In the pub, standing is part of the fun

"Room for a small one, love?"

In a really lively pub, not everyone is going to get a seat.

If you do get a seat, there’s no guar­an­tee you’ll have the table to your­self, or that some­one won’t end up stood over your shoul­der bump­ing you with their hip and yelling, laugh­ing or oth­er­wise exist­ing out loud.

We found our­selves think­ing about this as we worked our way around the pubs of Kel­ham Island in Sheffield on a busy Sat­ur­day night.

There, par­ties of peo­ple in smart Going Out Clothes seemed hap­py to stand about, cas­cad­ing into spaces between tables even where there had­n’t seemed to be spaces moments before, and crowd­ing the cor­ri­dors.

Can I just squeeze through there, pal?” Well, not real­ly, and yet some­how, yes, and all with­out touch­ing. (A British super­pow­er.)

If you’re mug enough to wear a coat, you’ve either to swel­ter, to hold it, hope to hang it, or throw it on the floor. The ten­den­cy to hit the town in shirt­sleeves makes sense in this con­text – cold between pubs, sure, but unen­cum­bered once you get there.

That’s not to say that peo­ple aren’t keep­ing an eye on the avail­abil­i­ty of seats. There’s a way of glanc­ing side­ways: how near is this lot to fin­ish­ing? How emp­ty are their glass­es? Is any­one mak­ing a move to buy anoth­er round, or have they start­ed pick­ing up coats and hand­bags? There are prime hov­er­ing spots, and sharp elbows are some­times unleashed: “Some peo­ple’ll jump in your bloody grave!”

One par­ty leaves (a gust of cold air, dead leaves across the car­pet) and anoth­er group comes in. The crowd flows flu­id to make way as hands reach over to lift pints from the bar, as scotch eggs are eat­en from plates bal­anced on the man­tel­piece, as gig­gling peo­ple sit on laps, or the arms of chairs.

These pubs are healthy. This pub cul­ture is healthy. Life is good.

And those love­ly, tran­quil pubs where you always get a seat? Per­haps wor­ry about them.

3 thoughts on “In the pub, standing is part of the fun”

  1. I pre­fer to stand up in a pub. Yet when I go out with oth­er beer enthu­si­asts every­one wants to sit down. I’d nev­er sit down in my local, unless I specif­i­cal­ly want­ed to but­ton hole some­one, but if vis­it­ing a new pub I may well sit down. Weird real­ly. There are some spe­cif­ic social dynam­ics of who we are and why we are going to the pub that come into play here. Addi­tion­al­ly there are phys­i­cal attrib­ut­es such as age and med­ical con­di­tions that come into play too. Just come back from crawl round Birm­ing­ham cen­tre where there was clear demar­ca­tion between local drinkers hav­ing a pint after work (stand­ing) and stu­dents and aca­d­e­m­ic types who sought out cosy seats in cor­ners, snugs and oth­er ‘hemmed in’ nich­es.

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