A Brief Scene In A London Pub


Sometimes you have to see your over-familiar surroundings through the eyes of a visitor to realise how strange the world is.

The Canadian* has been visiting, and requires gentlemen’s refreshment, so we head to a local pub, the King Charles 1 in King’s Cross. The pub is always either packed or closed, according to some mysterious timetable that Ben the owner keeps in his head. Tonight is packed, and for some reason what appears to be a stuffed moose head or possible the top half of a deformed donkey is lying on the bar billiards table. Ben is attempting to attach it on the wall in place of a barometer, ‘from where it can gaze across to the gazelle opposite with a loving look in its eyes’ explains Ben.
While supping our beers, a man reaches past my companion for a giant, well-thumbed volume. ‘Let me pass you the telephone directory’, I offer. ‘No mate,’ he replies, ‘this is the pub dictionary. It gets a lot more use here than a telephone book.’ The volume comes out several times in the course of an argumentative evening.

Visit the pub alone and you will remain so for only a few minutes before being coerced into a conversation that requires you a/ to provide esoteric knowledge and b/ to take a side, which you may have to vigorously defend. That’s what a proper pub is for, isn’t it?

*This being Mr Ian Alexander Martin of Atomic Fez Books, the famed purveyors of fantastical novels in the vein of Douglas Adams and Jasper Forde. Visit his site and buy books here.

4 comments on “A Brief Scene In A London Pub”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    A pub is the ultimate “public place” where the opinions of the community are refined. I enjoyed that aspect of British (because I met it in Scotland and Ireland as well)culture. In our part of North America the function is sometimes filled by small cafes and coffee shops – even Starbucks, surprisingly. It is determined by whether people come regularly and feel comfortable staying for periods of time.

  2. Karin says:

    Ben and his friend the moose must be Canadian too, eh?

  3. Ian Payn says:

    Sitting in a proper pub with some cronies a conversation led to the pubs on the Hogarth roundabout, West London. The pub that had closed down was easily identifiable, as were two others, all but adjacent to each other. The name of the fourth, and last, escaped us. As people came in, they were asked. Nobody could remember. Nor could the landlord. After about twenty minutes someone came from the public bar to use the gents. He was asked. he knew, and told us.

    Unfortunately, by this stage none of us could remember why we wanted to know in the first place. That’s my idea of a real pub conversation.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Everything is fine until the management installs wifi. At that point you acquire a silent group of people focused on their laptop screens and unaware of anything around them.

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