COLUMN: December 6, 2018

What it looks like inside a pub

OCCASIONALLY, when the planets align and my shift pattern allows it, I go out for a midweek drink with three colleagues.

I do not want you to think that these are evenings of debauchery – far from it, although once we got pizza and one of us (me) burped over his Pepsi and didn’t even say “excuse me”.

In fact I have come to appreciate their sedate nature, nights of sitting down and becoming gently sozzled while working out where the worlds of politics and the media have gone so very wrong. They are about as far away from the sort of night out a normal 21-year-old would enjoy that you could imagine.

“Where should we go for our night out?” I asked in our online chat group.We have a group solely concerned with making arrangements for our bi-monthly night out, even though we sit so close to each other in the office that we could hit each other with a paper aeroplane built with little skill.

These arrangements make the Brexit negotiations look like a piece of cake,though not one we can eat and still have, because four adults with responsibilities and mortgages and shoes cannot just decide to do something.

This is the reason I knew that, when the Brexit head-the-balls, with their men-of-the-people-I-might-be-a-toff-but-I-know-what-you-salt-of-the-earth-gorblimey-trousers-sorts-want shtick and their hedge funds, were waltzing around two years ago saying, “Oh, it’ll be the easiest deal ever, we don’t even have to do the reading, we can just turn up in our pants”, they were talking absolute nonsense.

Because if four people take the best part of a week to come up with a mutually satisfactory date, time, and location for a night out, then Brexit was always doomed to failure. You might as well tell the tide to get on with it.

Anyway,the answer to “Where should we go for our night out?” turned out to be “I thought we might go to that cool quarter where they have the sort of night out that normal 21-year-olds enjoy”.

I was sceptical. But nobody else raised any objections, and I thought,“Well, life is about taking risks, otherwise you might as well be dead, so I suppose I should do this”, which gives you a sense of what it’s like to go on a night out with me.

We met in a quiet pub on the tepid outskirts of the cool quarter. We were the only customers. I tossed a gag grenade at the barman about it being Bedlam in there that night, but he wasn’t having it. We drank up and entered the cool quarter.

That was also quiet, with hints of off-season seaside resort and dripping tarpaulin. A wet wind lashed us. “Why is it so deserted?” I asked. It looked like a science-fiction film in which the population had mysteriously vanished.

“They’ll be inside,” one colleague said, “on account of the wet and windy conditions.”

They weren’t. We entered a bar about the size of half a football pitch with a dozen customers and sat down with our drinks until a man with a guitar and a microphone made it intolerable to stay.

We went into another bar, and entered another sort of middle-aged nightout. There was a group of women dancing to Dancing Queen between the entrance and the bar.

There are only two ways to get through a group of women dancing to Dancing Queen. One is a sort of awkward shuffle around them, the choice of my colleagues, the other is to indulge in some fancy footwork.

I am no dancer. Sober me has come to terms with this fact. Mildly sozzled me will never accept this.

So I strutted through them, because I had had two drinks, and straight into the gents’ toilets, because I had had two drinks. “Got away with that,” I thought, as I washed my hands.

I went to rejoin my friends, this time on the right side of the dancing women.

But they had vanished, deciding amongst themselves that this was not the place for them. They had abandoned me, the weakest antelope among lionesses.

“You’re dancing with us now,” the alpha female said.

And so I was forced to dance with the women, in the manner a normal 21-year-old would enjoy, until I was able to manoeuvre myself into a position to Moonwalk out of the bar and to safety.

It was thoroughly humiliating. Like Brexit.

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