Back when I first visited the British Isles, one of my favorite things were the pubs. Today, some thirty years later, one of my favorite things are still the pubs. Now, back in the day, I’d hang out at whatever pub was closest to the cheap tourist hotel I could not really afford. I didn’t care what kind of pub it was, or how old it was, or whether it was completely overrun with other American tourists. It didn’t matter, because all I wanted to do was absorb the atmosphere, have a few pints, and then a few more, and at some point, shortly after eleven, stagger back to the hotel, singing ‘Rule Britannia”. And I didn’t even know the words.
Things have changed, as they inevitably do after all these years, what with the baldness, the sagging body parts and the inability of an older and less robust body to process obscene amounts of bitter. But, enough about my brother. Now pubs stay open later, and they aren’t closed through the afternoon, to reopen in the early evening. Smokers have to stand outside in the cold and the rain, about which I cannot find an appropriate comment. Many of the pubs are parts of chains, which have standardized things a lot, and not necessarily for the better. Still, even a chain pub is better than the vast majority of soul-destroying places you go to imbibe a beer in the US, and yes, I am looking at you Hooters.
We’ve been spreading ourselves around a bit lately, refusing to commit to any particular pub, keeping our options open. We have a plethora of old pubs in the immediate area that are just a hop, skip and a jump away (oh, bliss!). There’s the Ye Olde Watling, supposedly one of the first buildings rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666, for the hale fellows who would be rebuilding the hundred or so churches in the City destroyed by the Fire. Then there’s Williamson’s Tavern, which used to be the abode of the Lord Mayors of the City of London. A brilliant piece of repurposing, if you ask me. We also like the Golden Fleece, which doesn’t seem to have any actual history associated with it, though, if experience is any guide, Dickens probably drank there. Much like the old saw of ‘Washington slept here’ in the former colonies, here in London, it’s ‘Dickens drank (or ate) here’. Honestly, I have no idea how the man got any writing done, every pub and restaurant in the city seems to claim he was a regular patron.
We’ve just discovered a new pub, which might be Mary’s personal favorite. The Blackfriar is something like six or seven blocks to the west, an unconscionable distance to walk in LA for instance, but here it’s just a bit of a stroll, and always well worth it, if there’s a good pub at the end. Mary believes the décor dates from the Aesthetic Movement era, which she tells me is the British equivalent of Arts and Crafts, so see, I do pay attention sometimes. Mary thrives on this stuff. I thrive on pints of bitter, so everyone gets what they want, a happy marriage.
So, we’re having a good time. Pretty much avoided all the election ads, robocalls and mailers back in the States, and not regretting that in the least. We mailed in absentee ballots so we did our civic duty. Now Colorado has legalized pot and we’re stuck in this drizzly, gloomy hellhole for the next couple of months, doomed to drink all of our beer at temperatures just south of the room temperature, while everyone in the Rockies is stocking up on Cheetos.