Friday, December 2, 2011

My Local - Guest Blog

For our guest blog this week we head to the right side of Hadrian's Wall, and then up the M8 a bit to Glasgow, a city where I have spent many a happy evening hanging out, drinking and having a black pudding supper. Needless to say I like Glasgow a lot, and when Mrs V and I discuss the possibility of moving to the UK, Glasgow is high on the list of places I would happily move to. The Glasgow based blog "I might have a glass of beer" is absolutely essential reading, written by Barm, also known in the Twitter world as @robsterowski. Here, then, is the post...

I should admit it straight away: I’ve never really had a local.

I did when I started drinking. It was the only decent pub in my town, and the last bus home left from across the street, which was convenient. I spent many sessions in there with my chums from school, before we all started moving away, discovering the differences between Guinness, Heineken, Whitbread Pale Ale and McEwan’s Blue Label. It had a big mahogany island bar and was one of those pubs where the ladies’ toilet was an obvious recent addition.

But I’ve seldom lived close to a pub where I’d actually want to drink. Some will say the first mentioned above doesn’t even count, as it wasn’t within walking distance. It’s usually been at least a bus ride away.

This is probably why I always insist on booking somewhere central when I go on a trip. For a few joyous days one time, Brauerei Spezial in Bamberg was my local. That was nice.

The essence of a local, though, isn’t really proximity; it’s having a connection to the pub and to its regulars. For a period a group of us scenesters would hang around in an old Victorian pub at Charing Cross talking about music; the bands and songs we talked about would naturally flow into the playlist at the club night the next evening. The beer was nothing special, but the scene was.

This went on for a year or so and then fizzled out, as these things inevitably do. Oddly enough, the club night was in a different venue, which had terrible beer. I begrudged the money for every pint I bought there, but I never resented buying a round in the pub. Because the local isn't really about beer, but relationships. If the beer is good, that makes the relationships stronger because you find yourself in the pub with your friends more often.

Every pub should aim to be a local for at least a few people. If too many of the customers are regulars, it can be unwelcoming to outsiders. Maybe this is why I never really wanted to go to a lot of pubs that were physically nearby.

Constant motion is the price paid by those who crave variety in their drinking. Even if you have a bar with a hundred or two hundred different beers, waiting for the world’s beers to come to you is lame. You have to go out and find them in their native habitat. Then come home and drink ale in the local and try to fit in again. As people move about so much nowadays, a session with friends in the local can become a special occasion, which is a shame.

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