British pubs seem to me (in my not very widely travelled experience) to be unique places. They are unlike most American bars which seem to be predominately places that people go to to get drunk, and unlike European café-bars which have a very different culture associated with them.

Perhaps this is to do with the ludicrous licensing laws in England and Wales which insists that all pubs have to close at 11pm (or 10:30pm on Sundays), a measure that was brought in during the First World War to prevent factory workers getting too hung over to go and build bombs the next day, and which was never repealed.

It's worth noting that although "pub" is short for public house the name is misleading. Although open to the public, pubs are still private property and admission is at the discretion of the landlord which is why it's possible to be barred from a pub (and if you've never been barred you've not been trying hard enough!). The same strange private/public mix means that a pub is classed as a "public area" in terms of public order offences, one of which is "being drunk in public". This is why it's theoretically possible to be arrested for being intoxicated in a pub...

A pub is usually a place where you go for some social drinking, either if you want to have a quiet night, or want to kick on to somewhere else later. The drink of choice is beer, and it's the done thing to drink what they have on tap. It tastes better anyway.
This all changes when you go to a pub where things are pretty kicking already, or when there's a band playing and you've come to see them.
the latest trend in underground scenes. it's a method of storing files on an FTP server available to everyone. pub is short for public, as in a public access ftp site. whoever wants to build a pub finds an ftp site allowing anonymous read/write access and, without permission of the site op (or even the site ops knowledge), uploads whatever he wants on it (warez, mp3s, movies, porn, etc).

the advantages of a pub are anonymity and reduced risk of getting in trouble, i'd imagine. usually a pub's lifespan is quite short--the site op will notice a major increase in bandwidth usage, check the logs, and remove all of the content and/or disallow write access. deleters can also be a problem. another advantage is speed. often times a random pub will happen to be a T3 or above.

after a pub is built via user<>site or site<>site (FXP) transfers, the pub's IP address is usually posted on IRC or on a message board, along with the directory containing the files. directories are usually placed somewhere inconspicuous, like a log directory, and then inside of several other directories after that. often times several users will contribute, uploading their files to directories like "-=upped by PimpBot=-", etc.

'Pub' is also a slangy abbreviation for publication when used in speech. Most prevalant in the U.S. military and computer industry. Example: "Where's the library at this company? I need to review the new Cisco pubs on PIX boxen."

I had the good fortune to spend the early 1990s in one of the few remaining places on Earth with an alternative radio station that had yet to succumb to the highly infectious disease of corporate ownership. A place where jocks spun what they wanted, and all the money in the world couldn't get a record played if it was overproduced studio crap.

Not realizing what a precious gift this was, I was only half paying attention to the acoustic guitar-based pop coming out of my car radio as I drove to class one day when a fragment of a lyric punctured my consciousness.

You're younger than my kids

Well, that's a bit a departure from the moon June swoon school of songwriting, no? It's a line whose whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. It's a sketch of an entire relationship between two people, with undertones of infatuation, lust, regret, and sorrow, all crammed into five measly words. And it had a jangly rhytym guitar line to boot. Perfection.

The jock mentioned that the song was by an outfit known as "Denzil," off the album Pub. Fair enough. I made a mental note to check it out when I got the chance.

I must've mentioned it to my fiancee at some point, because a month or two later, she presented me with a gift: my very own copy of Pub (Giant Records, 1994), featuring an almost erotic closeup photo of a sweating pint of beer. Stamped in gold foil on the cover was "For Promotional Radio Station Use Only. Not Authorized for Resale". My fiancee explained that she had visited several record stores, only to encounter blank looks from slacker cashiers who couldn't find the album in their computer systems and just assumed she had misheard the name of the artist. She finally found a copy in a used record store, where some unscrupulous radio station employee had managed to convert the spoils of the job into a couple bucks apiece.

"Denzil" is actually Denzil Thomas, a young British singer-songwriter who doesn't look old enough to be hanging around in pubs. He wrote all 15-odd tracks on the album, and does all the singing, although there's some nice harmony on some of the choruses. The songs, which are chock full of a British argot that is only comprehensible, if at all, by its context and delivery, are populated by a cast of working class folk who obsess over the lottery ("If Alan Won the Pools") or cave into the temptation to embezzle money from their employer ("Shame"). Many are catchy and clever, although Thomas does indulge a dark and angry side in an ominous, vaguely threatening song like "Goodnight Darling," or in the distortion-fuzzed fury of "Autistic."

But for me, the highlight is the first track, the tune I had caught on the radio, called "Fat Loose Fancies Me," the narrator's tale about a co-ed schoolmate's affair with an older man. Despite its simple, catchy pop melody, it's one of the most literate and observant slices of narrative you'll find in a 3 1/2 minute song:

She's fat loose and fancies me,
But she's hanging off a barman of 43
And he nibbles her ear, she giggles and grins,
She knows she loves her father but she can't imagine doing this with him

. . .

In six weeks time, she says, naturally
"You're not the man that you used to be."
And he says "Darling, how could I be?
When you were born, I was twenty-three.
Married and in love, like a stallion in stud,
And now I weave this network of fibs.
I write a mid-life pantomime -- you're younger than my kids."

