Pain. And Seeing Dear Friends.

“The New Normal”.

The first time I heard that phrase was near the end of 2016. From the mouth of a wise young man. My eldest. (Don’t tell him I said that….)


It was a family conversation. One of a type that I hope none of you ever have. It was a conversation about returning to some form of routine (normality if you like). Following our youngest taking his own life.

“We’ll never go back to normal. For us, this is a new normal”

That he realised THAT so early in the grief process, hit me like a train. And I nearly broke. Something that I couldn’t do, couldn’t allow.

Such profundity of grief teaches you some hard lessons about priorities. The primary one – for me – was that people matter. “Things” and money don’t. Keeping friends and family close. THAT’S important. And I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. My light and my path.

Every time that I see – or hear – that ******* phrase hits me like a tiny shock. Inwardly shed a tear.

That phrase – as far as I’m concerned – can get in the sea. And swim until it can’t see land.

For somebody who – with decreasing frequency – writes about pubs, I’d be lying if I said I missed them. What – no, not what, but who – I’ve missed is the people I meet in them. My friends, both my drinking companions and the people who own these little temples of happiness.

Fortunately, last weekend, several of us managed to – in a “socially distanced” manner – meet up. At Marble Brewtap. Just for a few hours. And it felt like my own little acre of paradise. Laughing, joking. Resisting the overwhelming urge to hug them all. Flesh and blood, not pixels in one of many little boxes on a laptop. Like some hi-tech “Celebrity Squares”.

And table service. It felt like the first time I went in a pub in Belfast, 30 years ago. When I started for the bar. And TLOs uncle held my arm and told me to sit down. And one of the staff came to take my order. It freaked me then. But last weekend? It felt like going backwards into the immediate future. And it made perfect sense.

Before lockdown, I’d never taken part in a video meeting. Well, that’s not quite true…… But that’s another – rather embarrassing – story. But my dear beer friends resolved to keep in touch weekly. On Google Hangouts initially, then Zoom. And in that initial conversation, we agreed on one thing.

That – when safe to do so – the first pub we wanted to go in, was The Marble Arch. For Sunday Lunch. So, today, I booked. For Sunday 9th August. My first pub visit. Since February.

I can wait.

Keep your friends and family close.

Be kind to one another.

Distanced hugs. Jx