Lockdown Is Easing, As Long As You Like A Pint by Tom Beasley

By the time you read this, the government will have deemed it safe for you to go back to the pub. I’m writing this in the dying days of June, after the prime minister announced that a raft of entertainment venues would be able to open from 4th July. It’s a date no doubt chosen for the deluge of “Super Saturday” headlines that, by the time you read this, will have almost certainly greeted the big day, with pints of golden beer undoubtedly gracing most of the front pages. There were probably a few charming images of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel “Man of the People” Johnson grinning while holding a lager as well.

I’m predicting the future here, so I apologise if our nation’s press were on more modest form, but I suspect I’m at least close to being on the money.

The pub is truly emblematic in British culture – and has been so when it comes to our current, virus-induced predicament. Lockdown never truly took hold for many until the taps were officially covered up and, now that they’re flowing again, the general perception seems to be that lockdown is done. Last week, as I write this, tens of thousands of people essentially shut down the entire county of Dorset in their desperation to flock to the seaside, social distancing be damned. It’s certainly difficult to imagine the patrons of a Wetherspoons on a balmy Saturday night in July maintaining “one metre plus” distance when the bell sounds for last orders at eleven.

This could easily become an excuse to shame people whose first instinct at lockdown easing is to flock to the beach or to the pub, but that would be wrong. The people of the UK have, for the most part, abided by some pretty stringent restrictions on our personal freedom over the last few months. Imagine telling people a year ago that we’d have spent most of 2020 queueing for 45 minutes to buy bread and milk or that face masks would be a common sight on British streets. But we’ve done it. The overwhelming majority of us swallowed our selfishness, put the greater good first and played by the rules.

And now, we’re being told that the tide is turning. The rhetoric for the last few weeks has been that we’re beating the virus and that things are slowly easing back into an approximation of normal. No one could be blamed for celebrating and cracking open a bottle of plonk at that joyous news.

But sadly, that “new normal” we’ve been hearing so much about is entirely economic. We are now able to visit pubs, restaurants, cinemas, barber shops, car showrooms, zoos, garden centres and even model villages for some reason, but human contact with those closest to us is conspicuous by its absence. I can go and take a look at a miniature cathedral somewhere in Buckinghamshire, but I can’t hug my family, whom I haven’t seen outside of a Zoom window since the middle of March.

The easing of the lockdown has focused squarely on the economic instead of the personal. We have been told to use our “common sense” in unpicking the new rules and, with the greatest of respect to the prime minister, that sounds a lot like someone shirking their responsibilities and looking to shift blame from the state to the individual. Suddenly, working out whether you can hug your grandmother is like a game of 3D chess in which you presumably also have to consult star charts, tarot cards and carry out pagan sacrificial rituals, while permanently wielding a metre-long ruler to make sure everyone keeps their distance.

You can, however, order a pint on a Saturday night while watching a crowd-free football match on telly, standing a metre away from your friends. You win some, you lose some.

© 2020 Tom Beasley

Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist living just outside London and originally from Coventry. He can be reached at tomjbeasley@gmail.com.