. . .

And it's now or never.
He has a picture of them together.
She says stuff like "Life's a game."
He's got a locker room story, but the boys are getting older every day.

It's a fantastic pop song, but nobody's ever heard of it. Search the internet for Pub, and you'll find half a dozen used record shops selling promotional copies, just like the one I've got. Even though it scored two Grammy nominations in 1993, one for Best New Artist (losing out to Toni Braxton) and one for Best Album (losing out to the soundtrack to "The Bodyguard"), it's long since out of print. The album is so obscure that Thomas felt the need to leave an apologetic message for potential buyers on Amazon.com, explaining that the band broke up in 1996, and that he's working in radio now.

Then again, maybe the song is so meaningful to me because, a few years later, my fiancee left me for the man like the guy in the song. I don't know what happened to Denzil Thomas in his personal life, but now, at least, I can understand why a guy that young is drowning his sorrows down at the pub.

"There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,
by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn"
- Samuel Johnson

 

 

Going to the pub, or public house, is possibly the most popular social activity in Britain. Pubs are primarily drinking establishments where adult communities meet to drink alcohol and chat or play pub games such as darts, billiards or pool, and not necessarily just to get drunk! A good pub is often judged by its beer, even though a wide variety of other drinks are on offer.

History of the pub

There was a time when every village had a church and a pub - indeed it is said that the pub was built first in order to give the church builders somewhere to go to relax after a hard day's graft. Pubs date back to the 11th century when they would have been very small establishments selling their own home-brewed ale. Inns went one step up beyond this, offering food and accommodation to travelers, but again the beer would have been brewed on the premises. People were influenced, as many still are, by the quality of the beer when deciding which pub they would go to.

The Victorian era brought about a change in the style of the British pub. The advent of the railway meant that many of the wayside coaching stations gradually went into decline. Pubs in cities became larger, and the industrial revolution changed the nature of brewing, allowing beer to be made on a much larger scale. This made it possible for the large breweries to buy out the smaller independent pubs, forcing them to sell the mass produced beer - the 'tied' pub was born.*

This trend continued into the 20th century. By the early 1970s Britain was left with a mere handful of breweries, as takeovers and mergers whittled away at the numbers of smaller companies. This had an impact on the character of the pubs under their control (as well as types of beer on offer), and many people drifted away from using pubs at all. Unprofitable pubs were closed down and many villages lost both their pub and their sense of community. It seemed that the only pubs able to survive were themed pubs - the ones frequented by high spending under 25 year-olds, or those which served good food or were 'family friendly'.

Themed pubs are a real ale drinker's worst nightmare! They tend to be large, loud and brash, the beer is bad and no-one knows each other, or so rumour has it. Many themed pubs serve food, and have become more 'restaurant' then 'pub', with children being allowed to accompany adults in large eating areas. (The law forbids children in pubs which only serve drink). This is good for families who wish to socialise with their children outside of the home, but not so good for those adults who are trying to get away from it all. Other themed pubs are full of young adults getting drunk and enjoying loud modern music and flashing lights. These are somewhat impersonal, more 'club' than 'pub', and so long as you don't wish to hold a conversation, they can provide a good night out, allegedly!

Typical Pub Layout

Beware - stereotypes ahead ;)

Small country pubs and 'locals' serving small communties were (and there are still a few about, if you know where to look) often more like someone's living room than anything else. Usually just a single room with a bar, and a few tables and chairs, they provide a place for the locals to share a pint and a yarn. The atmosphere varies depending on the area - in some pubs the locals can make 'outsiders' feel a little unwelcome, whereas others greet you with open arms and a hearty smile!

Larger pubs, more likely to be found in cities, and inns, usually have at least two rooms:

  • The Public bar is where the working man might meet for a drink and perhaps a game of darts or snooker. The atmosphere is more rough and ready than in the other bars, and the drinks are cheaper. There are tables and hard chairs, but many of the drinkers will be found propped up at the bar.
  • The Lounge bar is the room where, maybe, married couples, women or people wanting a quiet drink go. The furnishings are generally more comfortable and there may be a television or music playing in the background.
  • Not many pubs have a Snug these days, but this is a small room which has a very quiet atmosphere and you tend to think that it's going to be full of old ladies supping their half-pints of milk stout. (Apparently you might also find a stupot with his pint of cider ;) )
  • Off-sales counters, sometimes called the bottle and jug, were once commonplace in larger pubs - you could go to a private area, away from the main bars, with your jug and buy a couple of pints of beer or a bottle of lemonade, to take home.
  • The Future...?

    As you can see, there are a number of different types of pub, each having its place serving different factions of society. Traditional pubs have struggled against the tide of commercialism, but gradually people are becoming aware that if they are lost, they might be lost forever. Fortunately there is a resurgence of people prepared to make a stand against the near monopoly of the brewers, and independent pubs such as the Brewery Tap in Bristol are making a comeback.


    *Tied pubs are pubs which are owned by a single brewery and rented out to a landlord who then has to sell the brewery's own beer. The alternative is the 'free house' which is able to sell beer from any brewery the landlord wishes.

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