Friday, January 20, 2012

Pub Life in England; Hereford

To me this small English village near the Welsh border seems very surreal, it is very quintessential English. To any English person they would find it utterly boring, there really isn’t much there and it is a very small town. Everyone literally knows everyone. There are no shopping malls just a lovely town centre which to me whatever is in walking distance should be considered the town centre which would encompass this entire town but not in English standards. To me an independent studier of culture and people this town never fails to amaze me.

Hereford is still very rich in old English culture. A lot of people still carry on old English traditions which kind of make me slightly envious as my country is so new we lack traditions that define a culture. We are a mixed bagged of various cultures either letting go of their past traditions from the old country or mashing together ideas and values from mixed upon mixed families. We are a country full of mutts and immigrants.

One thing that you can say about England and not too many other places is that the heart and soul of the community is in the pub. You do not have to go far to find one either, they are plentiful and everywhere. In a Canadian city you would need to go to the city centre or how we call it “Downtown” to find nightlife. In Britain you walk down your street and there is your “local”, an easy walk after work and an easy stumble after a few.

The English pub transcends generations, you do not have one for students or one for the old farts, everyone is out together at the same time on the same night drinking, playing pool, gossiping and chatting up the opposite sex.

You have the young girls in their stilettos and minis trying to impress next to the middle aged couple getting drunk with their friends. Young guys playing pool while old timers who love their real ales wait for a go.

The old traditional pubs in England like the one my friend’s mother owns looks and feels like a house where the whole community comes to meet and socialize. People are there from eleven in the morning having a pint until eleven at night when last call is rung. The gossip mills churn, decisions are made and the best lines of bullshit are spouted. Problems are solved at night and hung over are cured in the morning with another pint.

We dropped my friend's son off to his Grandmother and had time to kill so we had a pint at the pub. We were meeting friends so we went to the pub. We got dressed up for a night out so we went to the pub. We wanted to have a meal out so we went to the pub. We went to visit my friend's mom so we went to the pub...fair enough she lives upstairs but you get my drift. I saw men sitting by themselves reading a book, going over work, sitting at a laptop, ladies sharing a glass of wine after work, families with children, seniors with their friends.

As well to this day Saturday night is a night to dress up in one’s finest. I thought it a bit odd that an older gentleman that was a friend of my friend’s was decked out in his suit, I thought he must have had a hot date but my friend later informed me that it’s an old tradition to get decked out on a Saturday night. Even to a pub I thought. At home a pub is a place where you dress down as much as you want; it actually looks strange to see someone dressed up like they are going to a club or a wedding in a pub. The men in this town have been getting dressed up on a Saturday night no matter where they went for years and they weren’t going to stop anytime soon. To be honest I kind of like the tradition I mean how often do we really get dressed up these days? For a wedding or a Christmas party, even those are becoming a bit too casual. What happened to those old days when men wore suits and hats and woman wouldn’t be seen wearing jeans? Right ok maybe I am going a bit too far back in time but it would be nice to have a no jeans and tee rule for a Saturday night and actually put some effort in and not because you are trying to impress anyone but just because it is Saturday and that’s what you do.

Then you have the pub food that the English rave about and crave for. A Sunday Roast with Yorkshire pudding and potatoes, chili on rice, jacked potatoes and of course fish and chips. Going to the pub for lunch is like having a Sunday dinner with your family and is very much an English staple in daily life.

The second time in Hereford I saw some old faces and some new ones but was welcomed into the pub family just as before where my glass was never empty and I truly understood the lyrics to the song by Spirit of the West, “Home for a Rest”

“You'll have to excuse me, I'm not at my best
I've been gone for a week
I've been drunk since I left
And these so-called vacations
Will soon be my death
I'm so sick from the drink
I need home for a rest
Take me home....

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