A tavern is a place where madness is sold by the bottle. — Jonathan Swift
Tonight, I’d like to spend some time talking about Britain’s National Sport: drinking. Ouch, was that harsh? It’s just a joke. Trust me, I’ve lived in other cities with the same attributes to their name. I know there are lots of other pastimes in this great nation, but to be honest, hitting the local is one of my favorites. The pubs across London are a unique and quintessential part of my experience in the city. I think London, and Great Britain in general, take great pride in the pub culture here. Bedecked in various tacky decorations, wood paneling and pull draughts, every pub is different, even those with the same name. To me, pubs are as culturally unique and significant as the beer houses of Germany, the hookah cafés of Turkey, or the tea houses in China. It’s the way people consume what they consume, and by golly, here in London they enjoy consume a lot of it.
Before moving to London, I thought I understand what pub culture was, and what made it so special and unique. To me, it was a style of architecture, and a type of alcohol consumed, and a general atmosphere that’s different than what you’ll find in a club or a bar. Actually, I was pretty accurate in my garbled cultural understanding, because there are dramatic differences between pubs and bars and clubs, in every way I imagined. I realized shortly after arriving that I was a ‘pub person,’ not a ‘club person,’ and I made friends with other pub people, and spent many an hour and many more a pound around tables with pints in hand, getting raucous.
My local, the Clerk & Well (EC1R 5DU) was a few minutes from campus, and for a glorious time, I was a weekly frequenter with a close group of friends. There, I discovered the nuances of cider, and developed an appreciation for Guinness. I came to know what it feels like to have the bartenders know you, and to drink until you’ve forgotten how to stop laughing. As much as it’s about consuming alcohol, pubs are also about consuming good company—unlike a cocktail bar or club with its stilettos, miniskirts and oxford collars, it’s not about how you look, it’s about how much you connect with the fellow pub people around you. True pubs are hard to find outside of London, though they’re on nearly every street corner within it, and one of the things I’ll most miss and strive to find.