291. A man walks into a bar

The last three blogs on this site all involve visits to pubs and bars. I have enjoyed nearly 50 years of that pleasure. Not because I crave alcohol. I can go for weeks without.

It is the other people, the chat, the lifting of self-consciousness, the sheer sociability. The smell and taste of the alcohol plays its part, but the possibilities opening take centre stage. Maybe Germaine Greer will talk to you. Could be the guy next to you at the bar once met the Queen; or was in prison for tax evasion. Your eye becomes more lustful with each drink. You might need Dutch courage to ask your brother or friend for a temporary loan.

That sense of freely merging with the new and unpredictable is enshrined and embodied in the classic joke opening where a man (or woman) walks into a bar. Perhaps he/she will then encounter an Englishman, Scotsman and an Irishman. Maybe a horse will be serving the liquor, or a dog will be sitting alone with a bowl of beer. The drink may have a transforming effect on the characters. Disrobing may occur. Vomiting or violence could ensue. The dog may show astonishment at the horse’s fluency in German.  

A couple of months ago I interrupted an afternoon countryside walk in mid-Essex by entering The Compasses hostelry, in the remote hamlet of Littley Green. I waited at the bar to be served, standing as proscribed, at a social distance from other punters. I must have been 9 feet from the nearest person, lost in so many good memories of the place.

Something I have always done without thinking is to lean on the bar. Deep in thought, I inadvertently stepped past a green line on the floor, placed both elbows on the dark panelled wood, let my eye rove along the optics and the various photos adorning the back wall.

It was a terrible mistake. The visored guy behind the bar almost leaped at me, barking out that I needed to stand behind the green line. Wow.

I complied, apologising that “old habits got the better of me”. He didn’t reply: but set about spraying the infected area and vigorously wiping away my dangerous germs.

I bought a pint. He served it sullenly. I understood. Maybe he was genuinely scared.

He was certainly being paid to observe official hygiene protocol as part of his job. I had just provided him with an unexpected and unwanted pain.

The regulations he was observing have subsequently tightened. When I started writing this, you could not enter a pub in Essex – nor go to the toilet – without wearing a face mask. You could sit outside with a friend, but not inside, after Essex was moved to the UK government’s Tier Two alert grading. Pubs closed at 10 p.m.

I suppose there were jokes waiting to be discovered somewhere in all the bureaucracy; they don’t spring to mind easily. Maybe a man tries to enter a bar but has forgotten his mask. So he sits outside and tries to order a pint using his phone app, but the horse brings him a bourbon. Four Jack Daniels later, he tries to kiss the horse, which is looking ever more attractive, but is wearing a visor. About to go home, he sees a mass of tiny Covid-19 particles congregating 50 yards away, waiting until their 10 p.m. moment, when they will pounce.  

Not funny. I know. It really isn’t.

For the past week or so, all British pubs have completely closed their doors, until the government declares an end to lockdown. When I drive to see my father, or take my daily exercise, they sit empty and unused, no sign of life.

Many of Britain’s 60,000 plus pubs were already under hefty financial pressure. Some will clearly not survive this time in our history. I can’t help wondering if the pubs that make it through will ever be the same. Will there be restrictions on who can enter, linked to taking vaccines or flashing a ‘health passport’? Will there be screens all over the place? Arrows on the floor? Service at the tables? Card-only payments?

If so, I might call it a day. Keep the good memories. Leave the new pub experience to others.

