The pubs open Saturday. Whoop Whoop I hear you cry. Or maybe that cry is more a whimper of “It’s too soon. It’s not safe” I don’t know. You are welcome to your view. I for one am happy to see the world normalise. I think the quicker we get back to normal the better. I don’t mean a new normal, neither, the old normal. I hope any adaptations we need to make are short-lived and not with us forever. I liked the old comfortable nihilism of living in a decaying culture and hope we return to it as soon as possible.
In deciding whether to go back to the pub, I confess to mixed thoughts. Pubs are not necessary, and they are unlikely to be able to provide the type of relaxed hospitality I enjoyed for some time yet. Nevertheless, the regimented hospitality of Perspex, masks, gloved hands, app ordering, disinfected tables and whatnot is something to experience even if it is to report back here how utterly terrible it is. Like visiting a craft brewery tap under a railway arch in a shithole district of a northern city. Something to do at least once just so you can moan about the ridiculous price for poor crap. Imagine being a pub and beer interested person and not experiencing one of the big forced changes to hospitality in a generation and not be in a position to comment from your own experience?
Throughout this pandemic it has been a sight to observe the many different reactions both to it and the activities of others. The widespread condemnation of the irresponsible other. The same people condemned and clapped in equal measure depending on whether they are sat on a train or stood in a hospital. Some would say this comes down to the different assessments we all make about risk. How we all as humans evolved to bypass a rational assessment and trust a gut instinct. There is certainly an argument that a rational assessment and calculation is a costly exercise in time, and that in dangerous situations those able to make a quick judgement enjoy an evolutionary advantage. Maybe not in this situation but when faced with the near certain death from a predator, a quick assessment of whether to fight or flight might result in a greater chance of survival. So, we are not really programmed by our evolution to weigh carefully the risks, but to trust our feelings about things. It is why people get in cars and on bikes but fear planes and trains. There’s a reason why deaths on the latter are news but on the former they are an everyday occurrence and not worthy of the news.
I would suggest our lived experiences influence this more than anything. The educated middle classes like to think of themselves as clever and rational, but I would suggest they are products of the same evolution as their less educated and harder working countrymen. If you have the type of desk occupation that has lent itself to working from home or furlough and you now have spent a lot of time indoors, isolating or going outside your property rarely, you may have developed the view that it is risky out there. If you work on a computer like say, if you’re a beer writer churning tiresome guff out to your website, you can do that from the comfort of your own home whilst waving at the Ocado and Craft Beer delivery driver through the window as they leave things on your step.
If your occupation has lent itself to going out to a shop floor on a daily basis whether in factory, shop or warehouse, travelling on public transport, being told you don’t need a mask, then you do, being clapped one minute, condemned as irresponsible the next, you may have developed the view that going out on a Saturday to a pub is no more risky that what you have been doing Monday to Friday in order to make ends meet anyway and by God, won’t it be nice to get back to normal and sink a purple cocktail jug down Spoons? Your view of risk may be different.
I cannot tell you whether to go down the pub or not. I can tell you that your assessment of risk is no more scientific and based on facts as anyone else’s. It is based on feelings. Just like everyone else’s. I can’t tell you whether it’s safe or not. I know no more than you. The difference is I am aware that I don’t know. I wear a mask. I bought it from the St Pauli online gift shop because I wanted one with skull and crossbones on. I bought ones with N95 accreditation from screw fix for my elderly parents who may be leaving their home sometime this month for the 1st time since March. I swerved crap on amazon and eBay wary of rip offs for poor quality shite thinking your B&Q, Screwfix, Wickes flog proper stuff with quality standards if you can find it in stock. I have no idea whether it makes a difference or not. No more or less an idea than you do. It seems the done thing. I wear trousers when outside the house for much the same reason. People stare if you don’t. Maybe the next pandemic will bring hats back. My grandfather always sported a trilby with a feather in it. Maybe we can rationalise that as having some effect on our survival chances.
But imagine. You purport to write about beer and pubs and don’t go out to experience the biggest format change they are ever likely to have forced on them. You don’t record if it works well or badly. Whether it represents a good or poor experience, or even whether you feel safe. Imagine if you swerve it. Leave it until you feel safe and report back an experience devoid of any lived experience.
Then imagine in a month or twos time, when the numbers start coming in. Cash receipts are in the toilet. Takings have tanked. Half the hospitality industry is unviable and screaming for a government rescue. Pubs are being boarded up. I guess they’ll be something to write about then. How it’s all the governments fault for not writing a blank cheque to an industry that doesn’t stand a chance of returning to the position it was once in no matter what you throw at it. No more arguing about use it or lose it as you are in no hurry to use it until you feel safe.
More don’t use it and expect a bailout, I’m guessing. Chin up though. It’s not just pubs, it’s flights that are returning. I'm off to check out the Ryan Air offers. The cheapo game of my summer. I want to experience a socially distanced bier garten and be that foreigner that coughs. That’s life returning. See you in the Spoons queue Saturday afternoon depending on the length of it and whether it’s raining or not.