I went to a local real ale pub this Friday and had a fantastic time. I drank a fine real ale and my outlook became a tad chemically altered.
It's taken me years to work out why I like drinking alcohol. It's definitely a social thing for me. Up until recently I would very rarely drink at home (it's still not very common). What I love is the way it makes people more likely to 'connect' with others. In a pub like the one I went to on Friday, everyone becomes friendly and most people are happy to talk with anyone. So to me, the pub becomes one big 'people playground' that I can usually quite freely explore. I suspect there are some places in the world where this would be possible without alcohol.
Originally, I met with friends. They like to arrive and leave early. Thing is, they always leave just as I am about to get going (I usually arrive some time after them and my alcoholic stamina is pretty good). So I bump into people - people I know, those I vaguely know and sometimes strangers. It probably means I encounter people that I wouldn't normally, as we do have so many subconscious filtering processes in sober life that seem to prevent connections quite quickly.
At one point I met a young chap who had lived a long time in the Hague. He spoke about general social attitudes in Britain compared to the Dutch and how much more advanced he felt the Dutch generally were. He also said that when he's in the Netherlands he comes across to others as a macho feller but when he's in Britain, he comes across as the opposite! How interesting! But I didn't get to explore further because he had to leave with his friends.
A bit later, I met a man (friend of a friend) that started nearly every sentence with, 'the problem with women is...'. His friend wasn't quite so misogynistic so I chatted mostly with him. He was quite interesting but his friend regularly punctuated my sentences with, a new 'problem with women sentence.' I challenged a few of his early interruptions, for example, 'the problem with women is they only like shopping and that's all they do.' I replied, 'I hate shopping' (I sincerely do) but he told me I was lying! I showed him my bag as an example of how acquisition did not interest me. (I have had it for about ten years and repaired it several times (re-lined and patched, again and again) and he just said, 'you've just tried to hippierise it.' He was determined to dislike me as the only representation of femalehood within his proximity. He also told me that he hated being single and would love to have a girlfriend. A man that hates women but that wants one. Poor feller.
I became bored of that conversation (it did grate somewhat!) and decided I would go home after a necessary trip to the loo (real ale pints are a lot of volume to process). As I left the ladies, I bumped into some friends of a friend that I vaguely knew: a lovely, warm and intelligent artist and her wonderfully kind chap. I am still processing the conversation we had.....
I know I am an idealist and I have a picture of how I would love to see the world: connection, compassion, self-awareness, understanding and tolerance, gentleness, forgiveness...etc..it's called Pretty Hippyland. I also know that it's very unlikely that we will ever all arrive in Pretty Hippyland. I do have a little realism going on too! We spoke about the scope of the human condition and how fundamentally, everyone is just floundering around clueless and some of us are trying to find a meaning that probably doesn't really exist. And this friend said she found comfort in the fact this was the reality. And I liked that too. I do sometimes look too hard for meaning and I do want the world to be a better place but I am regularly disappointed! I need to temper my idealism and become embroiled in 'that's just how it is!'
Then I left the pub to find my bike was still locked to the end of one of the wooden picnic benches outside the pub - only the bench had been upturned onto its side for nightime storage and my bike was consequently in the air - a little high for all 5 ft 2 of me to wrestle with alone. I popped back into the pub and asked two chaps to help me with this predicament. They did. I gave then some top trump cards for their effort and cycled off to bedsville. I love diverse adventures in People Playgrounds.