It’s true my friends – just like before, the boozers’ doors’ ajar once more...
I suspect that today, of all days, I won’t be the only bloke getting a little pathetically poetic, as one of the greatest and most beloved staples of British life is returned to us.
For reasons of safety, and rightly so, lockdown has temporarily removed many of life’s pleasures from the population.
These have been many and varied, and in general, the majority of people have done a fine job in adapting to required change and going without some of life’s luxuries and – indeed – liberties, for the benefit of the greater good and the health of all nations of this country.
Today however, another milestone reaches us in the return to normality, and one that has been warmly anticipated by lads and lasses across the land who once felt the same longing for a visit from ole’ St Nick each December.
Ladies and gentlemen, the pubs are back – and may they never disappear again.
Today marks the first day since March that we will be able to return to our favourite taphouses, watering holes, speakeasies, gin joints, wine bars, hostelries and houses of the public for a good honest draught pint, chaser, vino, voddy or Cheeky Vimto (other cocktails, shocktails and mocktails are of course available).
Things won’t be quite the same – there will be important safety rules to follow – but still, it’s time to be positive and a crack a smile. This is another step on the road to recovery, and if we’re sensible with it, we can enjoy it.
Where I come from, as with many small towns and villages across the UK, the various pubs of the parish are an important part of community life. They are where faces are seen and people watched out for. They are where meetings are held, and ideas are formed. Above all they are where people relax with like-minded folk, learn new things about one another and enjoy each other’s company.
Now again of course, things won’t be quite the same straight away. Safety rules will prevent people from hovering at the bar, breaking social distancing requirements, and mingling up-close with whoever they please.
Not yet returned to are the days of casually wandering down to the battle cruiser, chancing who may be enjoying a tipple, and settling in for a close-quarters chin wag with whoever happens to be around.
There will be no large gatherings for group meetings, no slaps on the back or close embraces with acquaintances we haven’t seen in a dog’s age, and no shoulder-to-shoulder banter at the bar.
But, at least it’s a start, and in time, when the rules change, these things will return.
What we do have is a chance to return to some of those pubs and bars where we’ve made happy memories, and support them as they do their best to return to trading under difficult circumstances. I for one, can’t wait.
Looking at the town where I lay my hat, and reading up on social media about the measures a number of my local watering holes are putting in place to ensure safety, I can’t help but be very impressed.
None of them appear to be taking the situation lightly, and seem to be prioritising the health of their patrons and staff above everything else.
Some have made heavy-duty structural changes for the benefit of social distancing, and others have rearranged their furniture and interior layouts to make playing by the rules possible.
One key theme is clear – each of them appears determined to give customers a safe experience, and the confidence that they can once again enjoy a trip to the pub without selling their health down the river.
Well done landlords of my homeland, well done to you all.
This weekend will be familiar yet new ground for publicans and patrons as saloons across the UK allow their doors to swing ajar once again. And the decision over whether or not to partake and pay a visit to your local is entirely personal. Many will be unable to wait to cross the threshold, many will be too nervous to. Everyone should listen to their gut, and no matter what their decision, always think ‘safety first’.
As I think about returning to my local, I think about the sense of comfort and relaxation I have always associated with a place in which I have laughed, loved, celebrated and smiled.
It won’t be quite the same place I remember at first, but if I’m able to sit and enjoy it with those in my bubble, it’ll be off to a good start.
Enjoy your weekend all, and however you spend it, stay safe.
Now, a pint of Guinness please landlord, and don’t spare the horses!