AFTERNOON DELIGHT – A Tribute To Past Pleasures And The Reason Why Smoking Ban Is Good For Smokers
Everything’s coming to us too easily nowadays. The Great Beast that is consumerism needs feeding and as it gets hungrier and greedier the more we cave into its demands. We learn to take things for granted that we couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams only a few years before.
Something even I’ve learned to take for granted is sitting in the pub in the late afternoon. So much so that, up until putting pen to paper this very moment, I had forgotten what used to be involved if you wanted to have a hand pulled pint at that time of the day. A little rite of passage called The Afternoon Lock In. Because believe it or not, younger readers, all the pubs used to shut at 2:30 in the afternoon and didn’t open their doors again until 7:00 in the evening.
Now don’t get me wrong; the Late Night Lock In is fine, supping away after the midnight hour. But it is not a patch on its more clandestine and now sadly defunct cousin. To enjoy the after hours variety of illicit drinking, all you generally had to do was sit quietly and look like not too much of a trouble maker and you probably wouldn’t be kicked out after the tills were switched off with the drawers left open.
The Afternoon Lock In was altogether a different animal. Not just anyone got to sit in at one of these. You had to know the landlord well, or at the very least know someone who knew the landlord well. You had to be vetted, vouched for and welcomed quietly to the fold. Believable excuses had to be made for you staying in the building as the rest of the hoi poloi were being ejected. Pretences had to be metaphorically unfurled and eye proof curtains discreetly drawn across the actual windows of the pub. Then the ritual began.
There you all sat, like a group of anarchists plotting to dismantle the apparatus of the state. Everything developed a sort of dreamy quality that wasn’t entirely to do with your previous booze consumption. The same beer you’d been consuming just an hour before suddenly had more of a satisfying twang to it and the company was closer and more convivial. The afternoon sunshine peeking around the edges of the drapes took on a more golden quality.
You were lords of the world, like some secret parliament passing judgement on everything and putting all to rights. The world and his wife were not tucked up in their beds, but walking past mere feet away, and there you were flouting the law, albeit a law no one cared about too much. Or rather the only people who did care would probably have all the pubs closed on a permanent basis anyway.
I like being free to just nip out for a pint at three on a fine summer day- last orders used to be two thirty- but like all freedoms, it comes at a price. No longer can you feel like some sort of renegade without having to leave the comfort of your barstool. Until now.
Then the Government, bless ’em, introduced the smoking ban. So now the night time lock in is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance, despite the same government allowing 24 hour drinking. The towels are going over the pumps at the traditional time and the little waiting game begins. Once the hopefuls are selected, out come the glasses of soda water to serve as makeshift ashtrays and the puffing begins.
And my lord those cigarettes taste like little paper tubes of shredded triumph. You inhale little clouds of victory, make them part of yourself and you are an anarchist once more. At least until the morning. Then you’re just a bloke with a smoker’s cough and a really bad hangover.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013