Three’s ideal, maybe five, six is pushing it

You can do the pub with two, sure, but even the closest of companions will find lulls in the conversation.

No, three is the ide­al – keep­ing the chat at a con­stant sim­mer, tak­ing it in turns to inter­ro­gate or lis­ten, and nobody left alone while the round’s got in. And three will fit any­where, from the tiny round table in the tiny snug, to the end of a bench, to lean­ing on the bar.

Four and five work too, though the bal­ance is nev­er quite as good as with three. It’s too easy to end up in a row, play­er one unable to hear play­er four, play­er five cast adrift and in every­one else’s way on a stool dragged across to the end of the table.

Six? You need a big­gish pub with plen­ty of room to pull off six, but it can be done on spe­cial occa­sions: you can’t see A with­out telling B you’re com­ing out, and B will want to bring C, and if C’s there it would be rude not to invite D… But the con­ver­sa­tion either frag­ments, or ends up with every­one yelling over each oth­er. You’ve to work hard in a six.

Eight is just daft. Avoid eight. That’s a din­ner par­ty, that is, or a com­mit­tee meet­ing. Coats in a pile, not enough chairs, “You swap with her so she can talk to him about them”, tables dragged togeth­er and bar staff rolling their eyes. Except in the biggest of booze barns your group of eight is a dom­i­nat­ing and prob­a­bly irri­tat­ing pres­ence.

Then there’s twelve… Are these peo­ple barmy? Five tables in a row down the mid­dle of the room so nobody else can get to the bar or toi­let or the smok­ing lean-to. High chairs and pushchairs. A cam­era on a tri­pod. Is some­body mak­ing a speech? “Let’s pile the presents on this table here to get them out of the way while we eat.”

Even bet­ter, the cen­tral Lon­don spe­cial­i­ty: fif­teen, with no book­ing, guide­books in hand. Shuf­fle in, shuf­fle all the way round look­ing for the mag­ic unre­served ban­quet­ing table, then shuf­fle out again look­ing sad.

No, three is the ide­al size for a team in a game of pub.

Though there’s also a case to be made for one.

6 thoughts on “Three’s ideal, maybe five, six is pushing it”

  1. Love­ly post. Three or four mates togeth­er is ide­al. Enough peo­ple to keep the con­ver­sa­tion flow­ing, small enough that it does­n’t splin­ter into side con­ver­sa­tions.

    Of course, larg­er groups are ok as long as they spo­rad­i­cal­ly split up into small­er groups.

  2. Two’s fine. Two means two pints, or three and it’s my round next time. Four pints would make sense, or five if you’re feel­ing reck­less – five and go on then, just anoth­er half… Two’s good for that.

    Three­’s good for one round, which is to say three rounds. (Paus­es for hap­py mem­o­ries of lunchtime drink­ing.) Do you real­ly want to stay for six pints, though – or keep track of who owes who and who a pint for next time? Four is def­i­nite­ly just the one round, and any­thing over five is hope­less – peo­ple always start buy­ing their own or else buy­ing lit­tle sub-rounds, just me and my mate… Two’s fine.

    1. Most peo­ple don’t actu­al­ly keep note from one week to the next though. If i buy a round for 10 peo­ple, i might expect appre­ci­ate a cou­ple of pints in return imme­di­ate­ly there­after, but after that it’s for­got­ten about, per­ma­nent­ly.

      Peo­ple who nev­er buy a round over the course of a year do have their card silent­ly marked though.

      1. I was going to say the same – even when I was skint I nev­er expect­ed one-for-one on round buy­ing, but over time you’d notice the acquain­tances who *nev­er* bought a round and start exclud­ing them. (From rounds, sure, but also from your life…) And I like the idea that over the course of a long friend­ship it all bal­ances out by the time you die any­way.

        1. 100% agree with this Ray, as a friend­ship group we used to effec­tive­ly sub­sidise a lad who’d been long-term unem­ployed (for no fault of his own), but when he then got a job and did­n’t start buy­ing rounds it led to some gen­tle teas­ing in var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions, and he took the hint and now buys rounds.

          Most of my mates though, it’ll be basi­cal­ly even over time, so it isn’t an issue.

          1. I’ve been buy­ing my own beer for too long!

            Actu­al­ly I don’t think I’ve been in a reg­u­lar round of more than two for twen­ty years now. My loss…!

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