It was a warm but rainy day for our first forage into Norwich since March’s lockdown. I must admit we felt unexpectedly anxious at the prospect of leaving the sanctuary of the village and heading into town on a bus. We girded our loins, with masks and sanitisers cocked and ready.
It was actually fine. Because of social distancing rules, bus capacity has been reduced and, as we were two of only six passengers, there was plenty of room. This didn’t stop a young couple sitting together in non-designated seats and removing their masks to chat. What is it with the young? They may feel indestructible, safe in the knowledge that the dreaded lurgy is unlikely to bring them down, but that won’t stop them super-spreading to the rest of us.
It was good to get back into the city again. Norwich was busy but not packed – almost normal. Big Issue sellers were back on the streets and most cafés and shops were open. The only thing noticeably missing were the buskers and artists who, in better times, provide a weird and wonderful addition to Norwich’s street life.
Wherever we went seemed well-organised and COVID-secure with lots of one-way systems going on. Most people complied. No one was overwhelmed with punters, though. It’s an anxious time for traders, I’m sure.
After a bit of retail therapy, we headed to the Lamb Inn for a cheeky bottle of blush and some hearty pub grub, using a handy app to order and pay. Our food and drinks were brought to our table by a delightful young waitress. It was all done efficiently and with a reassuring smile. I think this continental style table service might catch on – until winter sets in that is.
The fourth of July was independence day for boozers in England. For the first time since lockdown in March, pubs threw open their doors with staff waiting anxiously at the pumps. We were like rats out of a trap. First stop for a cheeky bottle of blush, the White Horse, transformed into a virus-free sanctuary (as much as anything can be) by the jolly landlord, Simon Peck, and his trusty staff.
The pandemic revealed an entirely different side to Simon as a bumbling and uncannily accurate BoJo impersonator as you can see in this tongue firmly in cheek performance.
Simon even made it on to Look East, our regional BBC news programme. If you’re on Facebook, give the video a like if you would. Simon would be chuffed.
Next stop was the Swan for a couple and then the King’s Head for a final snifter. We didn’t quite make it up to the Angel. That’s on the menu for next time. Too early for opening time? I’m no expert so I’ll leave that to the know-it-alls to speculate. What I do know is each establishment did their bit to keep people safe and all the punters behaved. Was it worth it? You bet! We got totally tiddlypooped.
If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise. No, not teddy bears having a picnic but a rainbow tree adorned with ribbons and messages of hope for troubling times.
Glorious weather brought out flocks of lycra’d cyclists and packs of dog walkers in sensible shoes. Everyone toed the line, distance wise, and we didn’t encounter any pond life thinking the 2 metre rule didn’t apply to them.
By the end of our stroll we’d worked up quite a thirst but, as the pubs are all shut, we made do with a glass or two in the garden afterwards. Life could be worse. We could run out of booze.
I cannot lie. I was so relieved when off licences were added to the list of essential retailers. A dry lockdown would be way beyond the pale ale and, thankfully, local shops are well-stocked with the hard stuff, helping to tranquilise us through the coronavirus crisis.
We’re creatures of habit, Liam and I. And touring the village watering holes for a few bevvies is one of them. We call it doing our bit for the local economy. As they’re all shut up for the time being, we get our fix by cracking open a bottle and joining in the White Horse virtual pub quiz on Facebook every Monday at 8pm. It’s not quite the same as the real thing and it’s too easy to cheat – not that we do, of course – but it’s as good as it gets right now.
Simon, Chedgrave’s very own jolly landlord, is doing his bit to keep community peckers up and the virtual quiz really helps. He also does a nice line in colourful shirts to brighten up the dullest of days – always a talking point. Sartorially, though, he’s got a long way to go before he can compete with the nation’s all-time favourite pub landlady – bottle-blond, chain-smoker, Bet Lynch (AKA Julie Goodyear). Bet’s signature look was leopard skin. She covered everything in it, even her chest exerciser.
Brassy Bet’s tenure behind the bar at the Rovers Return on Coronation Street may be long over but you can catch her glory days weekday afternoons on ITV3. That’s what I do.
It’s just as well Liam and I get along. Pressure cooker living 24/7 could strain even the most intimate relationship. Our neighbours are also in confinement for the duration and so thin cottage walls means dialling down the dirty pillow talk for a while. I let off steam by swearing at Alexa and trying (unsuccessfully) to get her to swear back. Liam relieves stress by punching the hell out of the dough. The result isn’t half bad. When we’re finally released from house arrest, the Great British Bake Off could be on the menu.