Sunday, 19 November 2006

Drinking

I posted a little comment on Devil's Kitchen today boasting about my intake of Pol Roger over the weekend. The thing about that was that Ms Drummer and I did the drinking at home and it wasn't beer.

I tend to think that actually, the great centrepiece of English civilisation is the pub. It is the pub where most political chatter (however ill-informed) takes place, which is why Guardian columnists despise the kind of talk that goes on there - precisely because it is a real democratic forum. It is in the pub that communities find their soul, in homely, safe, environments with buildings that have lived through the wars, the unemployment, the dislocation of the last century and more. It is in the pub where we drink together, meet new people, disagree with friends, and fight. Yes, pubs can be aggressive and difficult places. We mind our manners, queue appropriately - sometimes under pain of a beating, which is fair enough - and help out fellow drinkers, as a chap I was profoundly scared of did for me tonight, just by calling the barman for me. The ethic of the queue is nowhere stronger than in the pub; and the last time I was physically threatened was when I attempted to challenge that, some years ago. The ethic of closing the door from the winter wind, out of sheer consideration, is nowhere stronger than in the pub, where unless you are lucky enough to sit by the fire, the biting chill can take your bones even when far from the window seats. We drink real beer, local beer, living beer, as well as Stella and good wines. We eat crappy crisps and chips with cheese; beef wellington and beefburgers; death by chocolate and the lightest sorbets.

The pub is not the bar: I have been in too many bars in Australia, or "cafes" in France, not to know the difference. French cafes have a reputation for philosophy, but only in the English pub have I heard philosophy, religion, politics, football, cricket, television, radio and the toad work being discussed. The French cafes that serve booze serve only crap lager or Stella, very little in the way of real, quality, small time local produce (for which the French are supposed to be famous) and there is nowhere to be social and unsociable at the same time. France is also uneasy with the concept of going to the bar and demanding service, often insisting that you wait until the waiter is ready, and then handing you a receipt for two halves of crap lager.

And the pint - glorious measure of perfection, oh you tribute to irrationality breeding success, you are the correct amount for beer and lager, for sustenance and not-yet-full bladders, you are reasonably priced and you come at excellent intervals.
The half - you imp, you cheeky devil, you promise of riches and glory, you temptress - you are just too sexy to be called "250ml" or whatever.

Crisps! Oh blessed accompaniment to the hungry work of drinking! You fill me with salt and make me regretfully need more drink. Peanuts, you slightly healthier and chunkier means to the same end!

Here's to the pub - whatever New Labour's health fascists think. Cheers!

2 comments:

james higham said...

Wish you'd posted this a few day's back:

The pub is not the bar: I have been in too many bars in Australia, or "cafes" in France, not to know the difference. French cafes have a reputation for philosophy, but only in the English pub have I heard philosophy, religion, politics, football, cricket, television, radio and the toad work being discussed.

By the way, how was the Pol Roger?

The Tin Drummer said...

It was slim, fine, with undertones of soft peach, and hints of citrus. It was smooth, subtle and bloody glorious.