A string of pubs are urging patrons to shun idle chatter or football banter and ponder some of life’s biggest questions – via the humble beer mat.
From today, more than 130 Capital pubs will serve up frothy pints on a coaster bearing poignant quotations that are designed to steer bar-room conversations towards death.
It is hoped the passages will inspire hard-headed Scots to open up and share memories about late loved ones while sipping their pints.
The move has been spearheaded by the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care (SPPC) – which represents end-of-life charities – and aims to prevent Scots from bottling up about death and encourage them to talk it out.
SPPC chief executive Mark Hazelwood said: “Pubs are an important part of Scottish culture. So is death. All of us experience loss of some kind during our lives, and many people get something really positive from sharing stories of their dead loved ones.”
The thought-provoking messages include a quote from George Eliot – “Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love” – among several others but the words “To Absent Friends . . . because dead ordinary people live on in the stories of the living” is scrawled on every beer mat.
Ryrie’s Bar at Haymarket was one of the first to receive its quota of striking coasters from Stewart Brewery, which is supporting the project.
Wendy Dickson, the pub’s assistant manager, said the project “made sense” as bars are where “most people go to talk about anything”.
She said: “The beer mats are not in your face, they’re simply saying that it’s OK to talk about death if you want to.”
Dr Duncan Brown, medical director at St Columba’s Hospice, said open discussions about death helped people to cope with bereavement.
“At the hospice, we work hard to provide the best quality of care to people with advanced illnesses and to their families. We’ve found that it is easier to do this if people are able to have open and honest discussions about death, dying and bereavement when the time comes.
“I think that these beer mats are a great way of bringing conversation about death back into normal life.”
Church of Scotland minister Ewan Aitken hailed it as an “extremely positive” concept.
He said: “We compartmentalise death to the point when it happens, and then it’s too late to deal with it.
“It’s an absolutely positive thing – getting Scottish men to talk about feelings at all is a positive thing.”
You can quote us on that..
• “Behind every man now alive stands 30 ghosts, for that is the ration by which the dead outnumber the living.” – Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey
• “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no-one can steal.” – Irish Headstone
• “Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.”– George Elliot
• “The first Burns Suppers were held in Ayrshire in the 18th Century by Robert Burns’ friends to mark the anniversary of his death. Who would you hold a memorial supper for?”
• “To Absent Friends... because dead ordinary people live on in the stories of the living.”
• “More people attended the funeral of Ludwig Van Beethoven than of Michael Jackson.”