Back in the days when I was merely a fledgling Brit Out Of Water barely out of short trousers, I always knew it was summer when I was sitting at a wooden table in a pub garden holding a bottle of Coke with a straw in it. One or other of my parents was always with me, before you start to panic. If they hadn’t been there, obviously I’d have had a vodka in it too.
For some it might be the flowering of blossom or the smell of meat being gently yet irretrievably incinerated on a rusty barbecue, but for me the summer just didn’t get going until I could feel that heady mix of carbonated water, caramel,
sugarhigh fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid and caffeine rushing through my veins. Preferably with a packet of ready salted crisps to chase it down.
Since those days, pub gardens have formed an essential part of my summer experience. I’ve spent memorable nights lapping up the late evening sun in pubs the length and breadth of Britain. I once lost the ability to walk after an afternoon on the grassland outside The Mill in Cambridge (although that was less to do with muscular injury and more the result of the debilitating effects of scrumpy on a person’s physical coordination). And is there really anybody who isn’t capable of enjoying him or herself in a riverside pub garden along the banks of the Thames as the sun slowly sets? If there is, I don’t want to meet him.
For The Special One, the whole pub garden concept has come as a bit of a shock to the system. Most Americans believe that the world will implode if a single alcoholic drink is exposed to light or the outside world. As such, the idea of having an area outside a bar where adults can have a casual drink (and where kids can run around or play on
climbing framesjungle jims) is about as socially acceptable as casually plucking hairs from warts on your great-aunt’s chin in public.
There are a few exceptions to the rule, such as the Gowanus Yacht Club in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. But given that the GYC is not on the Gowanus River, does not enable yacht mooring, is not a club, and is actually just a back yard selling beer and wine in plastic cups, it can’t actually be held to be a prime example of outdoor quaffing at its best.
New York’s in the grip of an early summer at the moment, with temperatures in the high 70s. You know something unusual Is happening when you see New Yorkers walking around with smiles on their faces. Shorts are becoming de rigeur, while women are shedding clothes in a manner that suggests they’re heading for a girl’s night out in the North of England. It’s like Britain for those ten days in July when everybody’s happy. And it’s only April.
If only there was a pub garden I could go sit in with The Special One, for a quick post-work drink, all would be well with the world.
A bottle of beer furtively wrapped in a brown paper bag just doesn’t have the same cachet, let’s face it.