Sunday, January 30, 2011

How things change...

I think I date the beginning of my starting to become bothersomely overweight to the appearance of draught Stella in this town.

I think there had been intermittent sightings of it in upmarket bars or at special promotions since around '06, but it didn't start becoming at all common until '08; that was the year I started drinking it most of the time in the late, lamented Room 101.  And that was the year my waistline started to get "middle-aged" on me!

I think I date the beginning of my comparative 'poverty' to the appearance of decent bars in my neighbourhood.

In my first two or three years here, I scarcely went to bars at all: I had neither the time nor the inclination.  I wasn't a huge fan of the old Nanjie bar strip, and it was too far away from where I lived.

The Yandai Xijie Huxley's by Houhai was the first bar I started going in fairly 'regularly' - when did that open? some time in '05?  And even with that, I'd rarely go in more than once or twice a week; sometimes, not for a few weeks at a time.  The only brief period when I really became something like a regular there was the few months at the end of '05 when I was sorrow-drowning while going through my agonising on-again-off-again-what-the-hell-is-going-on-here? relationship with The Poet.

I liked my music bars - 2 Kolegas and the original (good!) Yugong Yishan and so on - but I'd only go to them a few times a month, and more for the music than the drinking.  I liked Reef, one of the first bars to open up on Nanluoguxiang (a relocation from the demolished Nanjie - so I suppose that must have been at the latter end of '05 as well).... but only when my waggish young friends in 'The Yacht Club' were convening there (which was rarely more than once or twice a month, and soon started dwindling to a handful of times a year).  I quite liked Salud when that opened up on Nanluoguxiang ('05, '06?), but it was a little too overpoweringly French - and a little too BIG - to woo me as a regular.

It was only when I discovered the Pool Bar early in 2007 that I started going out for a drink in my neighbourhood relatively frequently.  It was only when Room 101 briefly wooed me away from the Pool Bar in the first half of '08 (with its lovely, lovely little island bar - why, oh why did they ever remove that??) that I started drinking premium imported beers on a fairly regular basis.  It was only when I discovered 12 Square Metres in the autumn of 2008 that I finally recognised a place that was homely enough to attract me in more than a couple of times a week.  And it was only when 12 SqM expanded to triple the size this time last year (thus getting over the problem that it often seemed discouragingly full, even if there were only 4 or 5 people in!!), and then a little later installed a draught Kronenbourg tap (I don't like it as much as Stella, but it'll do), that I had a really attractive default boozer within walking distance - the kind of place that I might go almost any night of the week when I had nothing better to do, and felt bored loafing at home; the kind of place that I might conceivably go to every night of the week.

Yep, amazingly enough, I was not a particularly regular drinker (at least, not in foreign bars) when I started this blog four years ago.  I have only become even moderately regular within the last three or four years; I have only become really, really regular within the last year or so.  And it is all 12 Square Metres' fault!

I may need to try to readjust that 'lifestyle' again, because I'm just not making enough money to support it.

[The proliferation of cute little music bars around my neighbourhood, starting with Jiangjinjiu 5 years ago, and Jianghu 3 or 4 years ago, hasn't helped me either.  Nor has the appearance of good and underpriced malt whisky selections at places like The Bookworm and Amilal and El Nido...  But it's the siren call of a comfortable regular boozer that has really done for me.  I spent years complaining that I missed having somewhere like that in Beijing; and then I found one, and it ruined my life!  Oh, almost like a girlfriend.....]

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