I have long been a fan of pubs. Right from the days of sneaking in as a teenager, I’ve found them to be a happy space: somewhere people go to have fun together; somewhere to meet on an easy, casual basis; somewhere that smells – more pervasively even than of beer-soaked wood – of friendship. These days, one of the most treasured parts of my hectic weeks is an ‘early doors’ pint with friends on a Friday evening to celebrate the start of the weekend.
There is nothing else like in the world like the British pub. The best ones are relaxed, friendly and non-judgemental. They are places you can go for a chat with a friend, a big get-together with a gang, a romantic tryst or just a quiet drink at the bar. A pub is a place where it’s OK to say hello to a stranger, and then to have a conversation with them. In a pub, you don’t have to be on your own.
Too many people are lonely these days. It’s all very well to be ‘connected’ via social media but nothing beats sitting across a table with someone for a proper chat and a laugh. We are human beings not machines and we need to be together – to shake hands and look into eyes, to share a bag of crisps and – if you’re out with me – to spill a pint down someone’s jeans! Contact is vital to us and that’s why I think CAMRA’s new campaign encouraging people to ‘make friends at the pub’ is a really good one.
It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and cocoon yourself up in your house alone. I’ve done it myself at various points in my life when I’ve moved to a new place, or broken up with someone, or found myself travelling alone. Going out on your own is scary but that’s where pubs are so great. Even if you just sit at the bar, you can chat to the staff or to other customers, listen to music, read a book, or simply enjoy your drink wrapped in the warmth of a social space. And if that’s too daunting then a lot of pubs are now offering simple initiatives like social clubs and ‘chatty days’ to make it easier to approach others.
Locals have always been of huge value to people. My Great Aunt Jessie used to walk down the road to her local every day to have a port and lemon and see the other regulars. It got her out of the house and gave her human contact – and if she didn’t turn up, people knew to check she was OK. She was part of a community and that stopped her from getting too lonely in her old age.
So, I’d encourage everyone to get themselves out to a pub at least once in a while. You don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing, or how long you can stay. You don’t have to drink alcohol. In fact, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to – just turn up, buy yourself whatever you fancy, and relax. What could be better?
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Anna is the author of Bonnie and Stan, out in paperback May 31st 2019 with a second novel (yet to be announced!) due in 2020.