On our return, slightly knackered, from London, we nonetheless felt we had to take part in so-called "Freedom Day". A quick trip to the Rose of Lancaster was therefore decided upon. For the first time in what seemed forever, we walked into the pub and straight to the bar - well, I say straight - we had to pause for a brief hug from the landlord on the way. We ordered our drinks and then had the choice of where to sit. Yes. Our choice. Anywhere we liked in the pub or beer garden. As our preferred seats within were taken, we went outside in the sunshine and chose a suitable place. Lovely. And back to cask too with JW Lees latest seasonal, Sail Away which was pale, golden, hoppy and served correctly - I imagine - I didn't have either means or, importantly, the need to check it - at a cellar cool 12C.
And that was it until Friday when I had a couple of pints of the same beer in another of my locals, the Ring O'Bells. No need to check in, regulars chatting at the bar and mingling, with an atmosphere which felt liberated. It was most enjoyable.
Not to labour the point - but I will - in Chris and Michelle's other pub, the Fox and Pine, the same scene was played out, with people nipping round tables to chat and seat hopping as often happens when everyone knows each other.
On Sunday, my return to the Tandle Hill Tavern. It wasn't at its busiest, but again we had normality. Our table was full enough, and it was a pleasure just to be there with my friends. Going up to the bar for drinks and mixing with others seemed so natural again. It was so good to be back to normal and thankfully there, as in other places mentioned, it just felt "right" after that first visit to the bar.
Now what about that there Covid 19 and being sensible, I hear you ask? Well, the pubs I drink in tend to have an older clientele. I doubt if many weren't double vaccinated. Yes, we mixed briefly with other people and tables, but each pub was totally well ventilated, and we all felt secure enough. Anyway, as someone once said "If not now, when?" That double vaccine isn't for nothing.
Did I feel I was taking a big chance? No. Did I miss being masked up, signing in, being told where to sit? No. Did I miss table service? Not on your Nelly. As my good friend Retired Martin says here, The Bar is the Heart of the Pub. You bet it is.
Now, I know not everyone will feel as at ease as I did above. I very much respect that. I am reasonably healthy and willing to make my own judgements, which may differ from yours and may even change over time. This still needs care.
Another thing. Not once, in any of the pubs, did I think the cask might be a bit iffy. And none of it was.