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The “Round” In History: Rules, Comradeship, National Security and Venereal Disease

June 27, 2012 5 comments

Caught in a “round” system, drinkers can either find unwanted pints of beer stacking up in front of them like a firing squad, or sit around resentfully staring at their empty glass as the one whose turn it is next nurses their beer.  The former always used to happen between a group of us at a rural pub in County Antrim called The Wayside, so that the unstarted pints stacked in front of the slower drinkers at the end of the evening were described as a “Wayside Pile-up”.

The rules of the round can be more complicated and applied more restrictively than a newcomer might think. “Rules are rules”, say people with no imagination. Sometimes exceptions  and “sitting out” may not be permitted:  you may not refuse my generosity nor deny me yours.

There was a particularly strict attitude in certain pubs in my homeland, where I was once told a story of a visiting Englishman who didn’t automatically get a full round, but instead would ask each of his colleagues if they fancied another one.  Quiet offence was initially taken, but he was not to blame – as it was explained to me by the self-appointed pub anthropologist – that was just what English people did.

The Edwardian equivalent of the Wayside Pile-up was regarded as nothing less than a threat to national efficiency and, therefore, wartime security. Rounds were banned by “No-Treating” provisions made under the Defence Of The Realm Act in 1915 and revoked on 4 June 1919 (“and it is generally expected that this date will be made an annual, public holiday in Scotland” – Punch).  Lloyd George attributed an initial reduction in drunkenness convictions to the effect of the Order.

There’s a great example of the application of the No-Treating Order in a 1916 newspaper article here, where a sailor buying a round of drinks and the Cardiff landlord he bought it from were both prosecuted.  The landlord’s silk raised an interesting argument in his defence:

Mr Lewis Thomas K.C., for the landlord, said that the real reason for the order was to hit the person treating, and the person who was treated.  Supposing, said counsel, he and his friend, Mr. Whitely (appearing with him), before going into a hotel formed a joint-stock company and contributed 6d. each, and he went in and paid for two bottles of Bass. (Laughter.) If then his friend drank one there would be no offence.

The Lord Chief Justice: You don’t say really that, when going in to take refreshments, you form a joint-stock company in which you each contribute half of what is going to be spent?

Mr Thomas: It depends on the confidence you have in each other.

The Glasgow Herald reported in March 1944 on calls from the Moderator of the Church of Scotland for a No-Treating Order to be brought in during World War 2:

Many attempts, he said, had been made to get the Government to pass such an order, but so far without result.  He for one thought it was too soon yet to give up the battle – and he believed it was also in the mind of the Church he represented – to bring further pressure to bear on the Government in this matter.  There was no doubt that inebriation, immorality, and the incidence of venereal disease were very closely related to each other, and that it was difficult to deal with those problems separately.

The last point reveals what appears to be behind many for the calls to ban “treating” in 1944: a desire to prevent men buying women drinks in an attempt to arouse their affections, rather than simply to prevent groups of workers “getting a round in”. The same point was raised by Viscountess Astor in the House of Commons in the same month:

Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that something ought to be done to relieve the anxiety of people who are deeply worried about the treating of young girls in public houses? Would not a no-treating order help in this very important matter?

As far as I’m aware, the “round” currently escapes any blame in the ongoing debate about alcohol and public health, as the arguments are generally restricted to pricing, duty, measures, ABV and age.  Perhaps it is because pubs are now thought of as a preferable, supervised drinking environment.

Or perhaps it is acknowledged that the system is one of those long-standing British traditions born of an obsession with rules and fair play, along with cricket, grammatical pedantry, writing outraged letters to broadsheet newspapers and queuing. Furthermore, the general ability of  men to buy women drinks doesn’t just spread VD, but rather is pretty much essential for the British to procreate at all.

Carlsberg and the Copenhagen Interpretation: Beer, Bohr and the Bomb

May 23, 2012 3 comments

Carl Jacobsen had a strained relationship with his father. J.C. Jacobsen had named the Carlsberg brewery after his son in 1847, but after conflicts between the two men, Carl set up a rival brewery in 1882: the Valby Brewery, later renamed Ny (new) Carlsberg by agreement with his father.

