There’s something about a pub that loosens the tongue, sloughs off inhibition, turns the tide of imagination. How many novels, plays and poems have been conceived in a pub? How many ideas hastily scribbled down? How many hitherto unnoticed faults revealed when a draft was read in a pub over a pint instead of at home over another cup of coffee?
For some it’s the escape from solitude, for some it’s the escape from home to home from home, for others it’s just the beer. For me it’s pub as witch’s familiar, the cat at my shoulder silently watching, knowing me better than I know myself.
When I lived in Shrewsbury, newly single, I went often to The Three Fishes, once the only smoke-free pub outside London and just what I needed when I finally broke the habit. Still single but sharing a house with my aged mother, I would go there two or three times a week after she had gone to bed, just to be on my own, to sit and think and drink a pint or two of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and, now and again, jot something down.
Back in Yorkshire, married again, killing time one evening while my wife was at a meeting of the Leeds Writers Circle, I passed the open door of a pub called The Town Hall Tavern and stopped to look in. There was something about it. I went in. It was empty but no less welcoming for that. The barman looked up and was pleased to see me. I carried my pint of Landlord to a table near the window where my inscrutable familiar was already waiting. You, we said, mon semblable, mon frère!