Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Trollied Tuesday: Al Fresco Drinking

There's not much to say about the ban on boozing on London's public transport nor the over-the-top booze-up to mark it. The ban was a silly stunt, a fig leaf to disguise the fact that there's no easy solution to the problem of drunken yobbery, which is what really bothers people on public transport. The respone was equally silly - I'm not personally in favour of the ban, pointless authoritarianism does leave me cold – but it wasn't even worth a lame gesture of defiance like that.

Besides, while there is a particular pleasure to be had from underground drinking – a cellar or bunker with a dark, closed atmosphere – the prevalence of annoying students, obnoxious teenagers, tourists, wage slaves and other unsympathetic types make the London underground an entirely uncongenial place to drink. If you can['t have select company and the right sort of ambiance in your cellar, the best place to drink is the open air.

As ever, if you're going to have a really enjoyable drinking experience it's as well to avoid doing this at a time when everyone else is. (For this reason, a can of beer on the tube would taste far sweeter today than it would have done a week ago). A crowded beer garden on a Saturday afternoon or a beach or park thronged with sunbathers cannot begin to compete with a mountain top or isolated lake as drinking venues. It's as well not to be too dogmatic, of course (I'm planning to go to Epsom for the Derby on Saturday and I imagine I will be doing a spot of al fresco drinking with several thousand others, still...)

To those ideal drinking destinations you can add a wet patch of concrete in Cricklewood on a Tueday afternoon, for it was in such a place that I saw a man whom, one could tell, had just the right idea about drinking. It was pouring with rain, but there he was sitting outside in a "beer garden" – essentially a mini patio with two tables, overlooking a busy and dirty street - with only a glass of beer to keep him company (not even a cigarette in sight). There was something about the look of him – and the anorak and cap he was wearing to keep the rain off him, plus the nature of the pub's clientele – that made me think he was an Irishman. That's of little import, really; what mattered was that he had – despite the rain, the traffic and the busy throng walking past him – found a way to carve out an infinity of space for himself with all the glory, solitude and freedom of nature at its most expansive. He had an immense dignity and style that mayor of London, and the fools who flocked to drink in the underground stations on Saturday night, could never hope to match.



Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Or maybe he was barred.

Or smelly.

Or barred for being smelly.


1:31 pm  
Blogger bill said...

I think you'd need to do something worse than smell to get barred from that place, Puss.

2:41 pm  
Blogger dominic said...

As you were in Cricklewood, i do have to ask...

It wasn't the former Mayor of London, who resides in those parts, and who may have been given good reason to drink himself into the ground, surely?

And go on - name the bar

4:00 pm  
Blogger bill said...

No Dominic. As I said, this man had a nobility of character that was quite absent from that petty little man who used to be mayor.

The bar was one of the McGowan's. (Now adorned with an Irish and Polish flag).

4:43 pm  

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