I think the moment any North American realises the place the pub occupies in British culture is always a wonderful one. Because we just don’t have anything like it. Coffee houses are kind of similar, at least, the one we used to frequent when I was a teenager, and we did treat that place like it was our living room, so much so that The Mom would phone up when it was dinner time and announce that dinner was indeed ready and all who were eating at ours best get moving.
I have spent, as will come as no shock, many days and nights putting the world to rights so to speak in the pub. When I was first studying down in Cornwall, I wrote my novel/thesis in the pub, and I did the same thing when I moved up to Glasgow. The great thing about pubs is that they’re warm – this is a key point once you’d paid a heating bill in a draft flat.
There are of course bars here too, but I have to say, I rarely go to them. It’s nice to, now and again, but then, I’m basically an old man: I like a nice quiet pub, where I can read and drink ale. Literally, this is my favourite thing to do. It’s not nearly as fun sitting on my own couch, reading, and drinking ale.
So when The Mom came to visit, I wanted to show her the many, many functions of the pub. First and foremost, it is a place where I can count on being able to use the bathroom. Always handy as a Crohn’s sufferer. I cannot count the number of times a nearby pub has saved me.
And quite frankly, I can’t quite believe how quickly The Mom took to the pubs here. Particularly my local which I like because, well, it’s my local, and also it’s kind of an old man’s pub. Honestly, I think if The Mom lived here, she’d spend most of her days at the pub. In fact, that’s probably an ideal situation for her. She would, within moments, turn into the crazy lady at the end of the bar who will chat with literally all the people. She would easily become an attraction in her own right.
One of my favourite old pubs in London has a resident parrot who is as foul-tempered as you’d hope. He walks up and down the bar keeping people in their place and if you step out of line, too bad: he once shredded an American’s packet of cigarettes and when the man reproached the bartended he simply shrugged and said, “Shouldn’t have let them there, should you?”
I imagine The Mom serving a similar purpose, though perhaps in a less enforcer kind of way. She might have her own stool, upon which she might perch of an afternoon, sipping her wine and reading a trashy novel until some local came in with some bit of gossip, whereupon that would be them talking until they’re blue in the face.
Or perhaps someone might appear with a dog and The Mom would instantly take charge of the dog, offering some kind of pet-enjoying service – complimentary of course – relieving the patron of his pooch so he could better enjoy the paper.
In fact, I see a great future for her as a publican, a landlady of sorts. She has always expressed an interest in running a B&B – in as much as one might dream of such things. As in, she imagines flitting about, making conversation with people who are charming and affable. If she were to include the grouch and drunk in that, I think she’d make a fine landlady.
Anyhow, I think what caught The Mom’s attention more than anything was the fact that you can bring your dog into most pub’s provided he or she is well-behaved. Which seems reasonable. If you’re going to allow children and drunks, you may as well allow dogs in too because frankly they’re generally more well-behaved. She couldn’t stop talking about this convention and I think it raised the British in her esteem.
“Yes, you see, I think they prefer their dogs to their children here,” I informed her in a low whisper.
“And why not! The dogs are nicer, more loyal, and don’t cost as much.”
It’s a wonder I ever got the woman out of the pub.