1st July 2021

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1st July 2021

A guest blog by David Ellis, editor of the Reveller and On The Sauce columnist, Evening Standard

For someone who once didn’t drink pints – don’t worry, I corrected such foolishness swiftly once my age piled up and by disposable income, cocktail money, dried up – it’s remarkable what role the pub has played in my career, and so too on the few hours of life not spent slavishly typing away for the Evening Standard.

 

Chatter and gleeful gossip overheard or over-shared in the throes of a good session has fuelled so many features or pooled in my mind as a starting point for a story. The pub is a place to meet people, to learn, to joyfully hear what you shouldn’t. And of course, those who go in pubs often have such extraordinary tales to tell – some deliriously funny, some of heartbreak and hurt, some of things lost to the past or looming large on the horizon – that striking up chatter with a stranger rarely leads nowhere. I am fascinated by people; even the dull ones have something to say when listened to closely enough. There is no finer setting to learn of life than a good boozer; they are a stage on which secrets are spilled.

And while legendary drinker, gambler and Spectator columnist – this being the correct order to list his professions – Jeffrey Bernard might have disagreed, no pub can ever be confined to life as an office. They are simply too alive to be so; pubs are the place for swinging by and popping in, whether for the “swift half” (those that inevitably unravel into three full pints) or for settling in with old friends. A planned visit is always fun but the true joy of them, at least to me, is in the evenings that occur in an unthinking way; the pub is a mood, and an infectious one at that.

 

A good place, where the gaffer’s ship is a tightly run thing, tends to have a team full of those who remember faces and forgive misdeeds. There is something conspiratorial about the great landlords – the Guinea Grill’s Oisin Rogers being one – who winkingly call for a pint to be poured as soon as they spy a regular coming in. It is no secret I’m fond of a pub, but I hadn’t realised quite how much until they were taken away; a lack of booze I didn’t mind so much, but that feeling, of the great walls of laughter around me, of boasts and jokes and confessions all overlapping, that hum – Christ, did I miss that. I’m in my places a lot these days, wandering in for one, nodding to those I know and keeping up with what’s been on. Sometimes, somehow, stepping in feels just the same way as coming home.

Exciting!

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