It was the laugh that did it.
Hard, explosive, lacking in mirth, more of a shriek. Heavily influenced by an intake of drink, the sort of laugh you hear in pubs. But we were in a pub and wasn't that strange? After all these months.
Not exactly "in" the pub, in a courtyard outside, the low sun beaming straight into my eyes making it hard to read the menu. The Old Spot, deep in rural Gloucestershire, I know not where, (my daughter had driven us) is a gastropub and we were five: daughter, spouse, their son, VR and your humble servant.
Five! How long had VR and I been simply two, rattling round our four-bedroom house, ordering food via computer, reading, being silent towards each other, losing our temper, talking obsessively to neighbours whose names we still didn't know on brief excursions to pick up the paper.
And now this scorching sense of community. The best sort, of the family if not of the whole family. Seventy miles away, just audible on the phone against the treble roar of another pub, came the voice of elder daughter, celebrating her own birthday – at an incredibly advanced age which, a few years ago, would have had her close to retirement. Hard to believe.
A daughter who'd grown up and beyond. I scanned the menu and ordered pork belly because it came with spring onions. VR, recognising a long established vow, chose battered cod "with chips, there must be chips". Beer there was, inevitably, with a large glass of sauv. blanc for VR. Pop for grandson Zach. Daughter and spouse, silhouettes against the sun, chatting amiably. Noise and animation at other tables. Yet another of those laughs.
After months of isolation the times, as Hamlet had opined, were out of joint. Correction! The times had been out of joint, now they were re-jointed, fused, coalesced, to bring about this vibrant assembly.
The talk between and around us was probably without meaning but it was suffused with happiness. And at 85 I was not too old to absorb this, straining to capture the tiniest sliver of what I was experiencing.
The event had started more quietly. Mid-afternoon we drove over to the tiny disconnected village of Brand Green to lie back on generous couches and soak up the details of a living room we hadn’t seen since Spring the previous year. Walls newly painted, mantelpiece decorated for the season, Reggae the murderous cat killing a small mammal at the edge of the lawn. The conversation was slow, even ponderous, as if there was too much to take in.
Beer was served. I realised this would dull the longed-for moment of the first pub pint, still an hour or two away. But this was more important, a partial unification of the family, it deserved a celebration. We agonised about the villa in France, would we make it this year? And if we did, we would do this and do that…. Wouldn’t we? Say yes.
Then it was time to leave.
PS: More than 300 words but this was a rare occasion.
I'm happy you were able to have this beautiful time with at least some of your immediate family. I appreciate the extra words required to share it graciously.ReplyDelete
As for pop, that's what we call it in Indiana where I grew up. When I moved to New York State I had to start calling it "soda." Now, in Florida, I'm not sure what they call it even though I've been down here for 7 years.
Colette: Strangely there was banter about that very subject as the orders was taken. Zach had asked for some specific soft drink. Possibly in an attempt to disguise the fact that the pub hadn't got it the waiter (I think the proprietor) said "That will go down as pop". We all laughed even though it wasn't especially funny. Fact is, we did a lot of laughing.Delete
It's so lovely that you and your family were able to get together and enjoy a meal in each other's company. We hope to be able to do that soon with Roger's daughter and her family. It may almost feel like life is returning to some semblance of normal.ReplyDelete
robin andrea: When it does happen keep your eyes and ears open for what you didn't expect. That way your memory will be more authentic.Delete
Really happy for you! We're not quite there yet, but it's coming. When I see friends around our dinner table again, I'll probably cry.ReplyDelete
Cassandra: But it will be that special kind of crying: snuffly, mixed up with inappropriate apologies (Who would ever object to someone crying?), an excess of fluids from different sources on your cheeks. You'll imagine you "look a mess" but you'll simply be confirming you're human.Delete
Your post is suffused with happy contentment RR. It really was, similarly, a joy to read.ReplyDelete
Hopefully "the times they are a-changing"
Avus: Things I didn't feel: any shred of triumph or even of relief. Simply an affirmation of my existence in which good and bad - the inevitables of living - mingled and might well have cooked up into a decent sort of ragout. If there'd been a nearby oven. I lived - quite happily it seemed - and there was every chance I might think.ReplyDelete
How nice for you. Let's hope this will last.ReplyDelete
Sabine: Just a bit stronger than nice, I'd say.Delete
Test TR from VR's laptop.ReplyDelete
Tears filled my eyes, because as you were in the pub we were entertaining our son, wife, the grand in our backyard for the first time since February 2020. We had seen them for the grand's birthday in October---you are only 8 once.ReplyDelete
We hugged Sunday in the greenhouse while watering plants, in the front yard while looking at tulips, in the house over a glass of ice tea. We ordered pizza (Chicago's best) and laughed. And, tears came to my eyes as you described the laughter and sipped your pint...Oh, joy...to see family! Hugs, Sandi
Sandi: I've read other accounts of families meeting up post lockdown - especially in The Guardian - and felt secretly they sounded overblown. But no, they weren't. None of us went as far as tears - we are after all Brits - but in our snail-like way I think we all sensed the unique quality of belonging to a family, the comparatively new family created by a marriage.Delete
We were of course surrounded by people we didn't know. Sometimes that can lead to irritation; the laugh I mentioned was not a pleasant laugh but was typical of a pub gathering. Nevertheless, as I looked around there was no doubt that, like us, everyone was sharing the same warmth, the same release. An unexpected affirmation of life itself if you like