Pubs, especially old pubs, especially in old towns or remote villages, are often internet black spots. Which can be interesting.
We’ll be first in line to roll our eyes at pubs which have that bit of off-the-peg ‘wit’ on the wall: “’We don’t have WiFi… talk to each other like it’s 1995!”
But we do try not to stare at our phones in the pub.
It’s just that we’re weak.
You know how it is. You get it out to Tweet a picture of an interesting horse brass or something and, while it’s there, you might as well check every post on every social media platform… twice.
And if he’s looking at his phone, I might as well look at mine, and if she’s looking at her phone, I might as well look at mine, and…
Then, one day, you grab your phone out of habit and there you are, without 4G, bereft.
You try leaning towards the window. No joy.
You get the Wi-Fi code and give all your personal details in exchange for some targeted marketing and… “Connected, no internet”.
You keep refreshing things anyway, staring bewildered at a blank screen, or playing the jumping dinosaur game in Chrome.
That’s all well and good until you need to answer a proper pub trivia question, though. Such as, for example, what are the 32 London boroughs, and has Jess been to them all?
With the internet, you can be done and dusted in 45 seconds.
Without it, you have to sit there and try to remember.
You have to get out a pencil and a scrap of paper and start writing them down.
And each one comes with a debate, and with a memory of a walk, pub crawl, friend or relative.
After a while, you realise this might actually be kind of fun.
Twenty years ago, what people did or didn’t know, or had forgotten, or half-remembered, was the prime fuel of pub conversations.
“The bloke who played Jonny Briggs’s dad was in Star Wars.”
“No he wasn’t, but Mr Bronson from Grange Hill was.”
“He was, I swear. Oh, what’s his bloody name… He was in that other thing…”
Trivial things that didn’t matter but which worked, like beer, as a lubricant for conversation.
We don’t want phones banned in pubs, and certainly don’t want to be told to put ours away by officious publicans, but perhaps there’s some way to get back to that state of innocence, just for the sake of talking nonsense for an hour or two.
The Star Inn in Bath has no 4G and bad Wi-Fi. We remembered 28 of the 32 boroughs without a phone. Jess has been to them all.