Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Pub

Golden Fleece - York
The large block letters illuminated from above by two large lamps, radiating in the dark street as a beacon of comfort to the weary sojourners.  The name of the establishment enshrined by some historical significance, but long lost through the generations of false stories and over embellishments.  No doubt, a good reason exists for the name, but now it just seems like a funny euphemism or novel alliteration; however, it is the essence of tradition in this land – an eye catching, nonsense name.  Jutting out from the ancient building a sign drops from a wooden beam – many times remade, but always retaining its character – hand painted, it provides the necessary imagery to explain the name of this worthy establishment.  Completing the backdrop of this building, a row of flowers dropping down from wooden planters precisely dividing the second floor from the first in a way that steals the cartoonish charm from the painted sign and provides a proper garnish to a proper English pub.

Blue Bell - York
The front door, a solid wood door, hewn many ages ago, painted dark brown with heavy metal fixtures, eeks open to a small foyer presenting two doors in stark contrast.  The right door…the left door – the ultimate decision. There is certainly a good explanation for the two separate doors; however, I have yet to hear it.  These doors present a confusing option to a newcomer, but certainly they provide a distinct layout for a very traditional pub – dividing the pub into two opposing rooms, one noticeably smaller than the other with the prominently undersized bar situated in the middle, open to both rooms.  There is no attempt at convenience in this establishment, and because of that it feels as though the privilege is all yours to be a part of it.

Standing in complete confusion in the foyer, my blank face snapped back into reality when the right door opened up and a couple guys walked out, providing me a brief glimpse in the room.  I held the door open and gave the lads some room to exit then proceed to take the opportunity to take up the freshly vacated spots in packed room.  No more than 10 foot by 10 foot square with a few tables, chairs surrounding them, cushioned bench seats, upholstered in red cloth, lined the front wall of the room below large paneled windows looking out onto the street.  The dark wood interior, the well-worn, dark brown painted bar with 6 hand pulls and several taps – it was described as a characteristic Edwardian interior…whatever that meant. 

Blue Bell - York
Entering through the door, I had to carefully walk around the man sitting at the round table right in front of the entrance – the necessary obstacle to maneuver for admission to the bar.  Finding my footing and securing a sure stance to get to the other side of the room – I couldn’t help but feel like I had just become the center of attention.  All eyes were on me, the new denizen of this hallowed place.  The uncomfortableness of the place only momentary – the stares, not malevolent – simply the nature of a pub.  Half the result of the environment – a small room with towering ceilings which caused an illusion of the walls bending slightly over everyone to secure them in this cozy, tight knit atmosphere able to instantly recognize a newcomer.  And half the result of the unspoken creed that a man walking into a pub enters with respect of the people already investing their time there – the process having played itself out over and over since the beginning of time… a price of a pint is the investment, finding a seat secures your contentedness until you chose to give it up.  If I were sitting in the seats like those staring at me, I would do the exact same thing – stare down the new intruder, the momentary disruption to the karma of the room. 

A pint of Roosters
I cozied to the bar with as much confidence as I could muster considering the place being as far from welcoming as possible.  The bartender, noticing my gaze upon the beer options at hand, was instantly at my service… “Ya alright?” – the casual greeting that inquires of the current state of my being; in other words, “How are you doing?”…“Do you need anything?”…“How can I help you?”  I said, I’ll have a pint of Roosters.  The bartender grabs a large glass from behind the bar and holds it at a slight angle, sparkler near the bottom of the glass, while the other hand grasps firmly on the top of the black hand pull.  The shiny black curved surface of the hand pull embellished with polished brass trim standing tall on the bar, a sturdy pump clip snapped around the base of the hand pull labeling the contents flowing through the lines from the cask in the cellar into the glass.  The bartender pulls the top of the hand pull toward him with a slightly exerted effort, just enough work to require of the bartender in preparing a proper pint – the dues he pays as a symbol for the work that was put into the brewing of the beautiful beer – nothing that is worthwhile in this world is easy.  One pull, beer spraying from the sparkler directly into the bottom of the glass; two pulls, the beer gradually filling up the clear glass with a swirling dark golden and creamy white hue; three pulls, rising closer to the top; four pulls, the creamy head slowly rushing over the edge of the glass.  The bartender sets the glass beside the hand pull and says “That will be three pound sixty.”  I pull out of my wallet five quid and the bartender goes back to collect my change.  I continue to stand and admire the glass.  A pint is a beautiful thing – blankets of air cascading through the beer as the liquid begins to settle at the bottom in a crystal clear liquid, a thick creamy head like whipped cream forming on the top of the beer as the air works its way up to the top of the glass – floating in waves, swaying to the perfect rhythm of the delicate body of the beer, the sheets of air layered in the fluidity of the beer to give a depth and texture that can only be seen to be believed.  The bartender tops up the beer with another half pull to fill the entire glass with a perfectly clear, dark golden beer.

Red Lion - York
I find my way to an open seat - open, a generous term.  There is space for me, however, in a tiny room, filled with people, personal space is redefined.  Sharing tables with complete strangers becomes customary, overhearing everyone’s conversation, unavoidable.  The one thing uniting everyone – the pint in hand.  I am no longer the center of attention.  I have found my seat.  I have paid my dues.  I am now one with the crowd, having made the necessary investment to claim the seat as my own.  The pint is now my time piece – instead of a pile of sand building up in an hour glass, the ever dropping level of liquid in my glass marks the consumption of my time.  With every drink the thick head of foam laces a beautiful story down the inside of the glass – leaving its indelible mark full of mystery and intrigue longing to be understood like the lines of a palm.  The bottom of the glass is not the end.  The bottom of the glass is an opportunity for a new beginning – the process repeats itself – “Ya alright?”…1,2,3,4 pulls…the masterpiece paints itself again in the pint glass, and I lose myself in the moment unfolding all around me in the crowded pub.


  1. Very much enjoying the vicarious travels abroad. Keep up the great work friend.
    M. Unzicker

  2. Discovered your blog via Boak and Bailey, enjoying it! The two doors are probably for the saloon and lounge sections of the pub:

    Let me know if you make it down to Bath, we have some good traditional pubs here.