Thursday night is pub night at OISE Cambridge.
I seem to go to the pub less and less, which is a pity.
Perhaps I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. I used to find the pub, and pub culture, mildly fascinating. The pub was always about more than enjoyment. It was also about more than beer. For British culture, like Northern European culture in general, is a drinking culture. Southern and Mediterranean Europe are food cultures. In Southern Europe, if you wish to break down social barriers, get to know someone, welcome someone (a new colleague, for example) to the group, you sit down and eat together. In Northern Europe, you go for a drink. More than that, you get drunk.
If you drink with someone – get drunk with someone – your guard is conspicuously down. The English get very nervy if someone in company is not drinking. It is like having someone standing up while everyone else is sitting down. It generates tension. If one person in a group of drinkers is not keeping pace, or not drinking at all, they become – subconsciously, perhaps – a source of tension. If, on the other hand, you drink along, you stand to be accepted into the group.
So the pub was always a proving ground. It was a place for banter, hence no music; it was a place for drinking, hence no food (unless it was a packet of salted peanuts or, at best, a cheese sandwich).
For some time past, however, pubs are where you go for a bit of fun, not for a bit of gloomy lugubrious social bonding. There is music. There is a menu. There are girls. I’m not complaining – as I say, I go to the pub less and less myself, and it could be that the pub I nostalgically recall in fact never existed. Perhaps you move on. If you ever sat in a foetid room on a threadbare bench with a dark warm flat beer in exclusively male company, staring at the lights flashing on the fruit machine, and didn’t hanker for something more satisfying, perhaps there was something wrong with you. Perhaps you were mistaking the rite of passage for the promised land.