Lounge or Saloon?

A lifeguard hut on a beach in Cornwall.

The divide between lounge and saloon is alive and well in Cornwall. Yesterday, we walked into a pub near Land’s End and were faced with two doors marked as such. Which way to go?

We steeled ourselves and went into the bar. This was the right move. A cheerful old gent greeted us and we chatted about the weather, the cricket and so on. The lounge, we could see through the bar, was laid out as a kind of dining room and was completely empty.

We sat at the bar and, shortly, as more people turned up, were reminded that the principle of Stammtisch applies in the saloon bar in some way we have yet to fathom. We were clearly in a regular’s seat — not that anyone made a fuss, but we could tell.

We were the only people drinking from standard glasses. Everyone else had their own favourite behind the bar — ancient Double Diamond-branded handled steins; dimple mugs; or straight-sided pint glasses bearing cricket club crests.

As five o’clock drew near, an older woman necking lager at the end of the bar put aside her newspaper and decided it was time to buy the syndicate lottery ticket. A pint glass behind the bar, filled with pound coins and IOUs, was brought forward and someone was sent off to the local store to do the honours.

We’ve seen similar scenes in several other pubs already. For now, at least, pubs are still the centre of many communities in this part of the world.

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