Today I went out for lunch at Brewerkz, a cavernous restaurant/bar/brewery occupying part of the waterfront at Clark Quay. Arriving there at midday, when the place was almost completely empty, it felt like,one of the many bars I’ve been to in Bellevue, WA, the hometown of my company. That’s not because there was a warm American welcome or the food was authentically Washingtonian. It was because the place was as silent as the grave. The kind of person who lives in Bellevue is hard working, diligent and right minded, and doesn’t go out to the pub for a pint at lunchtime on a Monday. Not like the alcoholics who went to the Toucan off Soho Square, cheerfully drinking Guinness before the week had even properly started. Neither of those are ways to live your life: if you’re shitfaced at 2pm on a Monday, what do you have to look forward to for the rest of the week? But if you’re never able to slope off down the pub for a pint at lunchtime, then what sort of life can you be leading? One that doesn’t rely on much booze, evidently.
Speaking of lives without a proper concentration on alcohol above all things, I had one of those strange conversations with a Singaporean last week, which involved his theory of Singaporean exceptionalism. Singaporeans are different to everyone else, he claimed, because they spend their money on cars and houses.
I couldn’t even try to argue with that. It’s one of those statements that makes you wonder how the speaker believes that makes his country unique, or if he sincerely believes that in non-Singaporean countries like the UK, nobody cares about houses or cars. Which is completely true, of course. It’s the British scepticism for housing as an investment vehicle that means we’ve never, ever suffered from a housing boom, and our total disinterest in cars that mean no British person can even imagine travelling apart from by bus.
Oh, hang on. My head must have been stuck on back to front.
To be fair, none of my acquaintances in London showed much sign of caring about cars, except for their ability to transport us and our bikes to where the mountains lived, and as for houses, they were valuable insofar as you could use them to store your bikes when it was raining too hard to ride, but were otherwise nothing much to worry about. Not for us the cult of the new car smell. When your friends have names like Twelve Stone or "The Pugilist" or "Rat Boy", it’s quite unlikely you’ll be boasting to one another about the brand new leather seats in the deathtrap you happen to be hurtling across Cumbria in. I hesitate to claim we were like drunken Zen monks, eschewing material things in favor of sliding, hung over, backwards down muddy hillsides, but thinking about it, it’s the simplest explanation for our behaviour.
Anyway, I suppose many people won’t go drinking on a Monday. So few people were drinking that I could hear the sound system in Brewerkz playing Guns N Roses’ much unloved Chinese Democracy album. Which, ironically, could probably drive you to drink.
But I’m a diligent worker on a Monday and I couldn’t face the thought of sobering up in the middle of the afternoon, so I didn’t drink, and just had the Brewerkz vegetable burger, which is a bit bland and dry, but once soaked in mustard is most acceptable. It comes with about one acre of slightly-not-cooked-properly-enough fries, which I regretted eating before I’d even finished them, but the whole thing was the sort of good stodgy lump you’d need to take yourself through a steady drinking session.
Which of course, we weren’t engaged in. More’s the pity, although I imagine it might have ended three weeks later, with me dangling from a flag pole in some farcical misunderstanding, bereft of most of my clothes but with sick on my shoes. That’s one reason I don’t drink much any more.
The staff at Brewerkz are … Well, they’re like most people in the Singaporean service industry, which is to say inflexible to a fault, while never making up for that inflexibility by giving the impression they know what they’re doing. There was a lunchtime promo, where you could get a burger and a free soft drink (or an ill-advised pint) for $19. But not a vegetable burger. Even though the vegetable burger cost the same as the non-vegetable burger, and I doubt vegetarians drink beer that has a higher cost base than what omnivores drink. I tried appealing to the waiter’s better judgment, but apparently there was none. Then when the food did arrive, it appeared so vaguely, as if they weren’t really sure what was on the menu at all, which would be acceptable, if ten minutes before they hadn’t been treating that same menu as the inviolable Word Of God.
Maybe I really should have had that pint.
I left the echoing halls of Brewerkz, went back to the office, battered through the afternoon, and then went home and bounced my gurgling daughter on my knee, while watching Paul Rudd in Role Models, a rather trashy film with terrible pacing and flabby structure, but with lots of swearing and stupidity, and for me, that counts for a lot. Our child didn’t seem to think much of it though.