It didn’t quite feel right that Freedom Day came while infection was rising; but enough is enough. People have had enough, the economy has had enough. People need to go back to work, businesses need to function at full capacity. So many people’s livelihood depends on hospitality being open.
What follows is a quick survey of Freedom Day on Monday July 19th in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.
My day of activities started with a visit to the hairdresser (number one clipped back & sides and scissor-cut top shown in photo). Freedom came on a boiling hot day. It was a good day to ditch the face mask, and it was good to talk to my hairdresser with no plastic or paper barrier.
I felt it fitting to have my first Freedom Day drink at Wetherspoons. The pub chain was well placed to handle the Covid crisis as it unfolded, with it’s table service app already up and running.
For a few months last year I was in gainful employment and often taking lunch at Wetherspoons: remember the “Eat Out to Help Out” campaign? This was the first time I’d used an app to order food and drink, and I’d certainly never paid for a pint of beer with a credit card. That’s the sort of thing a student would do. Fiddly though it is, I got used to integrating my pub visits with ordering and paying on my mobile phone, and of course, other pubs quickly carried on the pioneering work of Wetherspoons.
Today though, I was glad to be able to walk up to the bar in the British way and buy a drink from a real barmaid using real money.
The forty minutes spent with my pint of Portobello Star was pleasant, if uneventful. It just felt normal
My wife joined me in the evening for dinner at Pizza Express. This was also pretty uneventful. I hadn’t booked a table, and I wasn’t sure we’d get in. As it happened there were few people around. The place was nearly empty.
It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to drink sparkling wine at Pizza Express. I’ve always thought of prosecco as wine for people who don’t like wine, but as neither of us like very dry wine it suits us. It goes down very easily. Too easily. An alcopop for adus.
The Black Lion
By the time we’d settled at the Black Lion I was wilting and only managed a single pint of beer before tiredness set in. It was good being able to pay in cash again. Again, the pub was deathly quiet. Nothing like the Freedom Day celebrations BBC News showed in London and Manchester. Leighton Buzzard’s a small town, but I expected more excitement, more people on the streets.
The Future is Here
Since the end of the last lockdown I’ve noticed fewer people out eating and drinking, certainly in the smaller towns I’ve been frequenting. There are clearly people scared to venture out, and Freedom Day won’t give such people much confidence, especially as infection figures are rising.
Some practices will change. I anticipate table service in many pubs to continue as an option, and using apps to order will probably remain an option too. Sensible table spacing might continue. Sanitiser should continue. I expect many people will be more health and hygiene-minded: hopefully this will involve more people washing their hands after visiting the toilet, and a more solicitous cleaning regime, and supply of soap and bog roll. Many people are still wearing masks, and this could be the sole reminder of the pandemic going forward. Hopefully, things will pick up for the hospitality industry. I’m trying to do my best, on a pint by pint basis.