9 June 2020

Back To The Future

I know there was some excitement earlier today when it seemed pub gardens would reopen on June 22nd, and then those rumours - that the government started in the first place - were squashed by the, er government.

I know a lot of us are squeamish about how pubs...will look and, more importantly, feel, after lockdown is over.

I know a lot of us are yearning dreadfully after that wonderful and enriching experience that a session in the pub can give us.

I know a lot of us are getting fatigued with relying on deliveries of bottles and cans and desire the magic that is cask with company.

I feel it too.

I feel it keenly, and long for it as much as anyone. But I'm willing to wait, because for me, it has to be right.

Not perfect, but right.

I want to go to a pub and relax, and not be second guessing others' behaviour. I don't want paranoia (at least, no more than usual). I don't want people being overly wary, on edge, around me (again, no more than usual).

So I can wait. I can wait until such time as social distancing is relaxed for scientific reasons, not financial or political reasons. I can wait until the life that we will be permitted to lead is as close as damnit to the life we had until March. I can wait until such time as we can have the "Now, where was I before I was so rudely interrupted?" moment.

Some can't. Some will go back on Day 1. Good luck to them, they will need it. For all sorts of reasons. They may find the changes to pub life in the interim acceptable, or they may find them intolerable. They may find their local's landlord is not as scrupulous as the security guard at Aldi and who will let more in than is safe. They may find themselves sat near to someone with a heavy cough who refuses to wear a mask because they believe the virus is a deep state conspiracy. They may find themselves queuing for so long outside a pub that all desire and keenness for a pint evaporates in the cooling British summer air.

I'm not willing to take that risk.

The way pubs have been treated during all of this, both by our government and by big pubcos is appalling, and if we had authorities with teeth who cared then we wouldn't have to feel the obligation to rush back before it's safe to ensure our locals survive. It's unjust, unfair and unseemly. But such is modern Britain. Once this is all over, there will be a deep and searching probe into how our hospitality industry was abandoned, how ruthless big business strangled the very lifeblood of their businesses with unfair rent demands, and how beer drinkers and enthusiasts reacted and what they did afterwards. I will never willingly or conscientiously step in a Spoons, or a Greene King's, or a Marstons, ever again.

All over the beer social media channels I see folks in pain. Folks who have lost hope of life ever returning to normal. I simply say be strong. Be as strong as your hearts will allow you. Do not think of pubs and publife as a memory. Think of it as a joyous day yet to come. We will have our Pub Christmas, possibly before actual Christmas. We are currently opening the doors on a seemingly never-ending advent calendar and guzzling the tiny morsels of chocolate. It's nowhere near enough to sate our hunger and our desire, but it reminds us of the feast and the fiesta to come. We are rowing across an ocean, but the darkness of night is behind us, and the sunrise, and the promised land, are on the horizon. But we must keep rowing.

This year has been unfairly robbed from our lives. But this year has also unfairly robbed lives from all of us. We owe it to those we have lost - from my grandfather, Ken Buck, who loved those stubbie bottles you get at Asda; to Wilko who used to pull pints at the Baneswell Club - to not inflict unneccesary suffering on others, to not prolong this artificially and to not inflate to the numbers. We will return to our lives. Others have had their lives upturned.