Friday, August 5, 2011

'Urry up 'Arry

A thing of beauty
The other week I was having lunch in a pub with some work colleagues, when the landlady came over to check that the music wasn’t too loud and that it wasn’t interfering with our conversation.  It wasn’t; indeed I had barely registered that any music was playing at all, but I was nevertheless impressed that she was thoughtful enough to check.  I’d never been asked this before, although I am sufficiently stroppy to have asked in restaurants for music to be turned down.

It got me thinking about pubs generally.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time in them over the years, although my visits are now much less frequent, partly because of pub prices and partly because, frankly, I’ve become something of a couch potato.  I'm usually to be found of an evening in my living room with a glass of wine in my hand, the laptop on my knee and the TV on in the corner.  Ironically I thought I would go to the pub more often since the smoking ban but I haven’t.  Like most ex-smokers I am disgustingly self righteous about the evil weed (except for the odd very drunken occasion when I crave a quick drag), and yet I have hypocritically fond memories of cosy smoke filled pubs.  I’m sure this can be traced to a moment in my very early childhood when I was sent into the bar of a bowling club to fetch a neighbour.  I mentioned it in an earlier blog post Linky Linky

Pubs don’t seem to have juke boxes any more; well I certainly haven’t noticed any in the pubs I occasionally visit.  I suppose they’re quite an expensive way to enjoy a song when you’re already spending over £3 for a pint, and in any case ‘real’ juke boxes rely on vinyl.  In my youth, putting money in a juke box in an unfamiliar pub could have unpleasant consequences.  When I was at university in Leicester I knew of a student who just about escaped with his life when one drunken December evening he selected ‘White Christmas’; this was in a pub packed to the rafters with Rastafarians, although knowing him I'm certain it was in no way intended maliciously.

Perhaps another reason juke boxes have all but disappeared is that we are awash with music nowadays, what with MTV, MP3, greater choice of radio stations and so on, so to pay to hear a single record in a pub must seem ludicrous (although maybe not as ludicrous as ‘Dial-a-Disc’ on the telephone if any of you can remember that!)

Another rarely seen thing in pubs nowadays is the quiz machine. These were all the rage in the 80s and 90s and a useful source of income for me.  The earlier machines had a fairly limited range of multiple choice questions.  They weren’t that difficult in the first place but it didn’t take long for a small group of us to memorise most of the correct answers.  Then it was just a question of emptying the machine before moving on to an identical machine in a pub up the road.  It was never going to make us millionaires but it was enough to buy a few pints and a kebab.

Quiz machines have been replaced by quiz nights.  I like them because they give me a chance to dredge up all the completely useless information I carry about with me.  I once used to ‘play’ for my local pub in a quiz league.  It was a fun way to spend a Sunday evening and gave me an excuse, not that I really needed one, to go to pubs I’d never been in before.  Quizzes can be horribly competitive at the best of times, but the quiz league took this to another level.  There is something quite unsavoury about two middle aged men nearly coming to blows over the spelling of an obscure TV ‘soap’ actor’s name.

All this talk of pubs has made me quite nostalgic. And thirsty. Fancy a pint? We should just about make last orders.

"Put another dime in the jukebox baby ..."

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