Sunday, May 10, 2009

Keele Diary #6

After working into the early evening yesterday, I decided to go to the Sneyd Arms Pub for dinner and to have some drinks. The Sneyd (pronounced "Sneed") Arms is a quintessential British village pub. I brought a couple of sections of the newspaper, positioned myself at a table not far from the television with the sports highlights, ordered an ale, and commenced to reading, watching the highlights of the games (Stoke City beat Hull 2-1 yesterday, all but assuring that the local lads will not have to fear relegation this year) and people watching. I ate a fine coronation chicken, which is basically a curry, with chips coated in cheese, and over the course of several hours several fine Abbot Ales.

The people watching was equally good. A high percentage of the patrons were clearly locals, drawn either from the surrounding village (I think it is Keele Village, but I am not certain) or else from the university community. There were slightly soused women in funny hats all dressed up and just returned from an ascot. There were men in tweed and herringbone who seemed frozen in another era, mid-century mannered Englishmen out for a pint, perhaps back from a fox hunt (the area screams fox hunting), saying things like "the man who raised me was of the traditional sort. He said what he meant and he meant what he said." (I normally hate reconstructed dialogue, but I liked that one so much I actually punched it into my Blackberry at the time.) There were young lovers and older couples and groups celebrating birthdays. There were people so pale they seemed one step removed from albinism. Men shouted at the football matches using words like "bugger" and "bloody." And while the law now allows pubs to stay open later than it once did, last call is still at 11:00 in the Sneyd Arms.

I do not want to fetishize an imagined English tradition nor to reduce the night to a set piece. The pub has its share of spiky haired young men speaking loudly to impress the young women with their very modern decollotage, the television is connected to satellite, and while the menu has abundant traditional English fare it also offers nachos and fajitas and Chinese food and burgers. But there is unquestionably a traditional, rural, local vibe to the Sneyd Arms that makes it appealing and that connects it to past generations of students and locals and the occasional visitor, tucked away in a corner, reading the books section of The Guardian and whiling away the hours with pints of bitter.

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