This week, Rosie finally heads back to Devon while James finally heads back to the pub.
Our writers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher — who have both, one way or another, ended up alone for the duration — are sharing slices of their lives.
To date they’ve unveiled the truth about cycling, mused over mysteries, met curious robins, worked out how to video chat and shared tales of little old ladies winching shopping through windows. You can catch up on all their columns here.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I’m now at the age where I go to weddings (well, less of those this year) and thirtieth birthday parties, and friends turn up to socially distanced picnics with neat little bumps.
I, on the other hand, am still working out how to keep pot plants alive. My latest, very grown-up conundrum, is over my hair — to fringe, or not to fringe? (Spoiler alert: I’ve just got back from the hairdresser and the fringe is back, so do not message me saying ‘no fringe’ because it’s too late).
While the rest of England celebrated the return of the pub, I celebrated the return of the hairdresser. I can give myself a hangover from home, but I certainly can’t lop eight inches of hair off my own head (and still look human).
Everyone has missed something different over the past few months. One friend wants to be able to make spontaneous decisions again — to leave London for the day or a weekend, or to go out to eat, on a last minute whim. Another misses: travel, hugging friends, working from somewhere other than the kitchen, going to the cinema and nights out.
I don’t know if her list is in any particular order. Some of these things are making a tentative comeback, others might be months more in the making. Will our propensity for patience have improved by 2021? Given how energetically I harassed my hairdresser for an appointment, I’m doubtful.
Hair aside, the other thing I’ve missed most is Devon. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that Devon is where I want to be during a global pandemic. It’s where I’m off to as soon as I’ve finished writing this column — with the pot plants in tow. I thought some sea air might do them some good…
Saturday felt like a moment didn’t it? This is not a political column, not yet, so we will eschew the wisdom of a) opening the pubs up on a Saturday; and b) then calling said Saturday ‘Super Saturday’. As if the Great British Public ever needs a second invitation to launch into an absolute face-melter of a weekend. ‘It’s like that day in the Olympics in 2012, yeah, except with fewer javelins and more pints.’
Anyway, when our Lord and Master Boris Johnson locked us all up and shut the pubs because he realized that just politely asking us ‘not to go the pub’ is about as effective as asking a two-year-old not to soil his own trousers, the grand re-opening was going to be the moment when this whole thing was over, right? We would flood streaming in, packed to the rafters, and get abominably drunk and share stories about how we did absolutely f-all for six months solid.
Except it wasn’t like that, really. The first month or so of lockdown we all reminisced about the pub, and how we missed it, but then we just sort of moved on, didn’t we? We learned to cope, like we always do, and realised that buying four cans of export lager and sitting in the park was cheaper and safer and the sun was out. So, when I returned to the public house for the first time on Saturday, I was a bit, well, underwhelmed.
Did I miss racking up a £50 bar tab? Not really. Hugo and Freddie braying two tables over? Could do without it, to be quite honest. It was nice to drink again with friends, but table service slightly takes away the spontaneity of the whole occasion. A surprise round of shots doesn’t really work when you have to loudly shout through a mask in front of everyone that, yes, actually, you would like 6 shots of tequila and, no, I promise I’m sober and won’t regret this.
The beauty of the pub, I think, has always been that it’s just ‘there’ and ‘open’. It’s knowing that you’ve got a one-hour hole in your diary to fill, so you can just nip in to the Dog and Clam for a quick half and read your book. It’s being bored on a Saturday and sending the group text wondering who’s about for a beer, not organising a military exercise whereby you have to book a table two weeks in advance for precisely three hours.
It will get better, it always does, and it will all get back to ‘normal’. But Saturday was just a reminder that, actually, we’re not through this yet. Not by a long-shot. And for god’s sake. Wear a mask.