Pub visits this week 7
Tuesday. My first day in a new job. The team is taking me out for lunch. “We can go anywhere you like, Pete – you choose.”
Now, many would counsel caution here. It’s not just my first day in a new job: it’s my first day in any job since I went freelance nine years ago. I wouldn’t want my new colleagues and boss to conclude that I’m an incorrigible pisshead before we’ve even reached lunchtime on the first day.
“There are some nice restaurants on Glossop Road, and the noodle bar at West One… but it’s up to you, Pete. Anywhere you like.”
Ah, sod it. Might as well get it over with.
“Um… how about the University Arms?”
Actually, one of the reasons I’ve taken this job is that, when they interviewed me, the people all seemed very nice and absolutely sound. Sound and nice people understand that pubs are important.
“Good idea! University Arms it is, then.”
And so it comes to pass that me and the team spend an hour crowded around two pushed-together tables, laying into a little banquet while we mind our elbows don’t clash, and – funnily enough – talking about pubs. My one remaining anxiety about this visit to the pub is dispelled early on when my colleague Robin orders a pint of beer, thus signalling to me that it will be acceptable to order a pint of beer. I will always be grateful to him.
The University Arms (pictured above) looks set to become my new work local, what with my new job being at the University of Sheffield and everything. When I go there again on Wednesday evening for brief post-work refreshments with Cara, I’m struck by the contrast with my last work local.
This was the Anchor in Digbeth, Birmingham. Both pubs have a highly commendable range of cask beers. Both are located in such a way that the journey on foot, door to door – office door to pub door – clocks in, at a very rough estimate, at around two minutes and 43.8 seconds. But there the similarities end. The University Arms is full of restrained academics with heads full of PhDs, while the Anchor was populated overwhelmingly by raddled dipsomaniacs with heads full of piss.
As the end of the working week approaches I’m almost tiptoeing round the Uni Arms, so as not to get fed up of the place. Friday Lunch Club takes place at the really quite good Interval cafe bar in the students’ union building, and after work I cross the city centre to the Rutland Arms (featured here; pictured below). The Rutland is the work local of many a familiar face among Sheffield’s creative community. Before I’ve reached the bar I’ve bumped into the host of the spoken word evening where I read some poetry a few months back, a friend from one of the media and communications agencies I’ve worked for recently, and someone I follow on Twitter but have never met before who co-runs a company that produces amazing Flash animations.
As if there aren’t enough creative folk here of a regular Friday evening, the Rutland is heaving with people heading to an art show and to the documentary film festival at the arthouse cinema across the road. “Bit busy in here, i’n’t it?” observes a bemused drinker.
“Yeah, it’s the Docfest thing,” says Dan, indicating the cinema.
Scanning the gathered bohemian throng, the bemused drinker is resolutely unimpressed. “Fucking dickfest, more like.”
To be fair, he has a point. It’s only a few minutes since a London media type asked one of our group: “Are you worth networking with?”
At length the crowd thins out a bit, and we settle to a table. Another of our Dans arrives, and is too poorly to be here, really.
“Is that pint medicinal then, Dan? Alternative therapy?”
“Yeah, take a tiny drop of that pint, and mix it with a pint of water, then take a tiny drop of that, and mix that with a pint of water, and so on…”
“And eventually you’ll end up with a pint of Boddington’s.”
Plans coalesce: our destination is the Washington. But, like a musician inserting passing notes to bridge a steep jump in pitch, we call in at some stopping-off points on the way. The first of these is Henry’s (pictured below), an enormous pub which opened a few months ago and, at least until tonight, has always seemed have much more in the way of space than of customers to fill it.
This has often seemed a shame to me, as the bar staff are lovely, and the prices are quite enchanting too. Eight or so good real ales all come in at between £1.90 and £2.20 a pint. But tonight, for the first time I’ve ever seen, the place is busy. The good people of Sheffield seem at last to have realised what’s on offer at Henry’s. It seems to be servicing a very narrow niche market, however, because when I say “the good people of Sheffield”, I mean a hundred men aged 50 who are quite well turned-out in their best shirts. But hey, whatever works.
Our next stopping-off point is the Bath Hotel, where a wider range of clientele and a nice pint are all but guaranteed. By the time we reach the Washington the hour is late and the pints are weighing heavy. Our friend Jamie is dj-ing and a gajillion people are here for the privilege. Dan and I get terribly excited at discovering our photograph in a gig preview in Exposed magazine, so when I bump in to Kate from work I wave the mag in her face like a crazy man. This is only mildly embarrassing and could be worse given that it’s getting on for 1am and I’ve been drinking since half past five.
The Washington parties on and the night rolls on, monumental, inevitable and a lot of fun. It’s a fitting, albeit slightly premature culmination to quite a significant week in pubs. For some reason, I seem to have left my copy of Exposed magazine in the back of a taxi.