I'm in my late thirties these days – I'm 38 – so I guess I must have been to the pub maybe 4,000 times over the years, but even with that wealth of experience behind me, I struggled to cope with last night's events.
CDG and I were just sat in the corner of the garden. And very pleasant it was, too. The tables were ornate, their legs bowing under the weight of hundreds of small terracotta tiles, and the warm September air gave it all an almost Greek feel. I mentioned this to CDG and she sipped her pint, I think in agreement. I had just ripped open two bags of Sweet Chilli Kettle Chips when a man in a T-shirt approached carrying two pints of the good stuff and asked if we were using a certain chair. We were, of course, ever so obliging. We declared it free, and scraped it a few inches towards him as a sign of goodwill. That scrape, of cast-iron across concrete, went right through me. It was the death knell.
I think we had both assumed he had plans for the chair. We both thought he would scrape it further away. Scrape it over to friends. Scrape it somewhere quiet. Instead, he plonked his good stuff on the table, plopped his botty on the chair, and awaited his friends.
And it was friends. Over the next few minutes, another seven 23-year-olds came and joined him, the man in the T-shirt now orchestrating things from the inside. All we had done was scrape a chair towards him. Now he was conducting affairs as if he owned the place. The other two chairs around our table were generously offered up to more youngsters in more T-shirts, and when they were full, more 23-year-olds emerged and began scouting round for more chairs. These they scraped across the courtyard and attached to our table.
Only it wasn't our table any more. It was theirs.
As our corner became overrun, so CDG and I got pummelled from both sides. Our man in the T-shirt hadn't made any special efforts to explain to the group how CDG and myself fitted in to the narrative, and so most treated us either as old friends of his, or else didn't treat us as anything really, just bodies that had to be slid out of the way. I remember mentioning to CDG that a group this big should have been nowhere near a pub. As more of these sods waddled in and jostled us into the gaps between chairs, I explained that a group this size should have the foresight to hire a function room or book an area at a town hall or a field.
Everyone was now settled and CDG and I were pressed close together and aiming straight ahead as if watching a performance. And we were, in a way. A sick piece of site-specific theatre in which we were both audience and players. I watched as their young hands lit cigarettes and danced among my crisps. At one point, one floppy-haired chap – again with a T-shirt – put a paw on the handle of my pint. This was now the environment. No worries. I leaned in to him, moved his hair away from his ear and said quietly, "Get your hands off my beer, lad".
CDG went to make a phone call – fair enough, she has her life to lead, she doesn't need to be squeezed by 23-year-olds – and as she left, flesh and denim poured into the space where she had sat.
My pint was now in the hands of a big lad, and I accepted it was gone. I watched it disappear down his throat and I inhaled whatever smoke was going around and my eyes watered.
I coughed and asked people to move so I could escape the group. A girl moved her knees to her right and smiled. "Oh hi, I'm Flo," she said. Very pleasantly, in fact.
But it was too late for that. We'd been squeezed out. We had to find something new.Reuse content