Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Have You had the Meze Platter Yet?

September 14, 2009 · No Comments

As discussed in several different capacities, the pub remains vital to the daily lives of Londoners and, as we will discover in time, the larger United Kingdom. Inns were common along the roads of Roman Britain, as they provided lodging for officials and others. There were also small hut-like establishments – a taberna - from which the word tavern is derived. Pubs have a long history dating back to the Roman occupation of the city. Over the course of the last 2,000 years, London’s taverns and pubs have adapted to fit every shift in London’s history. (As we have learned over the last few weeks, the shifts have occurred constantly and regularly.) This is why there is such a vast variety and selection of pubs and taverns in and around London; we have yet to find a model for the perfect pub. You can find them on almost every street corner, but each differ in some way. Some cater to an older crowd, some to college students, and still others to a wider range of ages.

In this blog, I want to briefly discuss the importance of the two pubs that most of the group has frequented: The Court on Tottenham Court Road and the Marlborough Arms just one block away from the Arran House. We first discovered the Marlborough Arms simply because it was in close proximity to the Arran House. Still reeling from the combination of shock and exhaustion, I had no expectations for the pub culture in general, except that they served alcohol (In addition to the shock of being in London, who was not the least bit shocked that we could legally consume alcohol?). We quickly learned the bar is not the only important part to the pub as a whole. In retrospect, it is one of the lesser significant aspects of the pub. Sure, the drinks have their place, but what of the atmosphere and history? It does not take much effort to recognize pubs as part of London’s social fabric – especially when you consider the sheer number of pubs in just the immediate London area. The pub acts as a place for friends, family, neighbours, coworkers, and complete strangers to come together and enjoy one another’s company in a relaxed and friendly setting. I have often remarked (somewhat incredulously) that more people frequent the pubs after the average workday. This shocks me given my experience in the US, I generally don’t see massive groups of people rushing to the bars on a Tuesday night. Everyone comes together to in an atmosphere that lends itself to laughter and fun. I admire and appreciate the pub culture here, as it allows people to look forward to something throughout the day and also enables another outlet for positive social interaction outside of the one’s occupation. Ultimately, when the alcohol is used appropriately, pubs generate a sense of community and belonging in a healthy and interactive way. These observations have mostly been from my experiences at the Marlborough Arms where the pub-goers are mostly middle to older gentlemen and women.

The Court breaks serves a much different age group, though. The majority of the crowd is generally an amalgamation of college students from the surrounding area. Large groups of friends come to hang out there not only to spend some time with one another but to meet new people as well. Pub life again creates an outlet and space for people to come together to enjoy some drinks and pleasant (though not usually quiet) company.

Now that I realize the significant presence of pubs within the greater social life of many Londoners, I have also discovered that these pubs remain vital at the local level as well. Pubs open for centuries draw in crowds simply based on their legacy. (Consider the Museum Tavern and how quick it will point to Karl Marx’s patronage while writing the Communist Manifesto. This example extends to large numbers of pubs – the only difference is the figure that visited the pub, be it Chaucer, Dickens, Shakespeare, etc. The Marlborough Arms has a rich history. The Court has yet to set its legacy among its neighboring and much more famous pubs. The history also of the beer has an interesting history if anyone is interested check out this site.

It would be interesting to get a sense of what age group George Orwell would have preferred to see at his imagined and idyllic Moon Under Water pub. He certainly prefers “regulars” to “rowdies,” but would he find himself more comfortable with the regulars at The Court or the regulars at the Marlborough Arms (if, let’s say, those were the only pubs in the entire city)? Age plays a not-so-surprising role in determining how well one enjoys the atmosphere of any pub. Simply put, just as the people in a pub help define the image of a pub, the ages of those patrons further defines the inherent nature of a pub. The younger generations of pub-goers will usually enjoy pubs like The Court (except when a Meatloaf music video comes on….or of course, for some people, even more so…). If I were to imagine the group of individuals to comprise the crowd at The Court, George Orwell may be THE last person I’d picture there.

We (Maddie and Brandon) do not know how to find the perfect pub, or if you can even pin down a pub as “perfect.” Each has a different personality, to its immediate advantage or disadvantage. Some prefer a roomful of George Orwells. Others prefer rowdy pubs filled with cheering football fans. Still others can settle down with their familiar drink and “chew the fat,” whether or not Meatloaf plays in the background.

Categories: Brandon · Maddie
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