I had come back to London after four years away and was at my friend’s house after a quick drive from Heathrow. Having only four days, I knew that I would not be able to see all the people I wanted to catch up with and do all the things I really wanted to do. But as well as get a donner kebab (forgive me, it’s impossible to get in the Philippines even in our globalised world) I wanted to have a drink in a pub. No sooner had I put my luggage in his spare room, he looked at me smiled and said “fancy a drink?” No answer was required, we headed out to his local. ;
Now my friend lives in Surbiton, he’s done well for himself and along the way, he’s acquired a taste for the finer things in life. So, I was sure it was going to be a nice pub, something like I’d seen in a magazine where a couple had used a beautiful tavern in Kent as the venue for their wedding.
The pub didn’t disappoint. It was glorious. Either that or I had spent too many hours in the bars of Manila, where I now live, and the nostalgia was getting the better of me. It was spacious with a fine beer garden adjoining the main building. The building itself wasn’t new but beautifully maintained with enough floral decoration to make it look lovely but not kitsch. The inside of the pub was warm and inviting and didn’t smell like a dirtier mop had been dragged across a dirty floor. I felt like a tourist admiring how well the Brits did their drinking establishments.
Pubs of rougher charm
The truth is, this is not the kind of pub my friend I grew up with. In our younger years, he lived in Hammersmith and I in Paddington, both the kids of immigrant parents, mine from the Philippines, his from Ireland. We grew up in the inner city and our pubs were ones of an entirely different character. For starters, they were not as clean and the people who frequented them came from a broader spectrum of the social classes. They didn’t drive into the pub driveway in their Range Rovers because there wasn’t a pub driveway. Need I say there probably weren’t too many luxury vehicles, either?
Worked out well in the end
As the bartender poured my pint, she put it on the counter without it being quite full. I knew full well, that she wanted to let it settle before topping it up. The glass was odd, it was square with modern art design. Pints come in round glasses, broader at the top. “Call that a pint?” I asked my friend. The bartender, probably thinking that I felt short-changed by her pint, was at immediate pains to explain she would top it up after the lager had settled. Then I was at pains to explain that I was talking about the shape of the glass and not the volume in it and that anyway, I was talking to my friend. It was all done exceedingly politely. After that, we all had a nice chat. She was from Poland.