A Man Walks into a Pub

Last Friday I went to my April Book Club meeting. I haven’t talked about Book Club on this blog because, well, the first rule of Book Club…

Anyway, this month was The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne, and if you haven’t read it, you should. I warn you, about halfway through I was tempted to fling the book across the room because the main character did something I couldn’t abide, and I lost all respect for him. If that happens to you, I encourage you to persevere. You’ll thank me. If, on the other hand, it doesn’t bother you at all, you’ll have to make your own peace with that.

But that’s not important. I want to talk about how I got there.

It was a lovely, sunny day, and the pubs had recently begun serving again (outside only) so we no longer had to meet over Zoom and were, instead, meeting at The Greet Inn in Warnham, about two and a half miles from my flat, so I thought I’d walk.

A lovely day for a walk

The first half mile of the mini-trek—from my flat to the Nature Reserve—is the worst bit, so it was good to get it over with up front. The road is busy and getting busier and, if the Council has their way, will become busier yet. But it didn’t take me long to reach the relative quiet of the Nature Reserve and the peace and tranquillity of the golf course just beyond.

The golf course was lovely, expansive, green and serene, with a path running along the verge—well away from the danger of flying golf balls—near the bank of the Arun River. The only niggle was the knowledge that the Council is planning to concrete it over and cram it full of cheap, substandard housing, so they and their cronies can line their pockets. The residents of the town are raising an almighty hoo-hah over this proposal, but the Council has a history of ignoring residential hoo-hahs, especially when there is money to be made.

What the golf course looks like now . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . What the Council wants it to look like.

But those were thoughts for another day. I ushered them aside and concentrated on enjoying the nature that was there now. I followed the trail around a crystal lake (a big pond, really) and found myself on the trail to the underpass that would lead me to the other side of the ultra-busy A24, where Warnham was. The sun was very warm by now, the air was still, the birds were chirping, and it was ever so peaceful. I could just about—

“ARMED POLICE!!!!”

Put your hands up and drop your liberal, bunny-hugger opinions!

I’ve been watching a lot of Line of Duty so I know what that means. I was so shocked I didn’t even think to raise my hands, something that, in America, would have seen me shot on the spot. Instead, I looked behind me, expecting to see a dozen black-clad swat-cops leaping from the undergrowth, pointing laser-guided assault weapons at me. And I couldn’t imagine why.

Had I committed some unknown offense? Perhaps I had crossed the golf course without having donned the requisite style of clownish golf trousers. Or maybe they were Government agents, sent to stop me from making any more cynical references to the clown in Number 10. Or perhaps it was something closer to home, the Council sensing that I was enjoying the golf course for what it was, instead of gleefully imagining it covered in Soviet-style architecture.

Clownish Golfer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Clownish Tosser

Nothing, however, happened. Then there was the unmistakable sound of a door being bashed in and the yelling and shouting one generally associates with a forced entry (told you I’ve been watching too much Line of Duty). That’s when I realized it was my phone.

Somehow, my phone, in my shirt pocket, had turned itself on, opened my news-feed, navigated to a story about a police raid and started the video accompanying said article. I’m not sure I could do that myself, so I can’t understand how my phone did it all by itself.

I didn’t stop to ponder this, I was just relieved I wasn’t being hustled into a police van.

The remainder of the walk continued without incident. I wasn’t even mugged by a deer when I followed the footpath through a deer park. And deer can be fairly cranky.

I arrived at the pub and—after being indoctrinated on which door to enter by, leave by and never, under any circumstances, touch, and where to sit and how to order and what to do about the bill and the procedure for registering my visit with the NHS Track and Trace System —was served a pint of beer. (Up until then, it never occurred to me how much admin a pandemic requires.)

Nearly there.

At my table, just at the edge of the outdoor seating area, the sun shone on my back, the birds chirped soothingly in the background and around me was the gentle hum of conversation. I lifted the pint of Harvey’s—the first I had enjoyed in many a month—and took a sip. It was soothing, satisfying, and serene.

But I checked to make sure my phone was turned off, just in case.

Serenity at last.