Sunday 21 February 1999
There are two big problems with me going to the pub. The first is that not I'm not sure what my wife would say if I suddenly announced I was going to it. I've never tried it before. She might object, or worse, she might dare me to go. The second problem is that I don't know anyone there. I don't see why I should miss Newsnight just so I can go out and drink by myself. Maybe I should send my wife to the pub. I could give her a tenner and tell her not to come back until she's drunk herself friendly. Then I could drink by myself and watch Newsnight.
My local pub is not exactly what I mean by a pub anyway. It serves warm squid salad and has an excellent wine list. I cannot complain about this. In its pre-gastropub incarnation, my local was a terrible place, filled with fruit machines and the sort of people whose moral code could best be summed up as "Don't Grass". I was afraid of the old pub. I am not afraid of the new pub, in fact I rather like it, although I wouldn't feel comfortable just dropping in for a swift half a Cabernet without making a reservation first.
Of course, it isn't the only pub around. There's another a bit further down the road which has one of those faintly disturbing patriotic names, something like The Rule Britannia. Colin goes there. Colin is the man who has been painting our house on and off for the last four years, and over that time, most of The Rule Britannia's clientele have been fetched over to ours by Colin to do little bits of work: dodgy tiling, dodgy plumbing, dodgy heating engineering, dodgy everything. I've often imagined going along to meet Colin and enjoying a pint and a laugh at my own expense with all the people who've ripped me off over the years, but I know this wouldn't work. For a start, Colin is unable to recognise me in public, despite having known me for four years. I saw him in the street the other day, a few hours after I'd left him in my kitchen, and he called me Baz. He's weird about his private time, and I have to respect that.
So I sit here with my wife, drinking wine, watching Changing Rooms and imagining a cosy little pub where everyone is animatedly discussing sport and politics, forming into groups for the trivia quiz, drinking themselves taut and showing each other tricks with coins and beer mats. And I think, even if there is such a place, it'll be bloody miles away.
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