I visited London.
This was very exciting for me, as I had not been in the big metropolis for many months. It also meant that I had twenty-four hours without having to make up baby milks. This, for me, is freedom. Freedom!!! I skipped down the road like the ladies in the tampon ads, heading for a late-afternoon drink.
I chose one of my old regular haunts. A traditional yet pleasingly vibrant place, it is known for selling very good beer. This is generally my criterion for pub choice, as opposed to Sky TV or £1.99 meals for pensioners on Thursdays. Besides, I was meeting a lady who I was keen to look cool in front of. (Don’t worry about the LTLP etc, it was nothing untoward and had nothing to do with sex, plus I had to leave at 7pm.)
“I’ll have a cider,” requested my hot date.
At the bar, a chap was polishing glasses methodically. I asked him for a cider. He stared at me, as if I had requested a battered penguin.
He put down his tea towel. “Aah erm sorry,” he replied in a French accent that would have French people denouncing him for being overly French. “Wee duh not seurve cider.”
I didn’t quite understand.
“There eez nuh cider,” he explained. “My beurse deurse not like tuh steurke eet.”
A stern-looking boss-type figure watched us from the end of the bar, carefully taking note of potential cider-drinking hooligans. I had a short conversation with the barman about the usual availables in a public house, the traditional nature of the drink both in England and in Northern France, and the renaissance of cider as a choice of well-behaved young professionals with high disposable incomes.
“There eez nuh cider,” I explained to Lady I Was Keen to Look Cool in Front Of, my sociological argument with the staff having tailed off lamely. She radiated piqued disappointment in her thwarted ciderlessness.
“A lager then. A nice one.”
I plodded to the bar. “Aah erm sorry,” replied the barman. “Wee duh neurrrt sell laager eether.”
“You don’t sell lager.”
“This is a lager pump. Here. This one. It says so.”
He gave me a shrug that was almost Asterixian in its Gallicness.
“Eet izz nurtt on today.”
I returned to our table. “There eez nuh lager either,” I explained. Lady Who I Was Doing A Bad Job of Looking Cool in Front Of blinked rapidly, with a ‘you are an idiot and this is an idiot pub’ air.
“There is no lager?”
“There is no lager.”
“Er – I guess I’ll have a white wine then.”
I felt my shoes wearing out as I returned to the bar once more. Very slowly and patiently, I addressed the barman.
“Do you sell white wine?”
“I’ll have one of those then.”
I was careful not to specify a particular grape variety or level of dryness or wetness. He poured it happily. My beer was too warm.