Back in the day when the eighties was all about Red Wedge, Reaganomics and Red Tab 501s rather than the retro movement it has become today, pubs were less of a hobby and more of an educational institution. Halcyon days of student grants and being able to sign on the dole over the summer, opened the door like an egalitarian bouncer to the wealth of untapped knowledge possessed and flaunted by undergraduates of politics, economics and human geography.
These fonts of knowledge flowed best on snakebite and blackcurrant and would bubble away unsolicited advice in traditional pub fashion. Drinking pints of it and wearing her dad’s old tweed jacket and what must have been her grandad’s bunnet; I recall one young social anthropologist telling me that living alone was unnatural – that primates, great apes and simians all live in social groups but with one rare exception. According to the Orangutan Foundation, as the aforementioned anthropologist eloquently went on to say:
“Flanged adult males are the most solitary of all the Great Apes. Their participation in social groups is usually limited to temporary consortships with adult and adolescent females.”
Dewey-eyed I listened, as I knew I would never live alone. I’d never be ‘flanged’, whatever that was. When Lucy finished studying social anthropology we would live happily ever after, if I ever got the consortship part sorted out.
Fred (who was already enjoying his consortship with Lucy), chipped in with a load of economics tosh suggesting that living alone was the expression of a capitalist lifestyle; because, it was only through Smith’s ‘division of labour’ that we are able to live without the support of another family member to help run a household, to pay for energy and utilities, without fetching for ourselves and importantly, to be renumerated well enough to afford these things”.
“But, but, but……..”, I thought as I slugged my Merrydown…and at the same time I knew it, I bloody knew it – it must have been an economist that came up with the expression ‘the other side of the coin!’.
Fred then continued to say, “But while it cannot happen without ‘division of labour’, living alone does also demonstrate ‘economic interdependence’, because solo living can only happen with the support of the wider community and can arguably be attributed as an expression of socialism!”
That was then and thankfully I never married Lucy and nowadays, I’d recommend avoiding social anthropologists, flanged or otherwise.
Thirty years on, I am living alone and I’m not sure if it represents either a manifestation of capitalism or a reflection of socialist ideals. I’m still working it out. For many years having regularly indulged in what was once the hotbed of half-baked ideas that was the pub; my interest has evolved to what I believe is the most important aid to solo living – having a hobby.
Whether the hobby is gardening or go-karting, playing music or dancing – a hobby offers mood-changing recreation that at the end of a working day provides, structure, direction and refreshment for the mind & body.
Ultimately though, the answer is one that even my erstwhile economics love-rival would appreciate – the pub is a hobby, but not one I’d easily recommend to the soloist as one can feel very lonely in a room full of people, especially if drinking snakebite!
But, on a more personal note I can conclude by urging all readers, that should they happen upon a large, solo, reddish, hirsute member of the Great Ape genus patrolling Glasgow’s West End; that they should be advised, he does not bite and will buy you a drink if you tickle him under the chin.