When I was eight years old, I went to the UK with my parents. My father was on sabbatical from the university he taught at; we spent four months touring France, England, Scotland, and Wales. France was a destination because my father was working on a book; the UK was on the itinerary for a multitude of reasons, undoubtedly including a desire to introduce me to my cultural heritage.
I remember visiting a small rural pub in Cornwall after a long day’s journey touring through the countryside. My parents ordered beer – I ordered an orange squash – essentially orange juice. But this being a British pub, and not altogether used to children, the pints arrived before the orange squash. The day had been hot, and long. I had tasted beer before, so my mother let me have a sip of her pint while we waited – something which would probably land her in prison if it occurred in 2013.
The beer was cold, and delicious, and I drank half of it before I could be stopped.
Pub culture in the UK is very different from bar culture in the US. Bars are apart from society, not an integral part of it – in keeping with our Puritan roots. Instead of an extension of the home, bars are more commonly depicted like Moe’s, Homer Simpson’s hangout. Yet this small pub in Cornwall had room for an American family with an 8-year old child, tired from a long day and looking to relax.
The UK has changed quite a bit since 1976. On my last visit in 2009, the two Horse Guards outside Whitehall were a female soldier and a soldier of what in the UK would be considered Afro-Caribbean descent – a big change in the last 30 years. But the best thing about societies is that they adapt – sometimes for the worse, occasionally for the better.
Paul Moody and Robin Turner’s The Search for the Perfect Pub paints a picture of Britain’s pubs of yesteryear through the lens of George Orwell’s Moon Under Water, and attempts to track its course in the 21st century. There is some rough sailing and heavy weather’ but some of the unique properties of the British pub will see it safe into the 21st century.