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Intro [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the English Waffle, a podcast aimed at advanced English learners looking to improve their listening skills, listening to real conversations. Today's episode, I talk with my friend Thom about the pub, what it means to him as a non-drinker of alcohol, who doesn't drink alcohol, and how pubs are special places for people living in Britain for very different reasons. Back at the end for some more waffle chat. In the meantime, sit back, grab a nice cup of coffee or tea or something else and listen to the Waffle.
Jingle [00:00:38] Welcome to the English waffle where we talk about random stuff. We'll take you on a journey where you'll find out soon enough why listening to the waffle is an entertaining way of sharing with you foreigners the things that British people say. So join us on the waffle and strap yourself in for ten whole earthly minutes of English listening.
Mike [00:01:08] Hello. So we've got a very good...special guest today, Thom.
Thom [00:01:12] Special, special guest.
Mike [00:01:12] Double special guest. You get the double special guest treatment. And we are in Slovenia recording this because we've come to a conference for teachers, which sadly got cancelled because of this small virusy thing that's going around.
Thom [00:01:32] Well, I think it's not cancelled so much as a lot smaller because rather than 300 people, there's now four of us. We are...It's like a mini conference in a way. So that that I think it's important to stress.
Mike [00:01:48] I think that's a that's a good point to make. It's not been cancelled, just...just made smaller.
Thom [00:01:53] Reduced, done on a smaller scale.
Mike [00:01:57] Thom, when was the last time you went to a pub?
Thom [00:02:01] The last time I went to a pub was last Thursday in London.
Mike [00:02:08] You see, for me, pubs are a bit like pantomimes, fish and chips, cheap...cups of tea, maybe cricket in a very British institution, not American, not Australian. This is just...It's a very British thing, the pub, in my head.
Thom [00:02:26] I think that's true. And I think the...when I'm in other countries, I don't want to go to pubs. So when I'm, you know, travelling or working abroad and people say, oh, we've got an Irish pub or we've got... And I would say, I don't want to go to a pub because I can go to a bar or I can go to a cafe. You know, if I'm in Italy, I want to be sat in a piazza. You know, sipping a clever Italian drink or having ice cream.
Mike [00:02:49] Yeah.
Thom [00:02:49] And feeling really intellectual, you know. And if I'm in France, I want to be in a really clever cafe, having deep debates probably with somebody else's wife in traditional French fashion. And, you know, when uh when I'm in sort of different countries, I want a different thing, but I think in Britain, I often do like the pub atmosphere, the pub scene. And I'm very strange for Britain because I don't drink alcohol.
Mike [00:03:18] Yes, you don't. Because I think people do think...who...of pubs as being exclusively alcoholic beverages sold, but there are soft drinks aren't there.
Thom [00:03:30] There are. And it's is interesting because I...I have epilepsy, so I don't drink for that medical reason. But in Britain, if you don't drink, people always assume that you are a recovering alcoholic. So when you say to people, I don't drink alcohol. And I'm a very large man with a beard. So people always assume that I drink a lot. And if you say I don't drink in British culture, people assume that you're a desperate alcoholic.
Mike [00:03:53] Yes.
Thom [00:03:53] And if you even sort of sniff somebody's wine or beer, you will immediately start attacking people with an axe, whereas, of course, I just don't drink and um...but I like a pub. And people are surprised because they say, well, you don't drink. Why do you like pubs and actually what I like in a pub and I like a particular kind of pub.
Mike [00:04:13] Yes. So because pubs are very different - for our listeners who aren't in Britain - people go to the pub for different reasons, don't they, as well. You've got you've got live sport in some pubs, which are not my personal preference, but you um, you know, you can go to pubs where you can watch sport. You go to pubs where you can watch live music, erm, you can join clubs, various clubs and stuff or in pubs now, which maybe used to be the case, but there's certainly more now that I'm aware of, from poetry clubs to drawing clubs to talking about politics and going running and that kind of thing.
Thom [00:04:53] Well, when I was younger, I lived in a village and our local pub was very much a kind of heart of the village in terms of where people met and social activities in the evenings, you know, and even during the day. And that was quite precious, I think. And I think that's probably still true in a lot of areas. And what you see in Britain a lot now is whole communities buying a pub. So if you have a pub in the middle of a town, even, you know, that looks like it might close, then sometimes the local people get together and buy pubs and run for the local community, which is quite a nice focus, you know.
Mike [00:05:30] It sounds like a great thing to do, but I read that there's a decline in the pub industry. I've read that...
Thom [00:05:34] Well, because they banned smoking.
Mike [00:05:36] Yeah.
Thom [00:05:38] So people who smoke often used to smoke in pubs with drinking.
Mike [00:05:41] When did they ban smoking?
