Monday, October 05, 2009

"Pubism" as a Way of Life

The tradition of the public house dates to the early taverns established two thousand years ago by the occupying Romans along the Thames in what is now the City of London. Public houses were established primarily as inns that served as resting posts for travelers completing the journey from mainland Europe to the island of Britain. As the population and economy of the city expanded, these inns became public meeting spots for labourers of various classes to gather, seek mutual cooperation within their communities, and of course drink beer. Even then it seems this city was the welcoming host to drunk foreigners with commerce and trade on their minds; not much has changed in that sense. These taverns increased in popularity and as their numbers grew during the middle ages the public house was solidified as a cornerstone of the community. Londoners have loved their ale for millennia.

Prince of Wales, Clapham Old Town:


When people conjure images of the England of their imagination, a few things typically come to mind; rain, afternoon tea, crumpets, Big Ben, Georgian row houses, and the famously manicured gardens. To this list I would add the traditional public house, more commonly known as the “pub”. I love pubs. I love them for so many reasons, but I am in love with them in England more than anywhere else in the world. A real pub in England is original, cannot be replicated, and stands the test of time. Because I really enjoy the real pubs of the English countryside, I would tend to think that in London, pubs are at their best in the tucked away corners of local neighborhoods.

The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead Heath:


In England the pub is so much more than just a place to drink beer and its been that way since their inception.. A pub is a reading room, a debate hall, an intimate meet-up spot, a self-reflection center, a place to catch a game, and occasionally, if you’re out and about and have already had a few pints, a convenient toilet stop. Think of the English pub as an adaptive multi-purpose center with limitless possibilities, and you’re the site coordinator. There are a few things that the pub is not. The pub is not meant to be a night club or a swanky cocktail lounge. It can certainly have elements of these, especially these days as "gastro-pubs" and "posh pubs" are increasing in their numbers. To the purist however, a genuine pub is unpretentious, casual, and relaxed; a place to unwind, decompress, and catch-up with others, or more importantly yourself, especially in a city as massive and hectic as London. In England, pub-ism is a way of life and we are all pub-ists.

The Tim Bobbin (Keenan's "local") at the end of our street:


Every pub-ist has a "local", their special pub that is always the default destination; a lazy Saturday afternoon with the newspaper, a rainy Thursday evening with friends, a quick and cozy pint on the way home from a hectic day of work, the neighborhood refuge on a random snow day. A local is not a place to cause trouble or become beligerent, but a place for families to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon together, a spot for old mates to have a few pints over good conversation, and a place for a relaxing retiree to read the Sunday Times on his way home from walking the dog. At your local you see your neighbors and know what's happening in your community; there is a cordiality and awareness of one another that without it might leave people alienated and detached from the happenings of their surroundings.

Pub in Shoreditch/Brick Lane:

Of course there are plenty of other drinking establishments in London, but do not be confused, these are not pubs. The hours of operation for drinking establishments in London are as numerous and varied as the city landscape itself. As a general rule of thumb, most pubs close at 11 pm, but 24 hour licenses (licenses that allow the venue to remain open and sell alcohol anytime, day or night) are becoming increasingly popular with pubs. Traditionally, night clubs and lounges have usually remained on some version of the 24 hour license, closing down anywhere from 5 am to 7 am, with pubs usually shutting their doors at 11 pm. However, I've noticed recently that a lot of the pubs around Clapham have extended their hours on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to 2 am to compete with the continuous opening of new and trendy establishments. I'm not sure if this is indicative of a further evolution in the long history of the nature of pubs, but it does demonstrate the ongoing demand for late night alternatives to the club or lounge in London. At the end of the day I still prefer the pub.

The Rose & Crown, Clapham Old Town:

No comments:

Post a Comment