Friday, October 22

A pint and a madras in a hurricane – is this my first trip to the pub or an endurance event? | Life and Style

I I made my first pub visit since Lockdown 3: The Lockening was announced. Lots of people I know have been raving wistfully about the taste of that proper first pint, and I would have, too, had I not succumbed to buying my own counter top draft beer pump to replicate the authentic home drinking experience.

I really enjoyed my pub at home, although it feels a bit strange pouring myself a quarter pint as I settle in for a night of puzzles with my wife and kids. Necessary, but strange.

So I was looking forward to my first draft beer in a context appropriate for draft beer. My friend had reserved a table for six of us. Since the rule of six was introduced, I’ve spent every night wondering if six people I know are having a great night somewhere without me. It’s a new social paranoia that I can happily present along with my other anxieties.

This time, for the first time, the pub visit was preceded by a series of weather updates on our WhatsApp group. Some people were concerned about whether they should bundle up and have something waterproof to wear just in case. They would have forgiven you for thinking that the group had been created for half a dozen people about to embark on their first Duke of Edinburgh walk.

The afternoon before the big expedition, the wind was blowing wildly and my wife started telling me that she couldn’t think of anything worse than going for a drink outside. I insisted that I still really wanted to do it, but that came mainly out of a desire to save face because “a proper drink” was my idea in the first place. To be honest, a part of me expected the winds to get so high that our night would have to be canceled for health and safety reasons.

It wasn’t going to be. We then got word that the pub couldn’t guarantee a spot in the coveted main space unless we were early to claim it, booking or not. “Main space” suggests a high level of comfort but, to be clear, we are talking about a tent in the parking lot of a pub. This is not a disdain for the pub itself – I totally understand that pubs have had a hard time and indeed a pub in a tent in a parking lot is a dramatic improvement on a pub that has gone bankrupt, but still. .. We had to rush to secure our place as if it were a couple of tickets to Hamilton.

Two of our group showed up at 4.30pm to fight the savages who were also trying to claim a table for the night. We received a delighted text message saying, “Table secured!” followed by another message that says, “Seriously bundle up.” Instead of getting ready for the night, my preparation consisted of going to the garage to get my thermals, before fitting a hairnet and going out at night with two pairs of socks.

I don’t know if you’ve had a pint and a veggie madras in a hurricane, but that’s essentially what I did. While it was lovely to properly see friends and hang out, every now and then you would become very aware of the temperature and the general lack of comfort and say, “Damn hell.” And then you would ask how someone’s anecdote ended because it’s hard to hear in 40 mph winds. We spent most of the night trying to identify loose poppadoms.

I found myself wondering how desperate we were to have a good time. Wasn’t it quite admirable, even touching, that our friendships meant so much to us that we socialized in stormy conditions? Then the patio heating stopped working and I told my friends that I had left home: nothing was worth it.

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