Wednesday, January 14, 2004

In praise of the shitty London pub.

Last night I went for a drink with fm1 and ex-fm1. Randomly we went to The Crown on Seven Dials which turned out to be very nice indeed in a ‘completely everything you expect and want in a local but located in Covent Garden instead’ kind of a way. It’s quite odd that even in the middle of one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations some pubs remain utterly tourist free. Why is that? Do they appear threatening to French language students and American travellers, or is it just that they don’t have anything tourists want. Personally I’m very fond of Stella, smoke, rickety stairs to dubious toilets, pies, prints of ‘Olde Londone’ and that strange mix of office workers, drunks, builders, students and oddball poseurs that seem to inhabit them throughout the day, but maybe that’s just me.

Perhaps it’s because they are unaware of the social contract going on. The London pub is not primarily about sociability though that is of course important. It’s certainly not about food, or being seen, or some sort of social exposure. It’s about getting pissed. Whether you’re with your mates, your colleagues or on your own with the Guardian, the social contract between you and The Guvner is very simple : “Provided you (the customer) don’t annoy the other customers by being too loud / intrusive / a total wanker we will continue to serve you with alcoholic drinks long after any sensible person would have stopped, provided you still have money to pay with and can stand at the bar with no more than a 30ยบ tilt to starboard. We will also provide sticky tables, wobbly stools, ashtrays the size of dustbin lids and a bollocks juke box for your drinking satisfaction.”

That’s all I need. I don’t need an offer of Spiced venison sausages with celeriac mash & onion gravy, or wine by the bottle or flowers on the table. No, I like a nice grimy boozer where the absolute minimum is required of me – I could be wearing my dressing gown for all anyone would care – where I know I will be able to sit from 6pm till chucking out time, drinking myself into a regrettable condition in the sure and certain knowledge that no-one, be it fellow punter or bar staff member is going to get on my case about anything. However I can see that all this might not be immediately appealing to the casual visitor. It’s their loss I guess, and if you do want all the above mentioned crap you can always go to All Bar One. Which, incidentally, always seems to be full of tourists.

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