32 thoughts on “291. A man walks into a bar

  1. I know what you mean Kev, we are like that now, if you have to wear a mask, following rules that don’t make sense, we can’t be bothered. I under your point about fear, but that doesn’t mean you have to over react or be rude. This whole thing does seem to have ‘given’ people a ‘purpose’ in life, in that you give some a little piece of power. I think that’s what’s going wrong with all this, those type of people will be prominent, luckily I have the ability to tell them to f**k Off, and luckily they tend to. It’s all so sad. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It was the pent-up rage in the guy’s reaction that shocked me Moisie. I think he was suffering, rather than wanting to be a little Hitler. But my wife has bumped into the trend that you describe, where a woman serving at an outside cafe in a country park was insisting on masks being worn before she sat down at a table. Very sad.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more mate. The great old British institution has and will probably keep on suffering long into the night! I’m with you on going into a pub a striking up a conversation with someone with a story to tell. The memory of that little gem is fading before our very eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve heard about your famous pubs over there on the island all my life, and even for me, someone who’s never been to one, I feel your pain. No clear answers or understanding is with us yet about this thing, and I loathe the conflicting regulations. It’s crazy-making!! On top of which, this barman, scared or not, reacting that way. Whoa! Chillax, dude. Like the immortal line from Buckaroo Banzai (a 1980s cult classic): “Hey, hey, hey, hey-now. Don’t be mean; we don’t have to be mean, cuz, remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you have to be chillaxed to utter such an immortal line Stace. I was half-irritated, half-sympathetic. 🙂 🙂 😒😒
      Honestly I think most of the answers about Covid are findable for those who seek. But you won’t get much clarity from governments. Hope you’re OK…how hot is LA in the November-February period?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, re: covid, I’m talking about the wildly diverse reactions it seems to have in people, you know, with no pattern: how can a respiratory disease move into organs and destroy them? Some people feel nothing, healthy people drop dead, the antibodies don’t last (??) some folks are still recovering months and months later. I hate to say it, but it seems lab produced to me. And maybe got out by accident.

        Re: LA and weather….it WAS like 100 degrees up until about two weeks ago, then one morning it was suddenly freezing cold and has been very cool, cold at night, since then. There’s never any segue anymore. The curtain just drops. Summer. Drop. Winter. Drop. Summer.
        Oh, well. Could be worse!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s food for thought. Must admit, I don’t dwell on where it came from. That seems unprovable, and a bit of a distraction. The death from organ failure is not something that UK media mentions much, if at all. Or are you citing those cases where somebody dies of heart or liver failure, but the death is attributed as ‘with Covid-19’, after a positive test within the last 28 days?

        This is what I see, based on months of trawling through a swathe of opinions, but more keenly on looking at the graphs and data. It hits older people principally, here in the UK anyway. Median age of Covid death is 2 years above the average mortality age for Brits. And something like 90 per cent plus of deaths are due to existing chronic morbidities. So, those people need protecting, IF that is their wish. The rest of us need to go about our business. We have fantastic immune systems, and common sense. So take the precautions that you personally wish to follow. Lockdowns do not work (unless you catch the thing right at the start, like China and Vietnam). There is now a pile of peer-reviewed evidence that they are killing far more people than the virus. I can elaborate on that if you want.

        What I’ve come to also believe is that the worst is over. An epidemic has a sharp spike, just in the one season/year, after which it becomes endemic. In the bigger picture, the excess respiratory deaths figures will revert to the norm. The sleight of hand by the governments here has been breathtaking. Above all, this insane ‘cases’ figure with which we are slapped around the head with every day. It does not mean ‘infected cases’, because it includes hordes of people who are asymptomatic, and other who are roped in as positive because of the wild inaccuracies generated by the PCR test.

        If you do have clear symptoms, your recovery chance is around 99.8%. The infected fatality rate is about 1 in 500, or 0.2%. Flu IFR is 0.1%. But of course if you are not elderly, and healthy, you have a fantastic chance of recovering. You have as much chance of being killed in a car crash.

        I was taken by your comment a few months back that you didn’t know of anybody who had died, nor did any of your acquainatnces. Well guess what? Same here, for what is being called the biggest disaster of the 21st century. How can that be possible if we are amid a ‘pandemic’. Maybe I am immune to brainwashing, but that is what I see. Look at what is being done in the name of Covid-19. Jobs destroyed, mental health problems spiralling, the joy of assembly removed, standard medical operations put on hold, doctors surgeries closed to patients. In the UK, parliament has had its powers removed, and government is through the Cabinet Office. I could go on for much longer.

        The data that should dominate all others is hospital admissions and deaths. Both are hugely below their spring peak here in the UK. All you have to do is look at the similar deaths data in Sweden, where lockdown has been avoided, to see beyond any doubt that lockdowns make no difference except to turn countries into open-air prisons. Yet the media narrative continues to spew forth every day. To experience it is to know pure cognitive dissonance. I am compassionate, but look at some of my fellows, who cannot get enough lockdown, with a growing nervousness. Governments do not easily give back freedoms taken away. People bang on about democracy and freedom, but it appears that they really prefer being told what to do by incompetents.

