I am getting grumpier with age yet also more sentimental; you’d have thought the two were mutually exclusive. I found lockdown made my life somewhat easier to manage and now, with options having been limited for so long, their proliferation is befuddling. Early on Saturday evening, having ballsed up the timings of various comings and goings, I opted out entirely for 15 minutes and went and sat in my local, enjoying a pint and a measure of light moroseness.
One by one, group by group, the place got busier. Each new entrance was the same: a look around for a familiar face, followed by a light of recognition and a very 2021 awkward pantomime of greeting.
Nothing was straightforward; no two people seemed to be operating the same policy. If one offered a handshake, the other was only up for a fist bump. Huggers came up against bemasked non-co-operation, elbows and kisses missed their targets. To have called ahead and agreed some protocols might have been ideal. It was somewhat excruciating to watch.
Or it would have been if the embarrassment of misjudged greetings hadn’t quickly given away to the same look in everyone’s eyes. They were looks that said: It really is wonderful to see you; I didn’t realise how much I’d missed you. It reminded me of nothing so much as the closing airport arrivals scene of Love Actually. It was moving to witness.
I never thought of pub-going as a spectator sport, but just now there is something to be said for it. Get in there soon to see for yourself and give yourself a bit of a lift. You don’t even need to drink anything to enjoy the sight of people properly appreciating each other. Don’t delay, though. These displays will only be available for a few more weeks before we all start taking each other for granted again.
Adrian Chiles is a broadcaster, writer and Guardian columnist