Gettin' There: Chapter Two
Ride or Die: The Inevitability of the Pub
Illustration by Izzy White
I love Harry Potter. I am fully aware of the risk that I am taking by opening up my very first actual column with such a strong statement but, the truth is, I love Harry Potter with a proud and fierce passion that - much like Hermione Granger’s hair - cannot be tamed. My first encounter with the United Kingdom happened within the pages of the magical world and much of my decision to study in London was calculated in relation to the proximity of Platform 9 and ¾. Setting foot on this somehow perpetually damp soil, I wasn’t expecting anything to be as revered as my personal seven tome bible. Few of you will understand the utter shock I felt discovering that not only was there another British religion I hadn’t been aware of, but that it has its very own codes, language and powers, its own warmth and identity. However, what it does share with J.K Rowling’s world is its sense of a parallel dimension. Stepping inside a public house for the first time (I can’t help but think that the shorter version of “pub” was invented by drunken patrons incapable of uttering more than a single syllable) hits you with the certainty that you are indeed in a universe of its own kind. Wooden counters around secret booths standing about in the floating aroma of ale, topped up by an ever warm atmosphere which only the final call bell is able to disturb and shake in frenzy… this would be your basic pub experience.
Truth is, the line separating your common bar or other drinking den from the true Public House is much more prominent than most foreigners like myself may think. The first distinctive feature of the pub is that, the prime purpose of this landmark is not necessarily access to liquor. Mind you, I myself have never set foot inside a pub without ordering a nice glass of wine regardless of the time (it’s always happy hour somewhere in the world). However, the knowledge that I could very well sit there and waste hours nursing a single cup of hot chocolate, tucked away in my red velvet corner booth, is enough for me to feel entirely comfortable in what was invented as a home away from home. No matter what kind of bar one usually frequents, there is always some kind of dress code, speech and even attitude expected from patrons, even in the coolest of places where a tie and signet ring would be snickered at. The uniqueness of the pub lies in the fact that nothing is ever expected of anyone. I have rocked up to the pub dressed in a sequin dress and faux-python loafers, yet have visited the exact same place in the largest pair of jeans I own and my muddy wellies. The pub doesn’t care: the pub - and again much like the ideal wizarding world - does its own thing and welcomes any and all individuals inside its walls whilst looking at the outside world with a relaxed amusement. It gives one the space to have fun and go all out, all the while a neighbour might just indulge in the sober pleasure of a judgement-free plate of bangers and mash.
If a non-British soul comes across these few lines, they will no doubt have noticed the powerful, singular designation of “Pub”. This is precisely where the utmost beauty of it is: in one of the most socially segregated countries I know, the Pub is the ultimate social leveler, be it in old Manchester or on your street corner. The true British don’t just go to a pub, they go to THE Pub.
And now my friends I ask you: what better first step to fully gettin’ there than the knowledge that however cold and lost we might be, however estranged and goofy we feel, home is where The Pub is.