Mine's a pint - and in a proper pint pot, please

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The Independent Online

So the old pint mug is on its last legs. We all know that feeling. After a dozen pints from a dozen mugs the feeling of impending oblivion is equally familiar and unwelcome.

So the old pint mug is on its last legs. We all know that feeling. After a dozen pints from a dozen mugs the feeling of impending oblivion is equally familiar and unwelcome.

These pot-bellied glasses, scalloped and turned like tiny bow windows, have been manufactured by the same people for 150 years; the company is now going out of business. After a century and a half, it's about time they did something else, you might think, but that's a little unfeeling. Call me sentimental if you must.

Another characteristic feature of British pub life has gone into the dark, along with small beer, mildand-bitter, pubs without children, third-of-a-pint pots, personal pewter mugs kept behind the bar, snugs, milk stout, Worthington White Shield, Brew XI, and saloon bars where the beer was tuppence-a-pint more expensive.

Now that pubs are called The Builder's Arse or the Fox and Blonde or The Sexual Lubricant and Firkin, the glassware has been modernised, standardised, stripped of unnecessary decoration so as not to clash with or distract attention from the drinkers' daywear.

At this point, where tradition meets modern culture, it's time for an elegy for the pint pot. As this is a serious, not to say sombre subject, let us begin respectfully with a rear view of drinking vessels in history.

F Marian McNeill's rich and scholarly account of Scottish drinking vessels reveals the following: "The traditional wooden vessels fall into two main groups - the bickers (beakers) and the quaichs. The bickers include the capacious cogs or coggies, the cap or cappie - a small bicker with two handles - and the luggies. The luggie, however, is not strictly a drinking vessel, but rather a porringer."

If your thirst for knowledge is not yet slaked, you might want to be told that quaichs were generally made of treen. And that's enough of that.

Now.

The merits have not been finally settled between the pint pot and the straight glass. As young men, we'd always ask for the straight glass. Barmen offered you the choice in those days.

"Pint mug or straight glass?" they'd say and, because we knew what he actually meant ("Are you a bourgeois aspirant to golf club membership with a cardigan at home, a handkerchief in your trouser pocket and a begging letter to a mortgage company in your inside pocket?" we all said, "Straight glass, please". We always said please.)

But why the comfortably bulging mug should be thought of like that is a mystery. Why, precisely, was the straight glass supposedly "harder"?

The mug as a weapon would certainly have been more effective as an accessory to violence, or weapon as fighting folk have it. First, its dimples, similar to those on a golf ball, make it aerodynamically superior for throwing across rooms. It gives lift to the pitch and helps corrects any slicing (that's a golf term rather than a fighting one).

Second: the roundhouse swipe picks up more speed with a extended handle. That's physics.

And third: when you smash the mug on a table before driving it into someone's face you've got two advantages - more traction in the twist and you're far less likely to cut your own fingers on rogue edges.

There will be Independent readers who are more comfortable in a glass-fight than this writer, and their experience will be welcome on the letters page.

But my assertion is that the straight glass, breaking in a more unpredictable way and indeed, with no natural barrier to stop it, breaking right down to the base, would be a false friend when the chips were down.

Ave atque vale, oh mug. You will be missed for practical as well as sentimental reasons.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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