Thom [00:05:43] So in the UK...I don't remember actually. I am not a smoker, but in the UK maybe 10 years ago I think. Does that sound right?
Mike [00:05:49] Gosh, is it that long?
Thom [00:05:50] Yeah. But also like alcohol became so cheap and so available in supermarkets that a lot people felt it was much cheaper just to buy alcohol in the supermarket, drink at home with your friends.
Mike [00:06:04] And also I think people are becoming...the millennial generation is more interested in healthy activity.
Thom [00:06:10] It's true, actually, people drink a lot less now.
Mike [00:06:12] They, they...
Thom [00:06:12] People in my generation, I'm 46. People of my generation are very shocked by non-drinking, whereas people in their, you know, middle early twenties often don't drink by choice.
Mike [00:06:24] Yeah.
Thom [00:06:25] Which is interesting. And you know, the problem I always think with not drinking is that you have to find excuses for your behaviour, because what I often find is after a party or a wedding or a, you know, conference, or summat, and people say to me, God, you must have been really drunk at that thing because you did that. And I'd go, no, I'm not drunk. I was just an idiot. And that's embarrassing because you got no excuse. You got to take full responsibility for your actions, which is very difficult.
Mike [00:06:50] Yeah. Yeah. (indistinct)...
Thom [00:06:52] In terms of...I'm sorry, you were saying about pubs and sports. For me, a good pub is always an old pub and a good pub has no television. And a good pub has no fruit machines or trivia machines or buzzing lights and you know?
Mike [00:07:07] Yeah.
Thom [00:07:09] That stuff distracts from the joy of a pub. And in my job I travel a lot and I often find myself in a strange city or, you know, where I don't know anybody and I don't know anything. So,...and often I've got like a break of an hour or so, odd points of the day between a meeting or between a training session. And I often like to go and sit in a pub sometimes to have a cup of tea. I do drink cups of tea. I don't drink alcohol, but I do drink tea, but to drink a cup of tea or just to sort of sit and read a book or sit and look and just sort of watch life. And I like the kind of...I like the static of a pub. You know, that, you know, when you go into a pub, it doesn't matter what time it is or what city you're in. It'll always be a pub. You know, if you go into the right kind of pub, you know, it will always be a quiet safe haven in which you can just kind of sit and mentally recharge your batteries.
Mike [00:08:04] And find people... - you're a very sociable guy, Thom, I know you like to strike up conversations with strangers - Is that something that would happen in a pub particularly, or do you find people talking to you in pubs or not so much?
Thom [00:08:19] It's an interesting question, really, and I think it depends on the time of day because I think in the hours of daylight in pubs, people often want to be left alone, you know, because if they're desperate alcoholics getting their first drink in, they're just focussed on the drink.
Mike [00:08:32] Yeah.
Thom [00:08:33] And if they are, like me, sort of business travellers, or whatever else or tourists, then they're often either with people or doing something.
Mike [00:08:40] Yeah.
Thom [00:08:42] So I will, for example, sit in a pub for an hour and do email or make phone calls, you know, so there's not a lot of chat there. After darkness, you know, it's like werewolves, you know, and the moon comes up and people in pubs are then chatty and it's much more normal to kind of just talk to people next to you.
Mike [00:09:01] Yes.
Thom [00:09:02] Particularly men, you know, men talking to other men, I find. You know, I find it's less likely in Britain that, you know, there might be women alone in a pub, but they're much less likely to randomly strike up a conversation with a man because a lot of men are stupid and would take that as some sort of advance. Whereas a man talking to another man...
Mike [00:09:23] It's still the typ...typically that...the...if you are going to get a gr...a si...a group of people going to a pub, it will be a group of men rather than a group of women. Would you say that's true?
Thom [00:09:34] So I think that mixed groups go to pubs a lot now and...
Mike [00:09:36] Yeah.
Thom [00:09:37] You know, but the...there's still a kind of...certain kind of pub and often it is the one showing sport where it is a very kind of male preserve, you know.
Mike [00:09:46] Yes.
Thom [00:09:47] And it's interesting because I'm I'm a relatively large, bearded man and I look like I drink heavily and I look like I'd be interested in sports and I look like I'd make derogatory comments about women. But none of those things are true, you know... (indistinct: poss. - ...what I mean).
Mike [00:10:00] I can vouch for that.
Thom [00:10:00] Yeah, I don't drink and I have no interest in sports. And I don't make derogatory comments about random women. Obviously, I make derogatory comments about women I know, yeah, fo course, based on actual fact. But, you know, so...so I often find that men in pubs will strike up a conversation with me about drink or sports or women and I don't really want to talk about any of those things with somebody that I don't know or somebody that I'm not interested in the opinion (of)... So, you know, so that's interesting.
Mike [00:10:26] Yes.
