There’s a thing I’m not mentioning

If you’ve been reading the posts thus far, you’ll have noticed that when I write about what I see in a pub, I make note of people’s ages and genders (at least, my best guess without actually asking them). I do so because it’s interesting, it’s useful data. They affect how I feel about a place, in the same way that the choice of lighting and music and beer would too.

But there’s another thing which I find interesting, for much the same reason, but which I haven’t yet mentioned. Because … well, there are Rules.

Race; skin colour.

Bedford is quite a diverse area: the 2011 Census showed that 17% of Bedford’s age 20-79 population were non-white. Which of course means that white, at 83%, was still the vast majority (and I’m sure it’s much same in 2017).

But have we been seeing that same mix in the pubs we’ve been visiting? Have we heck. I haven’t been keeping exact count of all the white folk we’ve been seeing (maybe 300 so far?), but there have so few non-white faces in our twenty-plus pub visits so far that I can pretty much remember each one. Fewer than 10, I think. So far at least, non-white folk are therefore under-represented in pubs, compared to the population in the town as a whole.

I did think about mentioning race/colour in the individual pub blog posts, alongside age and gender. But there are two obvious problems with that: (a) there are so few non-white folk, it would feel uncomfortably close to providing identifying information, which of course I want to avoid; and (b) what would I say when people are white? I don’t want to just omit it and assume “white by default” (ugh), and it would get repetitive to say “white” every time – but maybe that’s the point.

I really wish that it wasn’t relevant: but I believe it is. I’d love it to be as uninteresting and uncontroversial as writing about what type of shoes people are wearing: but it’s not. I at least wanted to say that I’m aware of the problem, and it’s an uncomfortable thing for me to write about. But by writing about it, by pointing out the problem – and I believe that it is a problem – it might be just one tiny step in the right direction.

Progress Report: We Added Clapham

A quick progress update:

  • Places on the list: 59
  • but 4 are closed, so there are 55 that we can actually visit
  • and we’ve done 15
  • (one of which wasn’t a pub)
  • which means that so far, we’re about 27% done.

So clearly the correct thing to do at this point in proceedings is… add more pubs!

RealAleRocks and I decided to extend our range to include Clapham, since it’s perfectly walkable from town. So that’s three more to add onto the list: Fox & Hounds, The Star, and Horse & Groom, bringing us up to 58. Oh, and I almost forgot: The Anchor. So we’re back up to 59 again.

For reference, here’s an updated map, with a little colour coding for “done” vs “todo”:

Progress report before Clapham

Read on to see which one we did next!

The Problem of “Every” Pub, Revisited

As I wrote in the opening article of this series, one of the problems to tackle is that of working out just what is meant by “pub”. Another problem is the word “every”: how do we know that we haven’t missed any?

Starting from that list of licensed premises I mentioned before, then yes, there was some manual pre-filtering to do. The full list was some 570 premises, and we’re certainly not going to visit all 570 of them, just in case each one is a pub. So unless we know the place already, we have to guess: does each entry “sound like” a pub? The Red Lion – sounds like a pub. Nisa Local – sounds like not-a-pub. Easy. (Until it isn’t).

But even then, this still leaves another way for the system to go wrong: what if a pub wasn’t on the list in the first place? Because we now have a written-down list of sixty-ish pubs to visit, we’re reasonably familiar with that list … which is why it came as a surprise when we suddenly came across another pub that isn’t on the list.

Enter The Anchor, at 300 Cardington Road, Bedford (not to be confused with The Anchor, at 397 Goldington Road of course). It very much looks like a pub, from the outside (try Google street view, or just go along and see for yourself). “The Anchor – Choma Zone Bedford” Facebook page promotes events happening there. Maybe it doesn’t need a license any more, perhaps it’s something other than a pub? But then the page’s cover image looks like this:

Screenshot 2017-03-15 22.57.28.small.png

showing various forms of alcohol; and elsewhere there’s a picture and mentions of Tusker beer.

Maybe the list of licensed premises – obtained from Bedford Borough Council – is out-of-date. That could explain it, perhaps. Or maybe it’s just plain wrong. I offer no opinion on what the truth of the matter is – but it does look as though we should add The Anchor, Cardington Road onto the list and give it a go.

But when an oddity like this crops up, it makes you wonder if there’s anything else missing.

Meta: Why blogging about pubs is hard

Coffee, phone, paper, pen. The paper is blank.

OK, it’s not that hard. Draft posts are being assembled, talking about actual beer in real life pubs. And of course, even before the writing … pubs are being visited. Cooooool. So: why no published posts yet, after I ended the opener with “best get cracking soon”?

Among the various questions that RealAleRocks and I have been asking ourselves recently are:

  • Would it be bad if our real names were linked to this project? (yes)
  • (Oh, and do we have to explain any of our answers to you? no).
  • Would it be bad if, even if they didn’t know our names, someone read what we published, and thought “Yeah, I saw two women in here earlier who I’ve not seen before, I bet it was them”? (yes)
  • Would it be bad if, from whatever we publish, you can tell when we visited? Image timestamps, the weather, mentions of news or sport events, are all clues. (no, that seems fine)
  • Do we have to publish in the same order that we visit? (no). I’ll expand on this one a little: basically, the more we feel like we stick out like a sore thumb – and in some pubs, I’m sure this will be the case – the larger the gap we’ll probably leave between visit and publication.

Neither of us has really done anything like this before, and certainly not together. I named this blog Girl Meets Pint because, well, a blog has to have a name. I named my new Twitter account the same thing, for consistency, and lack of imagination. RealAleRocks has a pseudonym too, which is necessarily different. Does it matter that the blog is named after my pseudonym? As opposed to a third name (GirlMeetsPint and RealAleRocks, publishing under the name “Pint Me In The Right Direction”, for example. Hmm. Not bad). While it was me who suggested to her that we could embark upon this effort, it’s not my project, it’s ours.

There’s no way either of us could do this individually. For safety reasons (“See you later, I’m just off to that really rough-looking pub that we always steer well clear of, to see if I can have a pint without getting beaten up. Bye!”), and also just because of the way we see the world – we visit the same places, but see things very differently. I might feel comfortable in a certain scenario, but that’s only because I haven’t noticed what she has – that double-take, those looks, the way his eyes tracked us across the room. Plus, my opinions of beer are, frankly, rubbish. On a good day I can tell you “hoppy”, “malty”, “dry”, but as for more refined thoughts, or knowing that “this beer doesn’t normally taste like this”, I come a cropper. She’s far better at that stuff than I am.

So we’re working out how to blend our voices together. We won’t just do duplicate posts (nobody wants to read two largely-overlapping reviews for each pub), nor do we want to write without making it clear whose words are whose, especially if blog name = my pseudonym – that would look like I was taking all the credit. That’s why this is a work in progress.

We will get there, and we have started. But navigating the world as two women, as a couple, sometimes brings its own challenges. We don’t get to play life on the lowest difficulty setting there is, and so things take a little longer.

Image by Kaboompics, licence: CC0.