The Un-Future of Pubs

I’m living in a town boasting a massive 10 000 citizens. We have eight cinemas, a three storey library, three gas stations, so many roundabouts you’ll get dizzy simply from counting them, five American-style bingos and no pubs. Not a single pub. We have a few restaurants and pizzerias where beer can be ordered, but no real pubs. Nowhere you can enter, ask for a beer, sit down with the paper and relax and leave. This is a problem.

Imagine you’re worn out, tired and lazy after a long day at work. You haven’t even had the time to take a bathroom break to read the news from yesterday and decide you should drown your sorrows with a cold pint of the golden brew while reading. Your choice? Order a £25 pizza on the side or read the paper accompanied by aggrotech music at 105dB with psychedelic teenagers jumping around you shouting “Come on, dude, party out with us. Look, Peter’s about to throw a chair at the bartender! Go Peter!!”. You can’t. You could take a beer home, or skip the whole thing and meet yet another miserable day without one.

A town with 10 000 citizens with the slightest ounce of self-respect should have a pub. This actually does describe Norway in a nutshell. Let me quote Bill Bryson on this matter, from his book “Neither Here Nor There. Travels in Europe”, which was published 18 years ago: “One of the major contradictions about Sweden and Norway is how much public drunkenness there is. I mean – here you have two countries where you can’t buy a beer without signing up for a bank loan where one government after the other have done everything they can to make sure alcoholic consumption is not worth the cost or the effort, but one can still see incredibly drunk people everywhere. This I cannot fathom.”

And Mr. Bryson is completely right! Every time there is somewhere you can sit and relax and enjoy a beer, the place is either shut down, ran out of business, they build a mall on top of it or turned into a youth techno club. As a Norwegian, there are two ways of having fun; either you pay a lot for it, or you don’t have fun. Strictly speaking, the only way for a Norwegian to get high is to pick the filter off a cigarette before smoking it.

This town of mine actually did have three pubs a long time ago. Popular, enjoyable places, they were. One is now an insurance office, one gave way for a roundabout and the last one got a hotel built on top of it, which is rather peculiar, as nobody would like to stay in this hellhole anyway seeing as the only way they could experience the town by night would be to sit among psychedelic teenagers who are jumping around while pretending to know which aggrotech song’s being played. And if it’s not Combichrist, it’s a biproduct of alcohol seeing as they’re not really used to such hard drugs, which might even make Enya and Leonard Cohen sound like a complete rhythmless racket.

I won’t go on forever, and I’m not opposed to these teenage clubs, I just want one tiny pub, a bardesk with two tables and four barstools where I can have a stop and rest on my way home, a beer and enjoy the paper or a book or my own thoughts while not being distracted by people asking me to watch the bartender get hit by a chair. Save the pubs, they need protection before they sound their last hic and are replaced by more clubs, hotels and malls.

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