On Saturday we did something we’ve been dreaming about for months – we sat at our favourite table at The Drapers Arms and drank a few pints.
Like a lot of things these days, it was somehow both highly emotional and completely normal. Our brains couldn’t quite cope: did we do this a week or so ago, or is it a brand new experience?
The pub has changed. Vince, one of the founding landlords, has moved on to pursue his own pub project. We guess that explains why some of the familiar pictures and nick-nacks have disappeared, the gaps filled with new-old items of greebling.
The barman did the rounds watering the hanging baskets and pot plants and Jess said, “They’re new.”
“Oh, that’s all Zee’s doing,” he replied. Zee worked behind the bar for years and seemed like the manager even before she was. Which she now is.
During last year’s sort-of opening up, The Drapers operated with chunky partitions between tables and the long central leaning post removed. Now, the partitions are gone and a new, slimmer central island has been installed. We wonder if people will look at the screw holes in the wall and ceiling in years to come and remember why they’re there.
We’d been there for perhaps five minutes when a regular we recognised arrived. Across the floor, we chatted, comparing notes on the beer and reminiscing about holidays in Germany and Belgium.
Two middle-aged men came in.
“Daft question but I don’t suppose you’ve got any gluten free beer, have you?”
Above his mask, the barman’s eyes popped.
“I’ve got two!”
He did, and all.
We managed four rounds before we had to start thinking about heading home. Last time we drank there, we lived around the corner. Now it’s an hour-long walk. We didn’t want to leave, though – God, no.
Our suspicion is that this thing we’re all living through won’t end on some universally acknowledged Freedom Day. There won’t be a big bang, just a gradual fizzle out. One small, everyday event after another, we’ll eventually find ourselves living a life that feels somewhat normal. For us, this was a big step.