Tuesday, 17 June 2008

English Culture

Just back from a quick whizz around in the car running errands. Although we share the car, I don't often use it in the week, so really make the most of my mornings with transport.

At half past nine I was in the town centre, and walked past a local pub, which is always busy. There were several people standing outside smoking, and I could see in to their (alcoholic) drinks. It made me feed quite overcome with sadness, in the same way that sometimes seeing people struggling with little ones, and shopping, and big bags of chocolate and crisps in the supermarket does. I've been questioning my own feelings about this, whether I'm feeling some kind of I'm better than that middle class pity. Whether its empathy, as my children can be menaces in shops sometimes. Or, whether its actually that poverty is sad. It is not ok for a single parent to have to struggle on a tight budget, take the kids shopping 'cos she has no one to leave them with, and then have to get a bus or a taxi home with everythng as they can't afford a car. It's basically not on.

Then I was thinking about the men outside the pub, why do they feel the need to drink alcohol and smoke at this time in the morning? What's wrong with their lives? Or perhaps, nothing is wrong. If I'd seen them in the town square cafe in France starting the day with a demi, or perhaps a pernod then going off on their business I wouldn't feel saddened. They were all chatting to each other, so clearly were part of the pub community, at home in the town centre if you will.

So why did it sadden me? Is it just that our old ways have died out in this country, and the pub drinkers are the last bastion of that? What actually is traditional English culture? Is it having a quick drink with your mates in the pub? Helping each other out, and looking out for the neighbours. I suspect it is, and that is why seeing people struggling on their own is so awful, as is struggling on your own itself!

What do you think? What is our culture? Is it ok for the older population to start the day with a drink? Or do they have alcohol problems?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its all a bit more obvious now that there is no smoking in pubs and now everyone is standing outside. Who's to say that there hasnt been a secret world happening inside pubs for years before?? I worked in a beautiful old 17c pub in Beaconsfield and yes, the first clientele of the day were all over 65. All regulars who relied on the barmaid (me!) for company and compassion. Sad but actually these people were all very interesting, monied people. All with a story or two to tell!
As for the drinkers of hastings, they too may be there for the company and the community spirit. Lets hope its not an alcohol dependency anyway..