At the sign of the fatuous fake

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The Independent Culture
WHEN I tell people where I live, they usually say, "Oh yes, I know, that great pub with the sawdust on the floor" (unless they are functionaries, bailiffs or jobsworths, in which case they say, "Oh, the Cayman Islands; can you prove that, sir?").

Not any more. The great pub with the sawdust on the floor has been done over. The first thing to go was the sawdust. I suppose if it hadn't had any sawdust to start with, they might have put some in, as a style detail, but The Sun had sawdust on the floor because it was sensible stuff to put on the floor of a pub, and so it had to go. There's no room in the world of high-concept theme marketing for stuff that just seemed like a good idea.

It's not called The Sun any more, either. There's no USP in a name like that. If someone said to you, "Let's meet at The Sun," you'd say to yourself, That'll be a pub, then, and you'd know how it worked. The pub provides (a) beer and (b) somewhere to drink it. You give the barman some money. He gives you some beer, and you drink it with your friends.

This is how pubs have worked for centuries, but it's not enough now, do you see, oh dear me no. The Management, by some primitive faculty of observation, has realised that the reason people go to the pub is to be with their friends. The particular pub they go to is barely relevant. They might take a sudden, inexplicable dislike to The Sun, or maybe even just fancy a change, and meet instead in The Lamb, or The Eagle, or The Coach & Horses, and have just as good a time, drinking and chatting and having tremendous rows about football and religion, and where's the profit in that?

Their answer, of course, is to barge in on the relationship; to try and make the pub more important than the people you're in it with. This is stupid. Imagine some bedding company trying to persuade you that if you wanted a truly high-quality erotic experience, what you needed was not so much a glint in your eye and a willing partner, but a Scrannett & Pudwhacker "Empire Libertine" bedroom suite, complete with pre-rumpled sheets and scattered with hand-crafted lineaments of gratified desire. Would we believe them? Of course we would; we are so frightened, insecure and culturally deracinated that we would believe anyone who promised to take over the responsibility for our own social or sexual identities and incorporate them into a simple retail transaction. We may secretly know that, given the right company, we can have just as much fun in an Old Burlington Street doorway, but the burden of that knowledge is just too great to bear.

So The Sun is now Finnegan's Wake, and never mind that that intrusive apostrophe nearly killed poor Jimmy Joyst do you hear what I'm telling you. It is now an Irish Pub, announcing the fact in reeling illuminated Olde Paddy curlicues, and do you know what I'm going to say, any place that tells you what sort of a place it is, there's something quare about that place. Matter a damn whether it says "Mexican Cantina" or "German Bierkeller" or "American Diner" or "Australian Outback Pub", it's a fake and bogus and not the thing at all. What's more, anyone who goes in such a place is complicit in their own deception and playing into the hands of your men in the back office there, who see humanity as a cash-crop and value-for-money as a lamentable but necessary evil, to be pared to the bone - the bone, do you hear me! - by whatever means, fair or foul, but preferably foul.

And do you know what it says? Do you know what it says? I'll tell you what it says, on the outside there, bold as brass. It says: "Good Craic".

Well now, that's what we used to call "crack", but you couldn't put that outside a pub these days otherwise you'd get the wrong sort entirely, coming in with their trembling hands and tiny red eyes, not so different from the pub crowd now I come to think of it except that the disintegration takes place much faster.

So "craic" it is, and to be honest it's not what we used to call "crack" because we never used to call it anything... and we never used to call it anything because we never did it. Go up Kilburn way and you'll see plenty of crack going on. All it requires is the two essentials: (1) a pub and (2) some Irish people. The pub doesn't have to have a daft name out of Jimmy Joyst. It doesn't even have to say "Irish Pub" on it. And, similarly, sticking a sign saying "Good Craic" on a pub full of pale, whining office workers and off-duty burglars is going to be about as effective as a one- legged man at an arse-kicking party.

There'll be no craic, good or otherwise, at Finnegan's Wake. Craic is the art of talking eloquent, exuberant, free-association nonsense to complete strangers, but this is England, where we prefer to sit around moaning about money, the boss, the Government, the weather, that big-busted bitch in Goods Inwards, the Social, the telly, the papers and the ref. It'll be What you looking at? Eh? I said, what you looking at? and I said to him, look who's talking, be like that then, who do you think you are, see if I care and Of course Gerry's not up to the job, he shouldn't have been promoted, he's really not up to it and He calls me in and says, "What are these then?" and I says to him, "What?" and he says, "These 272/B/119s?"...

And every now and then people will wonder vaguely what happened to the Good Craic and when it's going to start and whether it's extra, and they'll either feel faintly cheated (but won't notice because feeling faintly cheated is the defining experience of the Nineties) or won't really care either way.

But just to be on the safe side, I think I'll get the signwriters round here to do the front door. "Haute Cuisine, Loose Women, Money Lying Around In Piles On The Floor." You never know; it might just work. !