A cold afternoon in Soho and I have an hour.
A statement, not a question, but nonetheless there is an answer; and the answer is pub.
The age of the pub is over. Thousands are closing monthly, we’re told; and those that remain don’t feel like actual pubs. More like bars, cafes, restaurants.
And it’s our fault. My fault and yours. If we don’t go to our pubs they will close. A simple truth. One could blame the corporatization of pubs, big money’s simple desire for more and the dull conformity it nurtures, but the fact is that the attraction of a bottle of wine and Netflix is stronger than the desire to go out and drink in the company of strangers.
Or — god forbid — actually talk to them.
Inevitable, of course, that such a proud tradition should end. Society changes, influenced as it is by our apathy and unconcern, our misguided wantings. And thus pub dies.
And yet from my stool at the end of the bar, as I wallow in the warmth of a blended scotch, voices break through my self-grown keratin shell. Just ordinary conversation. Three men, standing, pints in hand, their dust covered clothing betraying a day spent reshaping the city, discuss women.
Their appearance may seem incongruous in all this neo-gothic Victorian mahogany, but here they are, doing what generations of young men before them have done: sharing a drink and idle chat after the day’s toil. This afternoon, at least, pub is alive and well.
Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you some lies