        Hmm….that’s enough. Sorry if I went on too long, but I’ve listened to so many scientists and doctors arguing that what is being imposed has no logic. And then there is all the talk of the ‘Great Reset’. I don’t trust any of the clowns vomiting that message, benign as it may sound. We’re being lied to on so many fronts.

        Maybe the situation in LA/USA is different?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I have journeyed to the Compasses a few times, Beer Festival on one occasion, vintage tractors, ploughing contest in field out back and a Trad Jazz band entertained. On another much quieter visit two fine steads were tethered out side and another very open topped vintage car. I wonder how the hotel I saw being built in the car park is getting, I noticed it was a house of straw.😊

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reflecting on pubs in my town one of the first as a young man of 21 fo me was the Blue Bore in Prittlewell . Being in my working cloths I used the Public Bar. Other bars were the Lounge, the Snug and Private. It would be Saturday lunch time after work with work mates, mine was a brown and mild. In those days decent pubs brewed their own mild.
    My point of writing this is for me the English Pub died a long time ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah, I’m not talking about anybody who may have had some kind of condition beforehand and Covid just accelerated what would probably have happened anyway. I’m talking about, for instance, it appears to affect the brain sometimes. That’s not a respiratory disease. Obviously, lungs have been damaged, but healthy people without heart issues have undergone heart damage. It’s baffling. What is it? I know the lab talk doesn’t help. I guess I go there because I probably don’t want to accept that anything like this could be born naturally in nature. It’s easier to accept human tinkering than nature unleashing such a thing. But then again, ebola was natural, right? That’s pretty horrible, hemorrhaging to death. But then AGAIN…everyone knew what it was gonna do to you. It didn’t deviate. It didn’t do one thing in one person and another thing in another person. So Covid is scary, to me, that way, with all these different symptoms, effects, short and long-term, some people never even knowing they had it……

    I guess the odds are good that I’d stay healthy if I got it, although many perfectly healthy people, as we know, have not survived. Whatever the stars have chosen to toss at us, as far as DNA is concerned, seems to be how we react to this thing.

    And, yeah, I see so many conflicting stories about the good or bad of lockdown. Last I heard, some were touting Sweden’s success, and others (even Swedes) were saying they have a much higher rate of Covid deaths than its Scandinavian neighbors and there’s no indication that the economy fared better than many other countries. So it’s like he said/she said. Who do you believe? Another interesting thing I read, though, was that masks were never mandated and are not commonly worn. I found THAT interesting, because this idea of Covid particles hanging in the air in droplets, and you’re walking to the store, and you could walk right through it…..right? It’s terrifying. But what if they have THAT wrong too? Who to listen to, who to believe?

    I think you put it best: To experience it is to know pure cognitive dissonance.
    ‘Cause I have no idea WHAT to believe. But since my husband has adrenal insufficiency, I have to be careful all the time. And like you said, you understand those in the population with that issue and the measures they have to take. But as for others and democracy and freedom but being told what to do…….? I don’t know, Kev! I think when it comes to the possibility of death, most people are afraid and will pretty much do anything to keep it at bay. I guess all the Zen masters are having no problem with this, since they “die” on the mat when they sit and eventually lose their ego, and then your fear of death dissolves also. But obviously….none of us are Zen masters out here in the real world, lol !! I know I sure ain’t! Seriously, though. I would prefer getting it and kicking the bucket over being careless and giving it to hubby. I would never emotionally survive that if I killed him (by accident).

    And, no, the situation is not different here. Numbers, deaths, cases, Covid, Covid, Covid, every day in the news, all day, 24-7, until I think we really are all gonna kill each other or something ! ! !

