Don Kavanagh: Behind bars

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Take Don Kavanagh's advice and get out, find a pub, and meet some sociable strangers.

Strangers no longer, sociable souls swap stories in an Auckland pub. Photo / Janna Dixon
Strangers no longer, sociable souls swap stories in an Auckland pub. Photo / Janna Dixon

I'm not sure who first came up with the idea of a pub, but if I could travel back in time, I'd buy that person a drink.

When you think about it, it's a rather odd thing to do. You go to a place where you sit and drink beer or wine or spirits with total strangers. You also pay for the privilege of being there, yet you don't mind doing so. It would be easier to buy some drinks and sit at home. It would certainly be handier for rolling off to bed when you're tired.

But, no, the pub has been a very stubborn part of life since Roman times at least. In Anglo-Saxon times in Britain, alehouses became places where people gathered to drink beer and gossip. Not much has changed.

I've had an abiding love of pubs most of my life, fed mostly by visiting them with my uncles - all enthusiastic social animals. At times it was only the presence of my brother and I that got them home.

When I lived in England, the local pub was a social centre. You could find company there, fun and even a job.

I was worried when I moved to New Zealand that bar culture here would be different.

Luckily for me it wasn't, even though I initially washed up in Palmerston North, a city renowned for ugly architecture and bafflement at being the butt of everyone else's jokes.

Thankfully, I discovered the peerless Celtic Inn in that city. It was where I went to find things out, to have a few pints and - echoing the UK - I even found a job there once. It really was a marvellous place and certainly the main bright spot in the darkness that was Palmerston North.

Here, in Auckland, we are blessed with some great pubs, as I constantly discover while reviewing them. In fact, most bars here are better than average, certainly in the city centre and inner suburbs.

So, with six weeks of rugby mayhem ahead of us, it's the perfect time to immerse yourself in a tradition that has been with us for more than 2000 years.

* Don Kavanagh has been involved in the hospitality trade for more than 25 years and is the editor of Hospitality magazine.

- Herald on Sunday

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