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Martyn Cornell recently wrote a very interesting post on his Zythophile blog In defence of sitting in a pub on your own. This is a subject I have touched on in the past, for example here and here. Some people find any kind of solitude unsettling, but for others, especially those of a quieter and more introverted nature, having a couple of drinks on your own in the pub can provide a valuable opportunity to relax, recharge your batteries and order your thoughts. The idea of the pub being a valued “third space” where you can take refuge, if only for a while, from the concerns and responsibilities of home and work applies just as much to the solo pint as that enjoyed in company, As he says,
I’m entirely happy here in my own head, sitting and thinking, people-watching, enjoying my pint, getting a vicarious buzz from all the social interaction around me, and I will get up after a beer or two and go home having had all the contact with people I need right now.
And, as I said in one of the posts I linked to above,
Until various illnesses put it beyond him, my late dad used to go out for a pint or two at lunchtime a couple of days a week. My mum would ask “what’s the point of that if you never talk to anyone?” but that is missing the point. If nothing more, it provides a change of scenery, a bit of mental stimulation and something to look forward to. Sometimes you exchange a bit of conversation, other times all you do its talk to the bar staff, but anything’s better than nothing.
This is reinforced by another rather poignant comment:
This one hits the point with me. I'm old and now alone, but not lonely, my wife passed away 4 years ago. I use the pubs several times a week just to sit quietly chat, read a book and a change of scenery. Without the pubs I would be lonely but I find I get the necessary interaction with just a brief visit to charge my batteries up for another day or two. Probably seems sad to most people but we all have our own ways of coping with different and difficult situations.
This is especially important for people with Asperger’s syndrome and similar conditions, who may find any kind of social interaction challenging. However, that doesn’t mean that they want to shun all company, more that they prefer to do it in a manner that allows them to control just how much contact there is, and retreat if it becomes too much. The simple act of getting out of the house and being in the company of others, even if you don’t converse with them, can in itself be very valuable. Vicarious socialising is still socialising. I can’t think of any other situation other than the pub where that is possible.
Martyn also raise the issue of the “age of invisibility”, especially in relation to women visiting a pub on their own. That is perhaps really a separate subject but, as I said in the comments, it applies to men as well to some extent. Young people are very judgmental of their peers, and when I was younger I would occasionally attract unwelcome attention from people around my own age if I was in a pub on my own. Now I am just another indistinguishable bespectacled late middle-aged bloke, nobody seems remotely bothered.
It also must be said that there are many – probably too many – pubs where the general layout, atmosphere and offer make enjoying that solitary pint well-nigh impossible.