30
May 01

Abroad

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 250 views

Abroad: This post runs the risk of sounding like Al Murray, the Pub Landlord. So let me say first of all that I love Europe generally – the food, the open spaces, the comfortingly hostile shop assistants, the magnificent architecture, the baffling local cartoon characters, and the bars. Well, sometimes the bars. The thing is, if you’re going to set foot in a bar, it might as well be in Europe, where they do it best.

The key difference between the bar and the pub, it seems to me, is this (apart from the fact that bars in this country are full of tiresome fuckfaces): in the bar, beer is an integrated part of a greater leisure experience – eating, drinking coffee, reading the paper, etc. etc. This is also possible in the pub, but here beer is central and the other things are add-ons. The diminished place of beer in the social life of France, Spain, Italy etc. – symbolised by the fact that you can get it from vending machines – means that there is no real place for the pub, which is after all a temple of beer and beer culture. Further contributory factors: these countries often produce very good wine and in some cases produce excellent bottled beers too, both of which are for some deep psychological reason more suited to bar consumption.

That said there are pubs in Europe. “Pubs”. But you shouldn’t go to them, because they bear the same relation to actual pubs as that skinny edition of The Guardian you get in European train stations bears to the real newspaper. They’re all called things like “Charly’s Pub” or “Le Pub” or “Irish Pub”, which just makes you think (correctly) of the way the drinks in Repo Man had “DRINK” written on the label. The one we went to was called, with forbidding accuracy, Station Pub. It was outside a station. It was dark and odd and played crap French ethno-trance, or French MTV which did at least give us much Bunton-admiring opportunity, the French being remarkably willing to conform to teenage Brits’ fantasies of TV being somehow ‘dirtier over there’.

It’s hard to say exactly why we got creeped out and left (the ethno-trance surely didn’t help). There was just a curious sensation that at any moment someone would flick a switch and the entire bogus pub environment would turn out to be made of cardboard and fold up. It was just unnatural somehow. We went to a bar instead and felt a great deal more relaxed.

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