Having booked a table at my local pub for Monday night, the prime minister’s press briefing has served only to change my mind and to cancel it. Since I made the booking, I’ve felt increasingly uncomfortable with the prospect of going to the pub. And the more I thought about it, the less attractive it seemed.
I remembered what I did like about going to the pub. As well as enjoying a drink with my partner, I liked having a chat with friends and acquaintances; basically the freedom to move around. Monday night would have been a sterile experience of sitting down in the same place for up to two hours and, presumably, if we saw people we knew then waving at them. Table service plus accompanied trips to the toilet did not appeal, as didn’t potentially long socially distanced queues when standing outside the gents when things are becoming urgent. My partner, who was not remotely bothered either way, was more than happy for me to cancel, so I did. And for the price of a couple of pints and maybe a couple of glasses of wine, we can enjoy two reasonably priced bottles of wine at home (over successive evenings, I should add). There were other reasons why I cancelled.
Landlords are taking the names of people who visit their pubs. If one person in the pub at the same time as me was found to be COVID-19 positive, I would get a call from the privatised track and trace system being used by the government and I’d be given these instructions:
If you’re told you’ve been in contact with a person who has coronavirus:
- stay at home (self-isolate) for 14 days from the day you were last in contact with the person – it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear
- do not leave your home for any reason – if you need food or medicine, order it online or by phone, or ask friends and family to drop it off at your home
- do not have visitors in your home, including friends and family – except for essential care
- try to avoid contact with anyone you live with as much as possible
- people you live with do not need to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms
- people in your support bubble do not need to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms
In other words, because I’d had a couple of pints in my local I’d be on my own for 14 days. The way I feel today is I don’t want to run that risk. I’ll have a glass of red at home instead.
Later next week, I may well have a pint somewhere with my partner or my youngest son. We will research a few possibilities and if we can find one we deem to be ‘safe’, which might involve sitting outside, we might go for it. This will be the way of everything you can imagine for a long while. And that long while is surely going to include Christmas?
What about a trip to the pub a week or so before Christmas and you then get the call that you have to isolate throughout the festive period into the New Year? It’s probably going to be cold, dark and wet and at the most wonderful time of the year, you’ll likely be in the spare room watching repeats of Morecambe and Wise.
Finally, my decision to cancel the pub booking was down to a bit of, ‘let’s see how other people get on this weekend and onwards’. If there are reports of social distancing being ignored, or even trouble and aggression, then I might feel my decision was vindicated. And if things went off well and reports were favourable, then I could have a change of heart.
My God: we are going to have to think about all sorts of stuff in future. What to do in the weeks before we go on holiday? Avoid everyone to make sure you’re COVID-19 free before arriving at the airport and a possible temperature test? Don’t forget that Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, said COVID-19 will be with us for a very long time. These issues could be with us forever.
So, we’re not going to the pub on Monday and I’m not particularly bothered. Johnson’s press conference, rather than reassuring me, served only to convince me to hold fire. I felt he was telling me that it was my civic duty to get shit-faced on the grounds that it was safe and also that it wasn’t.
If I can’t drink with family and friends in the traditional way, I can’t see me making a habit of going to the pub. For now, nightly episodes of Ozark will do for me, as well as a glass of supermarket red. My local can wait.