Happy New Year!
Had a very pleasant New Year's Day in The Spaniards, Hampstead - the pub I discovered in September at the Flying Dog event, and subsequently named in The Guardian as my perfect Boxing Day pub (which it subsequently was - we had a fantastic meal, great Christmas beers, and Richard and Judy were in there, with Judy wearing a huge pair of sunglasses, and even putting on reading glasses over the top of them to read the menu).
So we went back, and got there early to get a table, and enjoyed a very fine afternoon.
The sheer demand for tables meant there was a deal of tension in the air, with people repeatedly asking us how long we were going to be and attempting to nick a chair every time someone went to the loo.
But what made it really irritating was the constant screaming of bored kids, and the fact that a woman behind me repeatedly rammed my chair with a pushchair containing a fractious baby.
Now, I don't have children - but I do have a dog. And one of the Spaniard's many, many qualities in my eyes is that it's the most dog-friendly pub I've ever been to. So I have a big personal bias: I regard a pub as being a bit stuck-up if they don't allow dogs in - especially those who claim it's against health and safety regulations or even against the law, which it just isn't - it's your decision who and what you let in your own pub and I respect that, but don't lie to me - just have the balls to say you don't want dogs in.
But I get irritated by kids in pubs. Or more accurately, by the parents of kids in pubs: parents who think it's OK to wheel in a double-width push chair and leave it in the aisle. Parents who ignore their children and let them run around screaming, and smile at you when the kid runs past your table and spills your drink as if to say "Aren't they adorable?" No, they're really irritating. And parents who keep kids in the pub long after their bedtime, so they get grizzly and fractious - not fair on the kids, nor the rest of us. Living in a borough with a very high concentration of young kids, the joy of the pub is in part for me that it is an adult environment. That it should feel like a kindergarten is just wrong.
So my perfect pub would allow dogs, and ban kids.
But Orwell argued that kids should be allowed in pubs because pubs should be wholesome, universal centres of the community, and banning kids helps turn them into male-only drinking dens - his experience of such places was that if the bloke is in the pub, the woman has to stay at home looking after the kids. I see his point, and would agree with his view were it not for personal experience.
And anyone who saw Captain pissing territorially on the 17th century pillar in the front bar of the Spaniard's yesterday would be well within their rights to argue that dogs are unhygienic and should be barred from any eating and drinking space. (He doesn't normally do it, but there were lots of other dogs around, and some were cuter than him, which he hates. It makes him feel insecure.)
So am I just swayed by my personal circumstances?
Should the ideal pub bar children, dogs, or both? Or should it be as inclusive as possible and allow both?
I've set up a little poll over there----> and would love to hear your views. If you leave a comment about this, please say if you have kids and/or dogs of your own, so we can see if our own situation dictates our views.