I guess like most people who regularly visit one pub, we have our particular place where we usually sit. We would be quite happy sitting anywhere else, and if we arrive and someone is sitting in what might very loosely be called ‘our’ seats, we’re very happy to sit anywhere else. Our end is what may once have been the lounge bar, but as the pub is open plan and the three bars all join on to each other, it isn’t really very much different. The origin of separate bars was that when people locals worked in areas which might end up with them having muddy or mucky boots and dirty clothes there would be one room, known as the public bar, without carpets, sometimes sawdust on the floor, and with more basic furnishings which could be easily kept clean. The lounge or saloon bar, might have been for posh folk with fancy clothes – who may not have wanted to mix with the workers!!
We originally gravitated to our seats because they were nearest the door we entered by and our friends were usually in that bar too. It became a habit that we sat there. We nick-named the bar which ran between the lounge and the public the cross-benches; in parliament the cross-benches are where MPs with no particular political alliance might sit – but it’s only the name which made us call the middle bar in the pub that!
Last night the lounge bar and the cross-benches were empty, but there was a load of folk in the public having a jolly time so we joined them. As usual there was the poker table, three people were playing, concentrating and serious despite the talk and laughter and sound from both the juke-box and them TV around them. There was a group of friends chatting and laughing together, there were other people near the TV, maybe watching, maybe not, and we joined our friend Terry who was perched on a stool by the bar. It’s unusual for us to sit at the bar – and during the strict conditions of being in any pub pertained up until recently, bar-sitting was forbidden. There are still perspex screens along the bar and only a couple of places where you can order, and table-service is still available. Sitting by the bar and by the screen we weren’t stopping anyone from being served, so we sat there and talked to T.
As usual the conversation lurched from topic to topic, New Biggin, lorry-drivers – and the difficulty businesses, including pubs, were having because there were so few lorry-drivers, boats, saving money, poker, the local lost dog thankfully now found, country and western music, a friend we haven’t seen for a while nick-named Sir Cumference on account of his girth… and much else of interest and amusement at the time, but forgotten now. We had a jolly evening, of course, and walked home up the middle of the quiet street, glad the promised rain had not arrived.