So there’s this pub. Native State. Well, it’s more of a bar-cafe-pub thing: food, drink, long beerhall type tables and all that. And the decor! It’s one of those theme pubs that doesn’t seem to know what its own theme is: random junk, polished metal, videos playing on big screens behind the bar, arty black and white photographs of vaguely ethnic types. (Which could fit the name, but half of them look like rock stars). The menu’s no help either, a mish-mash of Italian and Mexican cookery, all at a price which is too high for a pub, but not high enough to force you to take your custom elsewhere. Anyways, we’ll forget all that, since it’s one of the few places to be sure of getting a seat and a pint around Edinburgh University, so a blind eye will have to be turned.

But. BUT. BUT. There’s this problem, see. Come five o’clock, out comes the BIG RED BUTTON. The B.R.B is connected to a video screen on which are a set of options: Full Price (three of these, funnily enough); Half Price; Same Again; Free Drinks. Each flashes in turn (but I’m certain Full Price flashes for longer). Here’s the deal. You order your round. Before you pay, you get to push the B.R.B. and stop the flashing options. If it’s one of the good ones, wahey, if not, what a waste of time, eh? Just fun and games? A little amusement to spice up the lanquid hours between five and seven? Now I’m all for jukeboxes; quiz machines; pinball; pool; space invaders or whatever (so I’m no luddite) but this is clearly a step too far. How can one drink in peace when the very foundation of pub life, the ritual buying of the sacred round, has been pimped out to profiteering and gambling; when the necessary condition of drinking routine has been given up to the vagaries of chance and contingency.

Or it may just be that I’ve not managed to win any free booze yet.