Are you a beer man or a cider man? Stentorian and fruity, in the sunny river-facing space of the pub in which I sat, the words floated over my shoulders and disturbed my reading of an old copy of Granta about death and dying. My father enjoyed his beer, came the reply from the woman behind me. Her husband (I presume) said that he preferred wine but was enjoying the glass of cider, for after all aren’t we in cider country (even though I had my back to them I can sense a theatrical wave of the hand). I have always seen pubs as something akin to those pre-radar concrete sound detectors from the 1920s that were thought ideal to pick up the drone of approaching aircraft, reflectors of sound from the people around. It’s one of the most entertaining parts of pub life and I’m sure my own voice often becomes part of the saloon bar song. Are you a beer man or a cider man?