No pub can be all things to all people but every pubs mean something to someone.
Dan is new in town. He doesn't know the area but he knows he fancies a pint. He's not into discovery by smartphone, he'd rather do it by experience. He grabs his wallet, puts on his coat and heads out of the door, looking for a place to call his local.
Dan spies a corner pub on a backstreet. It doesn't look all that, but the yellow light illuminates shadowy figures inside, and the sounds he hears are those of people enjoying being there. He pushes the door open and enters. The music doesn't stop but it seems quieter now he's inside. Has it got a little colder too? Two lads briefly look up from the pool table. A big bloke on a barstool nods politely at Dan before returning to a conversation peppered with blue language and booming laughter.
Dan already knows this won't be his local but he's in now and leaving without ordering would make him feel more uncomfortable. The options are slim, everything says 'standard' or 'average' to Dan. He orders a pint of the beer he thinks is least likely to be in poor condition and takes a sip. It's better than he imagined. He goes to sit on the stool at the far end of the bar, it's cushioned head held together by silver gaffer tape.
'Not there, pal. That seat's taken.' The big bloke warns Dan off.
It isn't taken, but Dan isn't going to argue. He drinks his pint quickly. Pausing for a visit to the cold gents with a stainless-steel trough that he worries will splash back on his jeans.
Sheepishly, he returns to the bar, downs what's left of his lager, and makes his exit. The clock on the wall that has been keeping time here for generations tells him it's 7pm.
On the way out, Dan holds open the door for the hunched figure of an old boy shuffling in the other direction.
Arthur enters from the cold and takes his place at the bar. A pint of bitter is already being poured as he gets comfy on the same seat he has perched himself on almost every day for the last 50 years. He'll have four pints and then one of the locals will escort him home. He'll be asleep by 10pm. This time next year Arthur won't be at the bar. There'll be a little silver plaque near to where he is now, reminding everyone that 'Arthur sat here'.
The beer has put a spring in Dan's step and encouraged him to have another. He's on the outskirts of town now. The Lion looks like a quiet little spot, though it's hard to see what's going on inside. An A-board sign boasts of local beers and live music. Dan can live with those, so in he goes.
The quiet stops as he enters and the band on stage launch into an ear-bleeding rendition of something Dan fails to recognise. The kids in their skinny jeans and t-shirts seem to like it though. Dan feels ancient but is weirdly enjoying watching how a different generation does it. It hasn't really changed that much. He goes to the bar and shouts his order for a particular craft beer three times in the ear of the pink-haired bartender before giving up and pointing to the nearest font.
This is unlikely to be Dan's local. It smells of sweat and cider and he doesn't like drinking beer out of plastic cups. He exits to the relief of his ears and passes a couple of girls young enough to be his daughters but just about old enough to be in here on the way out.
Aimee has been coming to The Lion since her very first week as a student. It's not really her cup of tea but it's cheap, the music is good, and her best mate Lauren loves it because her boyfriend Tom is in the band. Aimee likes singing too. She doesn't know this but Lauren has arranged for her to go on stage and sing with the band tonight. She's going to kill it. She'll never forget the way she felt in front of that crowd at The Lion.
The Welcome Inn
The Victorian-style street lamps are the first thing Dan sees at The Welcome Inn. They guide him through the doors. This is more like it, he thinks, drinking it in. The flagstone flooring, the open fire with the sleepy springer spread out in front of it, little wooden tables being used by groups of friends and families and couples. Through to the back he sees diners chatting between bites of food and slurps of wine. A waitress excuses herself past Dan as she ferries a tempting plate of steak and chips to a table. He feels hungry all of a sudden. But first a drink. He eyes up a back bar decorated like a Christmas tree with crafted gins. 'I'm home' thinks Dan as he makes his way to order the first of many drinks at this place.
Annie is going The Welcome Inn tonight. She has no idea why her workmates thought this was a good place for a leaving do. She's not a huge fan of its over-priced meals and snotty staff, but tonight will be different. Tonight, Annie is going to meet Dan. The Welcome Inn will be their pub.