We made our first use of the government’s meal deal last night. You know, the one by which you go to a restaurant for something to eat and the taxpayer, which is also you, gives you up to a tenner off your meal. We went to the excellent Atomic Burger on the excellent Gloucester Road and ‘saved’ a substantial sum of money, even though we were actually spending some money we wouldn’t normally be spending, so not really saving anything at all. Still, we ate out to help out and that’s all that mattered.

The restaurant had gone to great lengths to be COVID-19 safe. You ordered everything through their app, tables were spaced well apart from other tables and they were thoroughly cleaned after use.  Staff wore masks. It was the best experience you could get in the circumstances. But still, in the back of my mind, was the thought that we just might bump into that one asymptomatic virus carrier, given that some diners, but not staff, had little concern of social distancing. Generally, I felt safe and relaxed. We then went to the Cider Press across the road where neither my partner, my son nor I bought any cider.

It certainly had all the atmosphere of a normal pub, although some things were different. You could either queue to get drinks at the bar, after which the drinks would be brought to your table or you could order it through another app and the drinks would be brought to your table. The latter was infinitely quicker and more efficient.

Positives: it felt like a normal pub visit not least because it’s quite a noisy pub even when it’s not rammed. Polite and efficient staff. Decent ales, lagers and of course cider.

Negatives: we were sitting at a table near the bar. Social distancing was impossible and many customers simply didn’t bother to try it. Put simply, if anyone who went past where we were sitting had the virus, I don’t see how we won’t get it. And my bathroom visit involved passing numerous people who showed no interest in social distancing and, just like before the pandemic arrived there were men who chose not to wash their hands after urinating. Luckily, we are not currently shaking hands with people because I am always fearful I will shake hands with someone who had previously been holding his penis. That’s an eternal gripe of mine anyway. Hand-washing still seems to be beyond some men.

Then, the bus. I’m more alert about my fellow passengers than I was before. I have tried to re-programme my mind to not get cross with others. Face-coverings on buses are compulsory and most people are complying. A few get on the bus and then lower it upon sitting down. A few more wear their masks to cover their noses but not their mouths, which suggests they don’t realise that noses and mouths are somewhat connected, particularly with the act of breathing. Even I, as a science ignoramus, can see an issue with that one. So, overall, how was it?

In short, it was okay. We don’t normally eat out that much, but when we do, it’s usually a great night. But this wasn’t great. Just okay. As good as it could be, I suppose, when a killer virus is still at large. It did feel like we were taking a slight punt and I breathed easier and felt happier when we got home. We may get used to this, if COVID-19 is around for many years, if not forever, so we will get used to a new normal. But we might not get used to it and instead modify our social lives to accommodate the changes.

It was nice to do something different, that’s for sure, but it felt like a temporary feeling. As the nights close in, as it gets colder and as we stay in more, we can only hope that virus levels don’t increase. The evidence suggests they will, but in the meantime we’ll muddle on, as before.