    Hang in there !!!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Symptoms have stayed fairly uniform in the UK, Stace. Like you, I have somebody (my dad) that I take great care not to potentially infect, as he’s 92 and unfortunately ripe for becoming a fatality if he encounters the virus.
        I’ve got some good chunks of spare time in December, when I’m hoping to dig into some of the reams of information flying around, especially about the PCR tests. I read as much as I can about Cov-Sars2, and still stick with the line that we are not being told a truthful narrative. But it is really difficult to wade through situations where qualified medical experts tell differing stories.
        It was interesting to talk to my cousin Susan last week. Her father-in-law was stricken with dementia and cancer and died in a nursing home. His death certificate read ‘with Covid-19’, but the virus didn’t kill him. Sue (who’s a nurse) is married to a doctor, Paul, who kicked up an almighty stink at the death certificate, as he had watched the cancer run the full course.
        I wonder how many relatives of the official 53, 274 UK death toll ‘with Covid-19’ could tell similar stories?
        I’m knackered again tonight – ‘fraid it’s just another short message. 😫😫😫

        Liked by 1 person

  7. PS: As for personally knowing anyone with Covid, that’s changed a little. Still no one in our friend/family group in CA, that I’m aware of, had come in contact with it.

    But….a friend in NYC has experienced the Covid death of a close friend and also several other deaths of acquaintances.

    In Ohio, my friend’s older sister went to some kind of Trump-supported/attended wedding where no one was wearing masks. My friend went to visit her at her home later, before they knew she was infected. HE then got it, his MOTHER got it, and his sister, of course, had it and had spread it. My friend recovered very well; he was fine. I was surprised, because he’s no spring chicken AND he was an alcoholic, basically, until about three years ago, AND he’s not the healthiest: he smokes a lot. But he was fine.
    His mother, I think, did okay. I haven’t heard that she’s floundering or anything.
    But the sister had to be hospitalized, put on the ventilator, all that. Basically they thought each day she would not last to the next day. But evidently a few days ago, she began to recover. They took the ventilator out and it looks like she’s going to make it.

    That’s the extent of my passing six degrees of separation knowledge of/contact with the virus.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Yeah, I don’t like the sound of that. I’ve heard that too, from other sources, people dying from one thing but them highlighting the virus as the catalyst, so the numbers, the numbers…….
    but why?
    It’s baffling.
    At any rate, no worries, please rest up. Later, alligator.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hey, thanks, Kev. I have heard about hospitals receiving federal funds and the theory that it behooves them to claim “covid” whenever possible to assure receiving said funds. It’s hard to believe–or I’m probably in denial–that they would be perpetuating such wide-spread misinformation, but then again, $$ is the root of all evil. Some interesting thoughts with some pretty reliable backup sources in the link you provided. Definitely does not make me feel better. And I had to stop reading comments because of the antagonism against those who choose to wear masks. Calling people “sheeple” because they don’t want to necessarily die and/or be sick for a long time and/or pass it on to someone they love is just wrong. Saying, “I know my rights” and striding into a grocery story without a mask doesn’t seem mindful to me–regardless of what actually may be happening in the bigger picture, because it’s not in question that a more dangerous flu is circulating, so if you’re asymptomatic and breathing it out all over everyone else due to “your rights”…is that really okay? I do NOT understand the huge backlash against masks. In the end, what is the big deal? The rugged individualism that this country is so proud of definitely has backfired quite a bit lately. It’s amazing to me that the president got sick here and ONLY survived due to the super-expensive, super-privileged cocktail of drugs that he received. The average “rugged individualist” cowboy out here whose “rights” are being stomped on doesn’t seem to realize that they will not receive anything even remotely similar in a hospital to keep them alive.
    All that aside….it will be interesting in years to come to see how all of this pans out. I wonder what truths might emerge and what the consequences will be–if any. “If any” being key, right? I had a healthy dose of suspicion and wariness when it came to government to begin with, but now after the election, especially, any glimmer of faith I might have had has been shredded into raggedy strips. It’s fine. I guess we can’t really put our faith or belief in much except those we love. Nothing else is real.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Stace

      You make some good points – and I always appreciate anyone who uses the word ‘behooves’!

      Money underpins all evil? Most of it, I reckon. Hospitals may have turned higher profits. But the money that the pharma industry is poised to make from warp-speed vaccines is colossal.

