The Etiquette Of Drink Numbers – Lesson One: went to the pub last night with Frances and her new boyfriend. Four pints were consumed: the first was bought by me, not part of a round, as an atonement for lateness (this is good pub practice). The second was bought by F’s NB, necessarily so for impressions-making and bonding purposes. Now, at this point I was planning to stay for a third and no more, but this was foolish thinking: three pints is an exceptionally difficult number to leave on, even if there are only three of you in a pub. By pint #3 the imperative of the alcohol in your brain is affecting your perception of time, so that extra half hour (which will in fact be an hour as drinking speeds slow) seems neither here nor there. Also, conversation tends to peak at pints #3 and #4. In a three-way drink up, he who suggests pint #4 should buy it, and gamble that his largesse will be returned.

Anyway, had Frances bought the third round, I might have been able to leave after, ungenerously but having invoked upspoken gooseberry rules. (As it turns out F’s NB is a capital fellow so I was happy to stay and risk train horror). But no, I bought it: at this point a fourth pint became as inescapable as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Frances had to buy a round or risk appearing not only stingy, but a kept woman. And so she did.

I’d muddied the waters incidentally by putting money in the jukebox during pint #3. How this affects the dynamics of pub roundbuying is an issue over which there is much scientific disagreement.