It’s funny, drinking alone. For many of my friends it just isn’t done; an admittance perhaps that your socially failing. Another example of modern day liberal mindedness gone too far though I fear. My father in law has set off for the pub by himself, every Sunday, most weeks of his adult life, and possibly a few before that. He doesn’t ring around in advance to ask who will be there; no checking of social media sites or text messages and no sending of pigeons either come to think of it. He gets up late; has a shower and heads off. He will sit at the bar and drink a pint of whatever takes his fancy, but is within the bounds of his respectable repetoire. Bass, yes. Old Speckled Hen, yes. Landlord, yes. London Pride, no. Bank’s, no. Greene King IPA, nay, nay and thrice nay. Pedigree, pub dependent.
But of course, the beer is of little relevance in this scene. Sure, it’s part of the pub currency… a pub currency that has linked these visits from the time he started. Memories of beers that have come and gone; of public houses now just houses, and Landlords now lording it under the land behind the Church. And sure, despite what he says, the pint itself matters even less when most of the time he sluices a Gold Label into it anyway.
Because in reality, he never does drink alone. John is someone who is an institution in his village in a way I can never been in mine – he has lived there all his life; his business is there; his family are around him. And his extended village family too – people he has known all his life; or their children, new bucks he gently teases about their effiminate ways… even if he wanted to be alone, he couldn’t be. And while he may complain about this from time to time, he knows as well as everyone else that he wouldn’t have it any other way. If the pub has no other customers, then he chats to Tom, the Landlord; if he knows no one in the bar, he either introduces himself, or much more likely, is introduced. So, even though he is by himself, he is most definitely not alone.
I’m different. Sometimes I need my space. Once or twice a year, I really do need to be alone and just let the cobwebs that have accreted over the passing months get blown away. I’ll go to the hills and walk, or set off on my bike. But this isn’t the everyday me. I have what I deem to be an curious individual trait, which of course, is common to most: from time to time, I like to be alone in others’ company. the hustle and bustle around me; the chatter; the greetings; the people-watching. I observe it directly or in the corner of my eye as if floating like an invisible orb above the scene, but actually being in it is critical. Because I can choose to participate if I want to.
And beer doesn’t always feature here. Before I had children, the occasional Sunday newspaper, bag of crisps and a pint was more occasional than not; today, it’s more likely to be a snatched 30 minutes between the parental taxi duties. Not that I’m complaining. Because the shimmering image of those Sundays, sitting at a big oak table, with a broadsheet spread out in front of me and a pint of …ooh, let’s say, Broadside, my accompaniment, is always there. It may take me until retirement to live that dream frequently again, but I can dine out on the thought of it happily until then.
© David Preston, Beer Tinted Spectacles 2012