I’ve never had a ‘local’. Neither have my parents. Or my Uncles and Aunts. None of us have really lived in the same place long enough to become locals ourselves. Maybe that’s part of the reason. The most frequented location upon first reaching the ‘legal age’, (or perhaps a little before…ssshh… don’t tell anyone) was The Bridge in Oxford. Not the pub where Tolkein and Lewis discussed matters of the mind and soul, not an alternative indie venue, not a cosy country tavern – and none of these are in short supply – but an overpriced, overcrowded nightclub full of young girls in heels and purvey older men. And RnB. We shook our things and dodged groping hands. And went back for more, again and again.
Next stop: University of Sussex, Brighton. Being skint students without a particular interest in beer and a strong female majority, our ‘local’ was the kitchen floor of our grimy East Slope (affectionately known as ‘The Ghetto’) flat on Sussex campus, where we stayed up late with toast and tea. Then it was the living room of our house in Clyde Road. In our final year, it was the appropriately named ‘Meeting House’ on campus, where you could make a cup of something hot for 20p and the chairs were comfy enough to nap on. None of these places were pretty or nicely decorated. They smelled a bit funny. But it didn’t matter. It was the company that counted.
And it’s the same things I’ve discovered at the local establishment for which I’ve just started working. I’ve got to admit, I was quite apprehensive to begin with. As I’ve already said, I’ve never had a local. I don’t know the etiquette. Also, I don’t watch sport (nope, not cricket, golf OR football!) and the ratio of men to women is about 50:1(ish). And I am a girl – woman I should say – who apparently looks like she is still at school, is highly gullible and not particularly tough-skinned/quick witted when it comes to being teased. Eek.
But I ‘gotta’ say, I have been pleasantly surprised. More than that, I really enjoy going to work there. It may not be the prettiest pub in the world, but as I said earlier, it’s the company that counts. The friendships and their histories are what make this place special. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to get to know people who’s paths I’d never normally cross. Conversations at the bar are definitely the best part of my shifts. It’s great to see yet another dimension to this city I’ve lived in for seven years.
We all need a home. Somewhere to kick off our shoes, loosen our tie, let out our breath, and tell someone how our day really was. A refuge from banal small talk, where our job title and paycheck don’t matter so much. Most of us have a desire to be known, recognised. For somebody to know our name, our special chair, our favoured drink. For some people, it’s the place where they lay their head down to sleep at night. The premises to which their post is delivered. Kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, garden. But perhaps some of us need more than one place. Somewhere removed from washing up, bills, and (dare I say it), the nagging/whining/grumbling of loved ones. Perhaps we want a place where we are known, but not quite warts and all. A place to be real but where pretence is allowed. Perhaps that’s why, at the end of a long day, the pub is the first port of call.
So Hooray for this ‘local’. Hooray for all it’s teaching me about community and about home (and crosswords). And Hooray for the patience of the ‘locals’ as I slowly learn to pour that perfect pint.