the 90’s or 00’s have that loyalty to one pub. I’m certainly a butterfly when it comes to my pub visits, particular pubs are on a weekly rotation, others are visited every few weeks or month, the pubs in the second list being in no way worse than those in the first, but my habit is more a set of regular pubs and I’ve fallen into certain routines, a pattern many people have adopted now. How will people of the generation below me use the pub when they reach my age, things have changed in my generation, there is no reason not to expect it will do so again.