Science, however, greatly benefited from the rivalry, as it meant that the Gammel (old) Carlsberg Brewery was left to the charitable Carlsberg Foundation when J.C. Jacobsen died in 1887. Later the breweries merged and Carl became CEO, but the Foundation still retains 51% of the voting shares.

Part of the Foundation’s work was the upkeep of the Carlsberg Honorary Residence, J.C. Jacobsen’s villa by the brewery which was left to Carl for life in his will, but subsequently to the Foundation for residence by ‘‘a man or a woman deserving of esteem from the community by reason of services to science, literature, or art, or for other reasons.”  As a result, as described and speculated upon by Michael Frayn in his play Copenhagen, the Carlsberg Honorary Residence played host to another dispute, not unlike a father falling out with his son.

Niels Bohr had received a grant from the Carlsberg Foundation in 1911 and it later funded his establishment of  the University of Copenhagen’s Institute of Theoretical Physics in 1921.  As a result Copenhagen remained at the forefront of research and debate on atomic physics and quantum mechanics for two decades, centred around the gregarious Bohr who enjoyed long discussions with Einstein and others.  Bohr moved into the Carlsberg Honorary Residence in 1931 and it’s interesting to consider the smells of brewing that must have wafted through the many meetings of great minds it hosted.

From 1924-1927 the young German Werner Heisenberg was a close assistant to Bohr, and developed his groundbreaking Uncertainty Principle under Bohr’s wing, as well as documenting the shared principles now known as the Copenhagen Interpretation. However, in September 1941 Heisenberg returned to Copenhagen in very different circumstances.  Heisenberg had become head of the German nuclear programme, partially due to his position as one of the only prominent non-Jewish scientists in the field.  Bohr was half-Jewish, a Dane living under Nazi occupation who had previously given refuge to a number of German Jewish scientists fleeing the Nazis.

We can’t be entirely sure what happened privately between Bohr and Heisenberg during that meeting, as each gave contrasting stories. Heisenberg’s account suggests that he was trying to obtain some measure of approval for the morality of what he was doing for the Nazis.  Certainly Bohr came away with the frightening knowledge “that Germany was participating vigorously in a race to be the first with atomic weapons“.

In any event, Heisenberg left and continued to work on the ultimately unsuccessful Nazi nuclear programme, eventually being captured on 3 May 1945 by Allied forces behind German lines, just a few days before Germany’s surrender.  There is some speculation that Heisenberg deliberately curtailed the programme’s progress or ambitions, although Heisenberg never claimed this himself.

Bohr, meanwhile, had fled Copenhagen in September 1943 under fear of arrest, first making a visit to Sweden, during which he convinced King Gustav to make a public statement about Sweden’s willingness to accept Jewish refugees.  Hitler simultaneously ordered the deportation of Danish Jews to the camps, but around 8,000 were swiftly rescued to Sweden in or around October 1943. Ultimately around 50-100 Danish Jews are thought to have died in the Holocaust.

Under the name “Nicholas Baker”, in December 1943 Bohr went to Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project as part of the British team, acting as a “father confessor” (“Uncle Nick“) to the scientists working on the Allied bomb.  He returned to Copenhagen and the Residence after the war.  Heisenberg visited Bohr again in 1947 at Bohr’s summer house in Tisvilde, by then a disgraced figure from a disgraced nation.

Bohr lived at the Residence until his death in 1962.  He is buried, along with his wife Margrethe, in the same cemetery in Nørrebro as Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard.

Carlsberg stopped using the swastika symbol (which had been used as a trademark since the renaming of Valby as “Ny Carlsberg”) in 1940.  Sadly, I can’t find a single reference to whether Bohr and Heisenberg actually enjoyed a beer together before the war, or perhaps even in 1947.  However, being a Dane and a German who enjoyed long conversations about the nature of the universe, I can imagine that they did.

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