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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Are we being served?

Last night I was in a pub. The night before I was in a pub. This is rather unusual.
It gave me an opportunity to reflect on the fact that the boozers of old London town are remorselessly changing into stripped pine gastro-pubs with computerised tills, guests beers on blackboards, staff who are young and new to the country and interesting furniture.
I don't mind this. I don't particularly miss the old ones. Except in one respect.
If you go into some old Irish fighting pub around the Angel, Islington you will find that it has been organised in order to facilitate the swift, uncomplicated dispensing of beer to thirsty men. The bar staff in these places, who are often middle-aged women, can remember, fulfill and charge for the most complicated order of drinks rapidly and accurately, without disappearing round the corner to stab hopefully at a bunch of artists impressions on the keypad of a till while humming along to the music, indulging in a little banter with colleagues or saying "do you want to start a tab?"
Given this, and the pointless range of new product options which are always being introduced ("cold Guinness or warm?", "straight glass?", "which vodka?", "large glass of wine or small?") London has turned into the slowest place in the world to get served in a bar.
You don't get this in New York, Paris or Rome. There they steamroller any confusion by just giving you what they think you should drink. I'm not against this.
I propose a new beginning. I see a new chain of "fast drink" pubs with one beer, one lager and two bottles of wine. I think we all know what it would say above the door.