A Short And Loving Letter To Country Town Pubs

"In just two weeks of being back in my country town, I ended up with more chaotic, hilarious memories than I've made in years of living in Melbourne."

country pub australia nostalgia photo

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I have been stuck in my tiny Melbourne apartment for the vast majority of the last two years.

These months of isolation have left me questioning my decision to leave my country town in search of a bigger and better life in the city — and more specifically, the pandemic has made me miss drinking in my country town.

Before I packed up my belongings and moved to Melbourne, I lived in a town of fewer than 20,000 people. And despite all of the lockdowns prior to last Christmas, I was otherwise convinced I had made the right decision by moving to the big city and saying hooroo to the country town life.

That all changed after spending two and a half weeks living (and drinking) in the small town I had spent much of my teenage years absolutely shitting on. As a result of an awful quarantine mishap last year, I ended up stuck in my hometown for two and a half weeks over Christmas and New Year. I pub crawled across all four pubs in town on multiple occasions, bumped into friends I hadn’t seen in years and even ended up at kick-ons in the same random paddock I used to hang out at as a teenager.

There’s something special about being able to wobble into any bar in town and immediately be surrounded by people you grew up with. You can walk straight past the bouncer without having to get out your ID because it’s the same guy from your Year 10 maths class who not only knows you’re of legal drinking age but was there at your 18th birthday when you did all those Fireball shots. You look across the bar to find your dad’s best mates from the footy club playing a game of pool — they’ll inevitably buy you a beer and tell you not to be such a stranger, and to call your mum more.

By the time you actually make it to the bar to buy a drink, you’ve had 30 different conversations with seemingly everyone in town, including the old lady from the post office who comes in for a slap on the pokies. The bartender still remembers your drink order from when you used to come back from uni every summer and would firmly park yourself in the beer garden all afternoon with your friends.

It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour of some of the fanciest places in Melbourne or Sydney, but it’s home.

Will I bum a cigarette of my first boyfriend’s little brother who is now a fully-fledged adult? Will I witness my high school bully throw her guts up in the local pub toilets? Will I decide I am now very horny for a man I went to primary school with? Will my friend’s dad cook us a barbecue when we stumble home from the pub? Will we end up playing beer pong in somebody’s back shed? Who knows! The possibilities are endless when you know every single person in the pub.

In just two weeks of being back in my country town, I ended up with more chaotic, hilarious memories than I’ve made in years of living in Melbourne.

In just two weeks of being back in my country town, I ended up with more chaotic, hilarious memories than I’ve made in years of living in Melbourne.

Is a few drunken memories at the local pub or in somebody’s random farm shed something I’d throw away a life in the city for? Look, probably not. I like my life in the city. But if COVID-19, and the fact that I physically haven’t been able to get back to my tiny hometown for the last year, has given me anything, it’s a newfound love and appreciation for country pubs.

There’s just nothing in my inner-city world that will compare to that feeling of walking into your hometown pub and immediately bumping into 20 people you’ve known since primary school. That pure joy of being able to share a beer, a bowl of chips and a laugh with people who still recognise you and want to have a chat after years away from home is something second to none.

Maybe my nostalgia is just my brain’s way of telling me that it has been far too long since I’ve had a pint at my local, but when life returns to a COVID-normal and hospitality resumes, I just don’t think anything will hit the spot quite like having a beer at a country pub.