The local. Your favourite watering hole, where everyone knows your name, your glass hangs on a peg above the bar, and no one but no one sits in your chair. When you pass away, they’ll hang your picture on the wall and a shocked silence will hush the entire pub when a stranger sits on what is, still, your chair.
If I still lived in Rhyl, it’s likely the award-winning Swan would now be my local, having graduated from the anarchic Dudley Arms (though all things move full circle eventually; The Dudley Arms has been turned into the Cob & Pen, with the licensees and regulars from the Swan moving to the new premises). If I fancied a sirloin, I might venture to the Fford Derwen, but otherwise that would probably be it. I suspect this patronage of one main pub is the norm for most people in rural areas or small towns. Hence the term ‘the local’.
But move to a larger town, say Wakefield, or a city, like Cardiff, and the choice of watering holes suddenly opens up on a much wider scale. When the number of pubs within reasonable walking distance goes from 1 to 10 or 30, do you still commit to just one pub?
I imagine not. Pub 12 does great food, Pub 8 is quiet and cosy, Pub 34 has a beer selection to rival a CAMRA festival. With so much pub choice, surely it depends on your mood?
When I lived in Leeds, I had several locals. It all depended on what nature of drink I wanted.
For a quiet drink, it was the Ship. In this easily-overlooked, pocket-sized alley pub, my friend Doug and I would attack a crossword and chug back dimple mugs filled with Yorkshire ale. For a lively drink, the Hop. Here I’d go with the work crowd, and have the pie-and-pint deal to line my stomach for the night ahead.
For a drink to impress newcomers to Leeds, Whitelocks. The combination of leading someone down a sudden, maze-like passageway onto the Whitelocks’ yard, followed by the sight of the gleaming copper-topped bar never failed to impress friends and family when I felt proud and showy of my then-town. For a drink to impress beer geeks, Mr. Foley’s. With more than ten or so beer taps, and a world selection of bottled beers, there was always something new to discover. And for everything else, the default setting was Arcadia.
In Cardiff, I initially tried to find ‘my local’ but nothing clicked into place. It wasn’t until after a few months I realised a pattern was slowly emerging. My relaxed pub is The Goat Major. It looks like how I imagine the House of Commons bar looks, with the green leather bench seats. They serve a mean pie, have good guest ales, and the bar staff know their stuff.
To impress visitors, I take people to Zero Degrees. It looks funky as hell, does great pizza and mussel pots, and brews its own beer on site. Terra Nova is also an impressive venue, situated on the Bay, and their cooked breakfast is the ideal cure for a hangover. However, City Arms is edging ahead as my favourite watering hole, primarily for having the largest range of cask ales in the city centre. Ultimately, a pub for every mood is making itself known.
Is this experience of many locals common to anyone else, or am some sort of philandering pub cheat? Perhaps it’s because I’m a budding beer geek that I seek so many pubs, or I have wandering-gypsy legs? Do you have a local, or locals?