This is by way of a follow up to my eulogy to old men’s pubs. I’ve been to the beer café in town before, for lunchtime work drinks mainly, so I knew what to expect. It is amazing how unalike four walls containing people and alcohol can prove to be; stopping off at a traditional pub after work on a Friday evening is a completely different experience to partaking of a gin and tonic in a trendy café-bar.
On this occasion, I was offered an array of fancy gins and felt that I had to take an interest, or risk offending the barman. The most recognisable brands were Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire, but I opted for something obscure, which smelled of lilac blossoms (I know this because the barman wafted it under my nose, before pouring it into an ice-filled goblet).
The room was painted a charcoal grey, which absorbed the light, but there were tall white candles in bottles dotted around on the tables. It always seems very 1970s to me, to see candles in empty wine bottles. As I set my drink down on the table, I singed my fringe on the candle flame, but happily, this did not result in self-immolation. Turning into a human fireball would not be a good start to the weekend.
There is very little of interest to describe about this experience of drinking alone in a café-bar. Unlike in the pub, no one took any notice of me at all. No one started up conversation. No one shouted “cunt!” across the room in an attempt to discompose me. It was pleasant, but boring. Which, I hate to say, is how I find middle class people in general.
I have pondered why it is that I prefer old men’s pubs and I think it just feels like familiar territory. Also, it is a more emotionally stimulating event – the middle class clientele at the café -bar seemed very jolly, but they were insular. Each table is an island, oblivious to the other islands around it.
I’m not saying that I would have found them dull, had I sat down and spoken with them, it’s just that they were self-involved – a closed group. There was no chance that any of the groups of people would interact with each other, apart from to politely ask, “is this chair taken?” In fact, that’s the only thing anyone said to me this evening. Two men with dogs sat down next to me and discussed their property renovation. I preferred their dogs – although, even their dogs were boring and unfriendly!
In conclusion, although the gin was very fragrant, I would much rather run the gauntlet of grumpy pool players in a traditional pub, than feel like I’m in a middle class sitcom. Unfortunately, I’ve always been more ‘On the Buses’ than ‘Terry and June’ – it’s too late to change now.