      Not sure how US opinion lines up, but it has become clear in recent months that around a third of the UK population will say ‘no thanks’ to something that has been rolled out in less than 1/10 of the time it normally takes. If the vaccine is safe, then why have the drug producers demanded immunity from prosecution before releasing it? It’s an experimental RNA vaccine, with the potential (according to the producers themselves) to attack your auto-immune system.

      Yes, the antagonism against those who choose to wear masks is immature, juvenile, and a bit pathetic. I always wear a mask where it is mandatory: shops and public transport. Not because I think it works – jeez no. Simply because I don’t want other people panicking at my exposed face. (There are various jokes there, but I’ll skip them).

      I became convinced a long time back that masks have as much chance of stopping the miscroscopically tiny Sars-Cov 2 particles as a wire fence has of stopping a mosquito. But others don’t share that view, and I don’t want to frighten them. I walked past two people today who both pulled their masks up as they neared. No problem.

      My fear is for my son Rory. He works stacking shelves at a Chelmsford supermarket and wears a mask for the whole duration, with the odd break. I have listened to so many health professionals say that there is a serious risk of brain damage due to oxygen starvation and breathing in your own carbon dioxide. Even on a bus, I have to pull the thing away from my nose now and again to fill my lungs with unfiltered air.

      How will it all pan out? Maybe we ain’t seen nothing yet? Politics, pharma and money are huge forces, but the anti-lockdown protests erupting all over Europe, especially in Berlin, look equally potent.

      I see Newsom has you guys under curfew now.
      Wacky times, eh?


  10. Holy sh**! Demanded immunity from prosecution?! Omfg.
    I know “greed is good” but I’ve always had a special amazement and bone deep contempt for the ones that take advantage of people’s health. The pharmaceutical companies are like snake oil salesmen rolling into town and assuring dying people their concoction will make them healthy again. How do you live with yourself, exactly? Or is that nothing compared to the REAL depths of mind boggling uncaring and disregard for all but the material that people can go to?
    In the end, I guess human life–or any life at all–is only rare and special to certain Buddhists.
    Well, I would never say anything to someone without a mask in a store or give them the evil eye or anything. I seems like wearing one for 15 or 20 minutes won’t kill you, but….whatever. The fight for rights seemed a lot more clear-cut for people during the ’60s, I think, than now.
    As for the masks themselves and your son…..it’s another place with a lot of criss-crossing information, you know? I found an article from this place that says as long as the mask isn’t airtight, there’s no need for concern about carbon dioxide. They went on to say that surgeons substantial face coverings all day without endangering their health.
    And the masks themselves–I know, I feel the same way. This Covid particle is so tiny….I like the metaphor they used “like trying to stop mosquitoes from going through a chain link fence.” But it’s just a measure to HELP, not stop. To help stop, I guess. The invisible particles will get caught on threads and fibers and whatever else that’s in their way before they get into your mouth, whereas WITHOUT the mask, they’d just go right into your mouth. I guess this way, you have a 50-50 chance, maybe better. I don’t know the odds.

    I DID think it was completely ridiculous when I was taking that long walk one day that people wearing masks– all of us wearing masks– would cross the street rather than walk past me. I mean, we DO walk RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER over and over in the grocery store. But then again, who knows how other people are reacting? If they’re hysterical enough every time you walk past, I guess I’d cross the street too, just to avoid any kind of drama or minor hysteria.

    We. Are. In. Crazy. World. We have gone through the looking glass.
    Well, take care. Hope you have a nice weekend. I’m working both days. A bunch of rush work before Thanksgiving for us here next week. And yeah, I think we might get locked down again, starting tomorrow, Sunday. Eeeeeeesh.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. PS: I am in no way trying to *convince* you to change your point of view on masks (which I know wouldn’t happen anyway). I’m not happy about them either. Just throwing some other ideas out there that might help us not to not feel completely insane and/or played.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. And when I say wearing one for 15 minutes “won’t kill you” I mean the “royal you.”

    I’ve been working for two weeks straight without a day off. And there’s no booze in the house.

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It’s OT. I’m not really complaining about the work. I’m just trying to explain why I’m gibbering like an idiot in here, lol !! But thanks, Kev.


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