As someone who suffers from social anxiety, I’ve never really been one to just “go out” unless I had a very good reason, usually in the form of some friends asking me to join them. (I have, of course, tried going out by myself a few times in the past, but as chronicled in this post, it rarely ended well.)
As such, I’ve never really had somewhere that I could call “my local” with any confidence, there’s nowhere that I could accurately describe myself as a “regular” of. I’m not really bemoaning this fact — I have plenty of better things to do than sit in the pub — but it’s an aspect of life that I feel may have passed me by somewhat.
It was a little different back when I was at university, of course. We regularly frequented a wide variety of places that could quite politely be described as “dives”, but all of them had their own unique charms.
In the first year, there was Chamberlain Bar, which was the “local” for a group of several university halls of residence in the area. It wasn’t a particularly exciting bar, bearing a closer resemblance to the sort of half-hearted establishment that exists to make a few extra pennies for a community recreation centre than a jumpin’ nightspot, but it was “home” for a while. It was where most of us discovered the “Juicy Lucy” (pint glass, vodka, blue curaçao or however you spell it, double shot of Taboo, topped up with equal amounts orange juice and lemonade) and the “Passion Wagon”, officially the laziest cocktail of all time (shot of Passoa with a bottle of Reef emptied into it). It also had a tendency to throw crap events — our flat were the only attendees to dress up for “Seventies Night” and a Hawaiian-themed evening consisted of them turning the heating up full and serving nothing but the aforementioned Passion Wagons all night.
Southampton had one big club at the time when I was studying at the university. I’m not sure what it’s called now, but it used to be called Ikon and Diva, as it was one of those weird places that was split into two separate mini-clubs inside. It was shit. It was the sort of place that you went after you got really drunk and consequently barely remember anything from. Consequently, I barely remember anything about this place save for the fact I was clearly so impressed by it that I never went there ever again after my first visit.
There were plenty of smaller clubs, though. One that springs immediately to mind was New York’s, which has been closed and derelict for several years now. It was also shit, and like Ikon and Diva, it was the sort of place you only went to when absolutely off your tits. I only have random flashes of memories of the one (I think) time I went to New York’s, but I vividly recall looking down from a balcony to a stage-like area below, where a bunch of drunk men and women were stripping because the DJ had asked them to. Sure, I got to see tits, but even in my horrendously intoxicated state, I found the complete lack of human dignity on display to be more obnoxious than titillating. Consequently, I never went back there, either.
Then there was Lennon’s, which I think is probably home to most of my best “going out” memories, perhaps largely because it’s the place that several of us tended to frequent most often. I’m not entirely sure why this was, as Lennon’s was a fairly bare-bones club, being essentially a moderately-sized wooden room with a bar on one side and a DJ on the other, occasionally accompanied by a nice man named Vince who sold chips. They played good music, though, and often played host to live bands. I even performed there myself on a couple of occasions, with our university band the Coconut Scratch Orchestra discovering the folly of leaving drumbeats up to a backing track rather than a live drummer. (We all swore after that to never, ever play Mission: Impossible again.) It was also nice in that it was not frequented by the sort of waxed-chest, greasy-haired chav that frequented places like Ikon and Diva.
Would I describe myself as a “regular” at any of those places, though? No, probably not. I see a “regular” as someone who knows the bar staff by name and is recognised by bouncers; someone who meets friends there without having to make prior arrangements; someone who sees it as a “home away from home” — a place to socialise, hang out and just relax. I never quite saw it that way — it was always fun to go to Lennon’s, sure, particularly if my friend had enough to drink to get to the stage where he thought kebabs made him literally invincible, but it was never a place that I felt like I was a “part of”.
I’m not really sure if I’ve “missed out” on something by not having that kind of experience. I guess I have another chance when I hit, what, 50 years of age and start liking real ales or something?