Happily, I like my own company.
Being sat in a pub by oneself is markedly different from the experience of pub-going with a group. Camaraderie is replaced with silence; staring into space takes the place of calibrating conversation with the other members of the group. There is more chance to listen to what other people are saying – because one can’t help but overhear — and to watch social dynamics. Here’s a brief snapshot of some of them, from my pub supper last night:
– In the pub with me yesterday evening were two German couples, not traveling together, but two individual couples who happened to speak German, seated beside each other at a quintessential English pub. I’d guess they were from the North-East part of Germany, judging from the softness of the “Ich” — and with an awareness that I am not great at regional German idiom and accents. One pair ordered dessert (strawberries, raspberries and cream) and white wine; one couple ordered the Stilton and Vegetable crumble, to share, with sparkling water, and one red wine. Both couples were devoted to one another, and paid very little attention to what else was going on.
-which was probably good because on the other side of the pub, just outside the door of the snug, a fairly raucous discussion of the last Chelsea game was taking place. I have no clue why Chelsea, when we are so far north, but there you go.
– the other occupants of the snug were two local men hosting two visitors from Trieste, Italy; they all tried a different pie, but I left before I could tell whether they were each going to sample the others. I quite enjoyed their conversation about snow tires.
So, one snug: one Canadian, two Brits, two Italians, four Germans. Hadrian’s Wall country: always ever multinational.
I sometimes feel that in our rush to be ever more connected, through various devices and social media, that we’ve lost our ability to be alone and listen to what is around us. To sit and have genuine curiosity about the lives of others without feeling the need to insert ourselves into their story at that time. To play the role of omniscient narrator, even briefly. A genuine highlight for me yesterday was reclaiming quiet observation as a practice.
When I left the pub, I walked back to the cottage still in my own world. Peaceful. Content. Bleated at by sheep.
[imagine a photo here. One will come, hopefully this evening. The internet is intermittently slow, and I have to leave to walk the wall to Vindolanda before it has fully uploaded for me to select.]