On Thursday evening I went to a pub called the Lamb, on Lamb’s Conduit Street. I was sitting in the low bit at the back, beside the door leading to the stairs (and thence to the lavatories and powder room). Kerry came back with our second drinks while I still had about an inch of my first, so she put it on the table next to me and sat down.
She told me that she had found out about the glass screen around the bar. It’s a very old pub which still has a lot of its Victorian features, including a raised frosted glass partition running all around the bar, with each pane on hinges allowing it to be opened so that you can speak to the bartenders. (See the picture below) Apparently it allowed the middle-class people in the left-hand side of the pub to avoid being seen by the working-class people in the public bar on the other side of the pub. Kerry told me this and then said, “It’s called a snob screen”.
As soon as she said these words my beer was knocked off the table and spilled all over the carpet at my feet. It was done neatly, avoiding my trousers and bag and leaving very little spillage on the table. In fact, there was a tidy ring of beer on the table, showing that the glass had been a bit over six inches from the two nearest edges. On one side of this ring, there was a trace of beer running perhaps three inches, as though the glass had been taken up from the side of the table nearest the door. All the rest of the beer was on the floor, along with the glass, which hadn’t broken.
I was frozen in place, waiting for my senses to supply an explanation – which usually follows when some surprising event happens. I thought I’d suddenly realise that I had made an expansive gesture without realising, or that someone had walked past. But no explanation followed. Neither of us had moved, no one had passed, the table wasn’t on an angle.
I went to the bar to replace my beer and told the barman what had happened. “Funny you should say that,” he said. “We’ve had five or six people tell us the same thing in the last few weeks.”
He still charged me for the new pint though.