Thom [00:10:26] Because it's socially...People often look at me and think, oh, he'll be interested in rugby or he'll be interested in, you know, who played who at the weekend and, you know, I dont know and I dont care.
Mike [00:10:36] Never judge a book or a beard by its...
Thom [00:10:39] Yeah.
Mike [00:10:39] ...by its cover or something.
Thom [00:10:41] Or never judge a beard by its brother because my brother conversely really likes drinking. Quite interested in sports while I was talking about girls, so, you know.
Mike [00:10:49] Well, Thom, you've been...you're an advert, I think, for the non-alcoholic drinking pub goer, which I think is a good, good thing. So any listeners who, out there, who haven't been to a pub because they don't drink alcohol perhaps should reconsider that, 'cause, er...
Thom [00:11:05] But I would also add as a caveat, in British culture, if you go to a pub and you don't drink alcohol. You know, some foreigners will say, I just don't like the taste, which obviously in British culture doesn't work. What you have to say to people is, I don't drink alcohol because I've got a medical condition and if I drink any alcohol at all, I will die. Otherwise, people will pressurise you enormously to drink.
Mike [00:11:29] As a drinker of alcohol in moderation, of course, I'd say that the choice of beers and and just drinks anyway has got a lot better, as has food.
Thom [00:11:40] Yeah, yeah, definitely.
[00:11:41] (indistinct: poss. You know...) like food. You go to the pub now and you can get a really decent meal.
Thom [00:11:45] Yeah, definitely.
Mike [00:11:46] Erm, whereas it used to be kind of heated up in the microwave. A jack potato with ham.
Thom [00:11:52] Well, or, you know, a pickled egg on the bar which had been there for about four years.
Mike [00:11:56] Yeah, which they call their speciality and charge seven pounds for it.
Thom [00:12:01] And on no account anybody eat pork scratchings because people are very shocked to discover that pork scratchings are bits of pig, fried.
Mike [00:12:09] Yeah, yeah. And are teeth breakers on as well. Your dentist wouldn't approve. Well, it's been lovely talking to Tom, as always.
Thom [00:12:21] It was a pleasure.
Mike [00:12:21] For all you listeners out there, please get in touch, with your experiences at pubs. And if you've been to a pub or haven't been to a pub, we'd love to hear from you. Er, happy waffling. Bye!
Here are some of the bits of Language that we at English Waffle think you may find interesting...
[00:11:53] a pickled egg
[00:12:02] pork scratchings
small pieces of crisply cooked pork crackling, eaten cold as an appetizer with drinks
[00:06:33] what I often find is after a party or a wedding or a, you know, conference, or summat
pronoun NORTHERN ENGLISH
1. Completing or continuing the interlocutors utterance (sentence).
Thom: [00:11:52] Well, or, you know, a pickled egg on the bar which had been there for about four years.
Mike: [00:11:56] Yeah, which they call their speciality and charge seven pounds for it.
A pickled egg on the bar which had been there for about four years, which they call their speciality and charge seven pounds for it.
Thom: [00:12:06] pork scratchings are bits of pig, fried.
Mike: [00:12:11] And are teeth breakers as well.
Pork scratchings are bits of pig, fried, and are teeth breakers as well.
2. Change of mind mid-utterance (mid-sentence).
Mike says: [00:03:18] Yes, you don't. Because I think people do think...who...of pubs as being exclusively alcoholic beverages sold, but soft drinks are there.
We don’t know what he was thinking but he may have been about to say that “I think people do think...who (referring to ‘people’) go to pubs…”. But he changed his mind and continued with ‘think...of pubs’ instead.
It is also interesting to note that Mike’s sentence seems quite ungrammatical:
There’s seems to be something missing here:
In the next part, it sounds like something has been omitted but if you listen carefully, Mike does say:
But it is quite difficult to perceive and so sounds strange.
3. 'do' for emphasis
Thom: [00:07:28] And I often like to go and sit in a pub sometimes to have a cup of tea. I do drink cups of tea. I don't drink alcohol, but I do drink tea, but to drink a cup of tea or just to sort of sit and read a book or sit and look and just sort of watch life.
Why do we use 'do' when there doesn’t appear to be any particular reason?
See Thom below when he says:
[00:02:49] And feeling really intellectual, you know. And if I'm in France, I want to be in a really clever cafe, having deep debates probably with somebody else's wife in traditional French fashion. And, you know, when uh when I'm in sort of different countries, I want a different thing, but I think in Britain, I often do like the pub atmosphere, the pub scene. And I'm very strange for Britain because I don't drink alcohol.
We use the auxiliary 'do' to add emphasis. It can be for emotional reasons (I often do like the pub atmosphere) or it can be used for contrast (I don't drink alcohol, but I do drink tea).