Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

A Response to George Orwell

September 19, 2010 · No Comments

After reading the title of this post, anyone not familiar with our class wiki may be expecting an intellectual argument for or against the book 1984, or any of Orwell’s other great works.  Instead, I’m going to talk about alcohol, specifically the drinking of it.  Actually, I lied, kind of.  I’m in fact preparing to discuss an essay that Orwell wrote called The Moon Under Water (for those who haven’t read it, here’s the link: http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/essays/moon-under-water.htm), which discusses the characteristics of the perfect pub in Orwell’s eyes.  So, this post won’t be so much about drinking as it will be about the venues for drinking (which should make a lot of people happy, especially my parents).

In case you’re too lazy to read Orwell’s very brief, but very interesting essay, I’ll summarize it for you.  Basically, Orwell describes a pub, which we later find out is fictional, that has ten qualities that make it perfect.  These are:

1. The architecture is Victorian.

2. Darts are only played in the public part of the bar, which allows people to drink without having to duck.

3. The pub is quiet enough to talk, with no radio or piano.

4. Barmaids that know their customers by name and take an interest in them.

5. The bar sells tobacco and cigarettes, in addition to booze.

6. There is a snack counter that serves “liver-sausage sandwiches, mussels, cheese, pickles and […] large biscuits with caraway seeds.”

7. Six days a week, they serve lunch — for example, a cut off the joint, two vegetables and boiled jam roll.

8. “[…] a creamy sort of draught stout […].”

9. Extreme care is taken with their drinking vessels and they never, for example, make the mistake of serving a pint of beer in a handleless glass.

10. A large garden.

Looking at this essay 64 years after it was written, some of these things look like no-brainers that are characteristic of every modern pub (like a dart board being out of the way, or the pub having a nice stout) and some seem just silly, like beer not being served in a handleless glass or a pub having a garden.  Despite these, if I were to characterize my ideal pub (which I’m going to) I would have to say that it would have all of these characteristics, except for numbers 5 and 9, and maybe number 1.  Being completely unable to imagine a Victorian pub (mostly because when I think of “Victorian” buildings, I can only think of my aunt and uncle’s stuffy, uncomfortable Victorian-decorated houses), I don’t really know if that kind of decor is important to me or not.  However, I’m going to assume that a Victorian pub looks like a stereotypical English pub, which, if true, would mean that Victorian architecture is definitely an important trait of a great pub.  A pub just wouldn’t be a pub without being really dark at all times of the day, with dark wooden walls, a couple of old looking paintings, etc.

Unfortunately, I haven’t really found a pub that matches all of the criteria.  Most pubs are so loud at any time of the day that it’s impossible to hold a proper conversation without yelling, and I’ve never seen a pub with a garden.  However, I have found one pub that gets pretty darn close to my ideal.  Sadly, I only discovered it today, so I won’t have much time to go back.  It probably has the best name for a pub, at least in the opinion of the part of me that loves Shakespeare, because it is called The Globe, despite being nowhere near the famous theatre, being instead located very near the Covent Garden Market.  Forgetting the garden requirement because no pub nowadays has a garden and number 4 because I’ve only been there once (though the staff seem nice), The Globe meets all of my criteria, if I understand what a Victorian pub looks like.  I don’t even think they own a dartboard, which means they pass number 2 by default, and the pub was almost silent when we were there, which is a rarity that is much appreciated when it is seen.  They seem to have a very nice menu, though the four of us (the members of the Origins of Rock and Roll in London tour group, a.k.a The Fab Four) only got an order of chips, food-wise.  They have Guinness (a stout), which is really the only beer I ever need, and they seem to take care of their drinking glasses rather well.  Therefore, I guess if I needed to pick a “favourite” pub, it would be The Globe.

Now to take a different tact on the same basic theme, I guess I’ll briefly discuss the hidden rules of pubs, which are only truly hidden for any of us who haven’t read Kate Fox (which I hope is not many, if there are any at all, because it is a wonderful, though sometimes inaccurate book).  Today was actually my first experience buying drinks in rounds (technically round), so I can’t really talk much about this ritual from experience, but it seems to happen, as Fox said it does.  The basic principle for those who don’t know is that when a group is out drinking, people will take turns going up to the bar to buy drinks for the group instead of ordering individually.  There are, of course, many variations, but that’s the basic idea.  Another important rule is that of buying the bartender a drink rather than tipping him or her.  Because I never drink a lot when I go out, I’ve never really done this, because it makes much more sense if he or she has given you a few drinks, rather than just one.  In fact, the only time that I was part of a group that tried to buy a bartender a drink, she refused it (it was lunchtime and she wasn’t English, which probably makes a difference).  Therefore, I really can’t speak to the validity of this particular rule.  Those are really the only two rules that I remember observing (or not observing) in my limited pub experiences.  If anyone with more experience can think of anymore, please let me know!

Categories: 2010 MatthewM · Pubs

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