Wednesday, 8 September 2010


My favourite pub is conveniently and dangerously close to my flat. It's an Irish boozer (I never use that word) called The Auld Shillelagh and can be found on Stoke Newington Church Street. My drink of choice is Guinness and as such I haven't had a normal shit since Kula Shaker last released a successful album. The Auld Shillelagh (pronounced 'old shill-lay-lee') serves superb Guinness and that initially was my primary reason for frequenting it. Now I go for the aura of the place.

Right. I'm going to have to stop for a moment. I just used the word 'aura' when describing my favourite Irish 'boozer'. It is clear that a few years mixing with the North London liberal media elite has led me to disappear so far up my own wanky arsehole that I sound like an advertising 'creative'. Apologies. Please bear with me as I try to explain why I love this pub without sounding like a social tourist tit.

It's a long narrow pub and all the alcoholics sit at the bar by the entrance. This meant that for years I rarely went in. I didn't have the balls to get past the gauntlet of middle aged masculine misery. Then one night a friend and I dared each other to sit at the bar all night and try to fit in. Within an hour and a half all our preconceptions were well and truly battered. It turned out that two of the previously most frightening men were in a civil partnership together. Now, I'm not saying that gay men can't be frightening (Christopher Biggins?) but it definitely altered our perspective.

Now, I see The Auld Shillelagh as a rare example of what in my opinion a good pub should be. It's a place where all different types of people come together to get pissed and talk. 'Isn't that a description of any pub?' I hear you say. Yes... but... it's the AURA!

I'll tell you what kind of pub I hate. One where the music is so loud that you can't talk but is also a) too shit to dance to, or b) there's nowhere to dance. Does ANYONE like these pubs? I'm sure it's not my age that makes me hate them, I remember moaning about them when I was 17. Now either I was a really boring 17 year old (impossible, just impossible) or hundreds of pub landlords are making very bad business decisions. Thinking about it though, these pubs are always full. Who are these people who enjoy standing with expensive drinks as someone yells incomprehensible noises into their ear? Perhaps they're aimed at groups of workmates who hate each other. The pubs provide a cocoon of noise so that they can wind down after work but not actually listen to the inane bullshit of their colleagues.

Another type of bar I hate is the uber trendy indie place. Shoreditch is riddled with them and if you live in a city I'm sure you've been to a couple. Peer into one of these places and all you will see is a gaggle of twats simply wearing clothes. They are not smiling or dancing. They are hardly talking. Their primary purpose seems to be simply to wear trendy clothes. It is also worth noting that despite the strive for individualism that their demeanors suggest they all look the same. A few years ago they were all wearing trucker hats. I'm most likely behind the times but last time I checked they were all wearing lumberjack shirts with the top button done up and horn rimmed glasses. I should admit that for a long time I kind of wanted to be part of this gang. I always failed in my outfits miserably though* and count myself lucky that I saw the light and gave up.

One last thing (remember Columbo?) I'd like to mention is the beers in these bars. To me, all lagers pretty much taste the same. The fashions however, change year on year. Once Carlsberg was considered cool. I think even Stella was for a while. Then we had the Czech beer years. Now some bars wouldn't dream of selling Carlsberg. Instead they'll give you a warm bottle of Zatec for four quid. Ladies and gentlemen of Britain - all these beers taste the same! Thank you and goodbye.

* I went through a phase of wearing vintage 80's jumpers with 'kooky' pictures on them until someone pointed out that I looked like a child with special needs. They said it looked like I was picking clothes that were 'easy to put on'.


  1. Spot on, Fergus - why people want to go to crowded pubs, stand up all night and not hear what anyone else saying is, and always has been, a total mystery to me. I'm ashamed to admit that I went through a very short phase of drinking bottles of Sol with a bit of lime wedged in it - but this only lasted a couple of days before I switched back to pints - for quantity is quality!
    No mention of pork scratchings in your piece - surely the hallmark of any PROPER boozer.

  2. True. True. I also neglected pool tables and quiz machines. Must try harder.