While this might just sound like a blatant attack on the cultural identity of the UK and Ireland, there’s some substance here, not a lot, but enough to at least half-heartedly back myself. There’s no doubt the past 14 months have been a bit of a slog, each evening rife with romanticised tales of freedom. Gone were the days of gathering the posse for a night of silliness and grandeur, the sweet release of a freshly poured pint, the melodic chorus of “taxi” as you knocked said pint upon your slim-fit beige ASOS chinos. Alas.
Now, it’s not as if pubs are inherently shit; however, it’s hard to beat the ingenuity and perseverance required to effectively binge drink outside through an Irish winter, especially amidst a hearty lockdown. A rickety gazebo, icy rain, huddled around a fire pit wrapped in as many layers as possible; minimal music, minimal light, minimal participants, maximum alcohol content, and maximum awareness for police patrols. I’ll admit that this doesn’t read like the most appealing of occasions but when you’re starved of social interaction for long enough, anything goes.
You could look at this as another drawn out “flat parties are better than town” argument, and while you’re not necessarily wrong, it’s important to take into account that the esteemed binge drinking culture of the southern hemisphere doesn’t completely translate to this neck of the woods. Prior to the endless succession of lockdowns and restrictions, you’d be a simple cunt if you’d rather spend winter drinking in the carpark rather than the warm embrace of your local. Although after countless nights of mildly illegal gatherings through baltic temperatures and rampant police patrols, I now struggle to see how a pub could ever compare.
Pub nights blend too easily, it’s that mix of comfort and the almost scripted nature of every outing. Questioning who’s got the round, dandering back and forth from the bar, scuttling to the smoking area, the concentration required to not only locate the toilets but to walk there without looking too slammed. Then what? Grab a kebab and tuck yourself in. Too easy. What you really need is that little sprinkle of adversity; those sub zero backyard sessions in complete darkness to avoid police helicopters, attempting to build gazebo walls out of GladWrap to protect the fire pit during an atlantic belter, watching everyone convince themselves they’re not the main character during the tranquility of a 4am snowfall, the harsh reality of realising you can’t pop a manu in the snow after 20 minutes of light coverage. Bliss.
After nearly 14 months of makeshift lockdown sessions you’d be hard pressed to pinpoint a moment where it got ‘standard’ – maybe it was because day to day lockdown living was the pinnacle of mundane, or maybe we were just too stubborn to lose the enjoyment out of the only part of the week with social interaction. Regardless, even though we’ve been able to venture back into the city I’d struggle to pinpoint a moment which wasn’t anticlimactic, beyond the eventual “fuck it, back to the flat?”
COVID robbed us of our freedom, but more importantly it made us glorify things that were, in hindsight, fairly fucking average. In the end we didn’t miss the pub so much as our God-given right to be complete sacks of shit; that’s real freedom. It’s having the option to dress up and head out, the opportunity to mix and mingle, pound cheap shots while falling into the abyss of a rogue strobe light – yet choosing the gritty comfort of a centurion in a back garden, the existential DMCs summoned by outdoor furniture, the mildly incestuous nature of drinking with the same small group for far too long. Save your money, go make questionable decisions in your mates garden and leave the pubs to those convinced they’re living an American sitcom fantasy.