Beer Matters

Rounds and Small Changes

Today’s topic is paying for beer, a matter fraught with potential for embarrassment and resentment. Preposterous names will be used to spare the blushes of the guilty.

Time was when the etiquette of drinking was perfectly simply. If n men went to the pub together, the number of pints consumed would be n-squared (or a multiple thereof), each man in turn buying a round of n pints.

Nowadays, things are more complex. For a start, not everyone drinks the same (although I can’t understand why not; three or four pints of best bitter a day would do everyone the world of good). Some people for various reasons – lack of time, driving, dieting etc. – drink less than others. So how do we find an equitable method of funding these more flexible arrangements? And how do we deal with those “problem drinkers”.

We all know the type whose wallet seldom sees the light of day. He (they are seldom if ever female) never refuses a pint but only goes to the bar once in a blue moon and then only when everyone else’s glass is full or they have all gone home. Tactics for dealing with such behaviour range from the direct approach (“It’s your round, Artaxerxes!”) to the marginally more subtle (raising an empty glass to one’s lips whilst staring pointedly at the offender).

Then there is the chap determined to demonstrate his largesse by buying two rounds in succession. Perhaps it would be wise to restrain him (“Hang on Zerrubabel, it’s Artaxerxes’s round.”). On the other hand, it’s very tempting just to let him get on with it.

One solution would be for everyone to buy their own. Some years ago a society was formed (it may well have been an offshoot of CAMRA) to promote this very concept. Whether it still exists, I have no idea. Personally I feel strongly that this kind of fiscal onanism has no place in a sociable activity like ringing. I doubt it’s enormously popular with busy bar staff either.

Some towers operate a “kitty”. (Incidentally, does anyone know the origin, feline or otherwise, of that expression? If so, please tell me and the Shorter Oxford Dictionary.) Whilst curbing the excesses of the Ataxerxes and Zerrubabels, this will not necessarily address other inequalities unless a complex system of accounting is employed (and that would be deplorable; there is nothing sadder than people calculating bills to the nearest penny when they should be eating, drinking and making merry). However, if it works for your band, that’s fine.

Splitting into smaller rounds may help. Grouping drinkers by capacity would be eminently sensible, although in practice some rather more arbitrary criterion, such as the order of walking through the door, is likely to prevail.

But in the end, all that’s required is a little consideration and “give and take”. Members of the band who drink eight pints a night probably (with the exception of Artaxerxes) buy a round more often than those who sip the occasional mineral water and those who are gainfully employed usually don’t mind subsidising the students, pensioners or unemployed to the tune of a pint or two. It’s characteristic of the English inn that ale isn’t the only liquid which flows liberally; the milk of human kindness is on tap as well.

(By the way, it’s still your round, Artaxerxes!)

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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