A trip to the pub would not normally be in any way newsworthy for pretty well anyone, never mind me, but after a year and more of ‘lockdown’ our return to the boozer felt a bit like some kind of liberation. Even though we are not yet allowed to sit inside the pub, we can at least sit outside it. And last night we did.

Our pub of choice was the Hobgoblin on Bristol’s eclectic and cosmopolitan Gloucester Road. My son had booked a table in the pub garden and it was there we spent an enjoyable evening consuming several pints of Camden Hells lager and burgers. It was lovely. But let’s start at the beginning.

We took the number 73 bus and of course the first one, despite showing on the First Bus website, didn’t show up. Fortunately, the next one did. I was immediately struck by how busy the bus was, mainly by younger people who, it quickly dawned on me, were nowhere near vaccination dates. And as for face-masks, well, most people, though by no means all people, wore them, many unaware that their noses were connected to their mouths for breathing purposes. I am not going to pretend that it left me a tad uneasy, even though I am fully Pfizer’d up.

Gloucester Road looked as you would expect the Gloucester Road to look, which is to say very busy. Even though it was quite cold, lots of people were sitting outside enjoying this return to some sort of normality. But there was one big downer: smokers.

In the Hobgoblin pub garden, every table except ours had a smoker on and you could not escape the carcinogenic smoke. I noted this was the same at all the pubs with outdoor seating. My view is that smoking should be banned in pub gardens, as it is in pubs. Naturally, these are the words of an ex-smoker who has long repented on his sins.

The reason infection numbers have fallen, according to Boris Johnson (so it may not be true), is because of social distancing, mask-wearing and staying at home. If that’s true, expect infection levels to soar in the coming weeks. For all that, I don’t expect many people who have tasted freedom for the first time in ages will be particularly willing to give it all back up again.

Mercifully, the return bus was on time and it was the busiest bus I have been on since, I think, February 2020. There was barely a spare seat to be had and, with a few beers on board, I wasn’t particularly bothered. Most of me wants things to get even more normal in the coming weeks, although to be fair outdoor drinking will become more bearable once these pesky cold evenings disappear!

We passed numerous other boozers. Tables appeared to be well utilised and at some there were sheds the size of a small garden shed, inhabited by large groups of socially undistanced men. I can only assume ‘outdoors’ in this context means not inside the pub itself!

As for the overall experience, I’d say 3/5. I can’t fault the pub we were in – great beer, great food, great service – and it was nice to get out again. It wasn’t quite so nice to pay £5.05 a pint compared to the £1.50 I have been paying Morrisons and just a few pints with a bite to eat, plus bus fares, was an expensive night out.

And, at long last, I remembered what a great place Bristol is when you’re allowed out.

Cheers, everyone.