A pub garden in an unusual summer. Hand sanitiser stations and tables two metres apart. Masks folded on tables. Cautious equilibrium. Then, enter chaos.
A party of fifty-somethings, twenty strong, zeroes in on a large table and sets about enlarging it further, dragging chairs from around the pub.
The sound of metal on stone, the clattering and shouting, summons the bar manager: “GUYS, I’M SORRY, BUT…”
Gently, smiling, as friendly as he can be, he makes them put the chairs back where they found them and the party reluctantly spreads out across half the garden, grumbling and tutting.
Over the next hour, they’ll swap seats and rearrange the party five or six times, before driving off in different cars and taxis.
At the other end of the garden, a party of twenty-somethings descend on two picnic tables. It takes a moment for them to decide they’re too far apart and the lads roll up their sleeves.
Knees bent, biceps popping, grunting and giggling, they lift one table and move it so it butts up against the other.
The whole party cheers.
The manager appears like a genie in a puff of subdued stress: “GUYS, I’M SORRY BUT…”
Like naughty schoolchildren, the boys move the table back and then the entire group of ten finds a way to sit in a single table, piled on laps and perched on bench-ends.
They order tequila, lick salt from their hands, hug, kiss, take bites from each other’s burgers and feed each other chips.