It’s coming up to the time of year when I stop visiting pubs, and sitting outside them in the garden. From about October to March, I don’t visit pubs at all, because I can’t stand being unable to smoke while I drink a beer. I hate it just as much now as I did on 1 July 2007.
So given that the past week or so has been lovely and sunny in England, I’ve used every opportunity available to enjoy a beer and a cigarette in a variety of different pub gardens while I still can. It has even taken precedence over my investigation of the Chelyabinsk meteor, even while it was breaking exciting new ground. For however exciting it all was, I’d still drop it all and head off to a pub for an hour or two.
Today looked like it wasn’t going to be possible. It’s been a showery day in my part of the world, and the satellite images (over which I can pore for hours) held little promise of any sunshine. But I went out shopping anyway, and when I was about to start off home, there was another dark shower cloud looming on the horizon, with bands of rain under it.
But as I watched it for a few minutes, and began to think that it might pass north. And there was blue sky behind it. Maybe there wasn’t going to be another shower after all?
So I took a chance on it, and headed to the nearest pub, and bought a half pint in the hope that the dark, ominous cloud really would pass by rather than pass over.
Then the sun broke through the clouds. It looked like I’d gambled right.
And then the first droplets of rain began to fall. It was fine rain, almost drizzle. I hunched over the roll-up I was rolling to try to keep it dry.
The rain got heavier. And I began to think that if it got much worse I’d have to head for cover, even though the sun was very bright, and the spots of rain on the table were evaporating almost as soon as they landed.
And then the rain died away, and stopped. I’d only been caught by the trailing edge of the passing shower.
And it turned into a glorious afternoon. So I stayed for another beer.
I don’t know what it is that I so love about sitting with a beer and a cigarette. I don’t really think about anything much. In fact I maybe even stop thinking. I just sit there gazing abstractly into space. In fact, I don’t think I actually see anything at all. I’m just there, with my beer and my cigarette. And somehow at peace. And I seem to need that little oasis of peace.
I treat pubs like churches. They’re there to just go inside and sit quietly, gazing contemplatively into space.
But I prefer pubs to churches. And today I thought that the real difference between pubs and churches (or at least the Catholic churches of my youth), was that in the church you sat or stood or knelt watching a priest drinking wine and eating bread (the Catholic mass is a ritual meal), while in a pub you can drink wine and eat bread yourself. And that’s so much better. And you can also talk, and smoke cigarettes. Or at least, you used to be able to smoke cigarettes.
I think if Jesus was around, you’d probably find him in a pub. He seemed to eat and drink quite a lot, by all accounts. He even knew how to turn water into wine, which must have come in really handy at parties and wedding feasts. And he seemed to like fast ladies. And he was very, very talkative. Perhaps too much. I like to think that he also smoked. Or would have, if anyone had ever offered him one. Gauloises or Gitanes, most likely. For Jesus was probably French. And drove a Peugeot. Or maybe a Renault.
Anyway, my church-going days are almost over for the year. What lies ahead is a four to six month long Lent of enforced abstinence. And then it’ll be Easter, and a renewal and rebirth of sunny pub gardens. In such manner the ecclesiastical year reproduces itself.
I forgot to add this video from Norway.