This week we have once again experienced the horror that is Halloween. I do not know when this particular ‘holiday’ became as big as it seems to be today but Halloween has simply become yet another excuse to dress up in appalling costumes and think yourself very quirky because this year you chose to dress as the character from Black Swan rather than your classic vampire. It is the time of year I have to stop frequenting the bars in case I am lambasted by yet another group of idiots in their infuriating costumes.
It begs the question, where did this obsession with dressing up on nights out come from? Which simpleton thought spending a great deal of money and effort on a costume, that would be ruined by the morning, would be a good idea? Whatever happened to going for a drink in the pub not to show off but to have conversation, to have a discussion, to have an opinion? Whatever happened to the pub culture of old and when was it replaced with this new and dreadful idea of turning pubs and bars into pseudo-clubs?
There was a time when you would go to the pub for a friendly game of backgammon or cribbage and a few pints and that would be the perfect evening. I can genuinely understand why this has fallen out of fashion; for a start, who has the patience to play a game that involves thought these days. In fact, who has the patience to slog their way through pint after pint of ale when we can always just down six shots of vodka and be off for the evening. Dear reader, please don’t think me a man grumpy before his time, I am not downplaying the joys of getting drunk, or even the wonders of shots, I am merely saying that there is much more to our college bars and local pubs than as a useful place to have a social, somewhere to turn up in a costume and chant about someone being your mate and how they can drink until morning (they clearly can’t so please shut up about it).
Maybe it is the smoking ban that is to blame. When one could sit and smoke and talk and drink all at the same time, maybe then there was no need to be outrageously drunk. Maybe the ability to be able to smoke a pipe while having a pint calmed the soul, encouraged longer but less concentrated drinking sessions. Maybe just the image of having a smoke while drinking instilled in us a serenity we have since lost.
If we think back to fifties Oxford, then we have the Inklings, this famous group of writers would regularly meet in The Eagle and Child to discuss literature. Note the word I used there, they would discuss, they would not arrive and get hammered as quickly as possible, nor would their aim be to get drunk, though of course it is always a side effect of a prolonged session in the pub. They were there to talk, to throw ideas at one another, to express an opinion. I believe it is that that gets me so irate these days, there are so many people who cannot back up their views or become upset when you try to argue a point with them. When did it become wrong to back your views with some form of thought or evidence, when did it become the norm to believe everything you read or hear? I would like to suggest that with the demise of pub culture or at least its evolution into the hellish form it has become today, Britain became just that slight bit worse off. Britain lost its backbone, for no one has learnt patience while awaiting the correct dice role to finish off a game of backgammon, nor the strength of character to hold up against an attack of your principles.
By all means have your fun, go out on your socials, dress up even. Just don’t invade my pub, leave me to my pint in peace. The fact the Halloween has become such a big event just increases my opinion that we are losing our British identity. There was a time we would carve a pumpkin lantern and then get on with our lives, when the pub was a sanctuary from the outside world. I can only hope that one day it will be again, but for now I suppose if I can’t beat you I will join you in part at least, though you will never see me in a costume.