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.
Who knows what life will be like once we’re released from house arrest? What will the so-called new normal look like? What’s certain is we’re all Zooming, streaming and buying online like never before. This was already the direction of travel and it just got turbo-charged. How many bricks and mortar businesses will survive is anyone’s guess.
And then there are the most ancient of games – cruising, coupling and canoodling – and the arenas where these rituals are played out. From an LGBT perspective, swiping right had already forced many a gay boozer to call time for good. Why bother with the faff and expense of propping up a bar hoping for a chance liaison when you can order in with free delivery? But these places aren’t just about a Saturday night takeaway, they also provide a community hub and a safe haven from a sometimes hostile world.
An old friend sent me – via WhatsApp, ironically – these amazing images of some of London’s most iconic gay pubs, venues with long and infamous pedigrees. I don’t know who took the pictures so they can’t be credited but they brought back a flood of memories of my gloriously misspent past.
Ladies and gents and all those in between, I give you the seven sisters. As the old saying goes, use them or lose them.
After a dull, damp winter, the spring has been warm and friendly – pale blue skies and wispy clouds – perfect weather for back-garden BBQs and slow walks along the Wherryman’s Way. Some readers may remember our clash with Daisy, the mad cow last autumn. On the warmest day of the year so far, we decided to return to the scene of our undoing. It was time to finally face our demons.
We took a circuitous route from Chedgrave, through Loddon, past pretty cottages dripping with wisteria and locked-down pubs looking sad in the sun, finally arriving at the riverside clearing at Pye’s Mill.
After a brief stopover for some extra vitamin D and a beef baguette, we girded our loins and wandered into the field where the evil cows graze. Keeping a watery ditch between them and us, we proved that man and beast can live together in perfect harmony, as long as they keep to their side of the moat. Job done and safely home, we chucked a couple of burgers on the grill.
Liam and I know how lucky we are. We don’t have children to feed, educate and amuse. We don’t have elderly parents to care for. We don’t have serious physical or mental health issues. We don’t live in a flat with no outside space. We don’t have money worries. And we don’t live where COVID-19 has been most deadly – quite the contrary, in fact. Some people have all these things tied up in a bow. Yes, we know how lucky we are.
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.