Comment: After-work drinks may be unfair on mothers, but there's no harm in a sneaky pint
Published 17/09/2016 | 02:30
It's 6pm and the sun is shining, well it doesn't really matter, it could be raining for all you care.
"Are you going for 'THE ONE'?" a male colleague asks, or in this day and age more likely emails or texts from a desk across the room.
"Is the Pope a Catholic?" you reply, knowing that no self-respecting Irish male has ever had just 'the one'.
Yes, a couple of after-work drinks in the nearest pub to the office is an Irish ritual, well possibly a dying one, but the die-hards still cling tenaciously to the last vestiges of this fine old tradition.
I was gainfully employed for the guts of 40 years and I still look back fondly on sloping into the nearby bar for a couple of pints as my more responsible colleagues struggled off to the bus and the train and the joys of family life.
Of course, we talked shop, bad-mouthed the boss and probably others and as the night wore on - as it often did - we solved the problems of the world as our eyes flickered to the sporting encounter that was inevitably going on in some corner of the pub.
As one business tycoon explained: the after-work drink is like a safety valve, you end up surrounded by the only people who actually understand what it's like in the office; they understand the triumphs, big and small and they understand the disasters of the same magnitude.
Try explaining it at home and the wife's eyes glaze over.
I often felt smug about rarely drinking at lunch-time and usually confining the after-work drinks to Tuesday to get the week under way and Friday to round it off.
Then along came Jeremy Corbyn last week to put a dampener on the whole thing with another daft political policy.
"Early evening socialisation benefits men who don't feel the need to be at home looking after their children, and it discriminates against women who will want to, obviously, look after the children that they have got."
'More of it!' was my first, ultra-male reaction.
I mean, discrimination against women, come off it! Corbyn is such a long streak of misery that I can't imagine having a drink with him, after work or otherwise. The sight of him would put me right off my pint.
But then, when I began to consider what he said, dispassionately I began to realise, er, he's probably right.
I've had four children over the last 25 years or so and I still managed 'a couple' after work most Fridays over those years. And maybe the odd day in between. So 'herself' must have been at home looking after the brood and often waiting expectantly for the "I'll be home in an hour" phone call that never came.
You know the way it happens, you go into the pub full of good intentions but then get caught up in the chatter and the banter and time slips by. Mobile phones were meant to change things, but somehow they seem to go silent around 6pm on a Friday.
The thing about the after-work drink is that it's usually married men and single women - who may not have obvious designs on promotion, but drinking your way to the top is a better alternative than sleeping your way to the top.
If men can drink their way to the top, why shouldn't the women have a shot at it? I remember a friend who swore the after-work 'boys club' in the state organisation where she worked organised all the internal promotions, and if you were a married woman who had to do a runner to pick the kids up from the crèche your career prospects suffered in proportion to the amount of pints the men consumed.
It couldn't be happening now, you say - well take a look around the pub the next night you're out.
Who do you see?
If my experience is anything to go by, you'll see the married male thirty-somethings with a smattering of women - who by the way are not always welcome because they want to talk about clothes or culture or, worse still, include a married women on a 'Friday night pass' who wants to talk about her children. The majority of married women have all had to leg it to the train or the bus, or else they've got the car and can't go to the pub in any case.
This is why the 'girls night out' midweek has become so popular - the men readily agree because they know it will give them an entitlement to a whinge-free couple of pints after work later in the week. I stopped working in the office about a year ago, but I still get that Friday feeling. I often just drop into a random pub around six o'clock for a sneaky one, looking around at the roistering office crowd and remembering my ill-spent years.
I suppose my wife has one consolation - it was my form of mid-life crisis. It kept me from running off with a younger model...Harley-Davidson.