On the short walk from the station I suddenly remembered that the pub would have by now undergone a much heralded makeover. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” muttered Terry, while I, ever the optimist, expressed my faith that refurb in this case would most likely involve a lick of paint, nothing more.
As we walked in to the pub however we received a rather rude shock.
Not only had the place undergone a cosmetic makeover that had transformed it from cosy, country pub into trendy corporate gastro, but inside all hell had let loose. It was like walking through the saloon doors of a bar in Dodge city.
And the cause of this commotion? Well the barflies were behaving themselves, admirably resisting the temptation to smash the bar stools over each other’s heads. Even the bloke with the tattoos was for once not conducting menacing enquiries into who had spilled his pint. In fact the regulars all seemed a little subdued. Something was not quite right here.
Our beloved pub, our oasis of calm, our place of rumination and reflection, the place we would go for a quiet pint and a natter had become a kindergarten! The old place was positively overflowing with screaming infants and their fussing parents. Squashed French fries littered the floors, high-chairs adorned the tables, tomato ketchup smeared the tables. We stood frozen for a moment.
I sought the sanctuary of the toilets not because I needed to go, but I needed time to think. Taking a deep breath, I zipped across to the loos and breathed a huge sigh of relief as I closed the door on the din outside. Phew! I had made it. Peace at last. But as with any good horror flick worth its salt there was to be a sting in the tale of this family friendly nightmare.
No sooner had I steadied myself at my favourite urinal (guys will know what I mean) when I looked over my shoulder – as one does at the urinal – only to be met by a grinning new-age father who was using the newly installed baby-changing facilities! Agh!!!!
Meanwhile the noise in the bar was reaching a crescendo. Knives and forks were beating on tables, toddlers were crying as mummy and daddy coaxed them into eating their fish fingers. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in a school canteen rather than the public bar of a once tranquil suburban pub.
In what used to be the bar snug, goo-eyed parents were zig-zagging around the pub chasing after their tottering infants, before scooping them up in a flurry of giggles. I came out of the loo automatically scanning the floors just in case the pub had, in its family-friendly zeal , provided some Fisher Price toys for us second-class adults to break our necks on.
So where can adults go to escape this never ending torrent of the child-friendly society? Don’t get me wrong I don’t have a problem with children, why I used to be one myself a while ago, but surely those of us who do not go all goo-eyed and goofy at the merest site of a babbling baby should at least be able to relieve ourselves in peace without running the risk of having a steaming nappy thrust under our innocent gaze?
In the old days adults could go into a pub and just be...well, adults unencumbered by high-chairs, buggies, feeding bottles and nappies. it was a space in which adults could drink, smoke (pre-ban) tell dirty jokes, get tipsy, laugh raucously, dance on tables, swing from chandeliers, berate the government...okay, so perhaps that’s stretching credulity too far - who wants to talk politics in the pub?
But above all it was a place where one could enjoy a pint and a chat, preferably quietly. Any signs of crying, shrieking, yelling, crawling, vomiting or soiling one’s pants – were activities quite rightly reserved for the car park after last orders.
It’s not the kids. It’s the parents. There’s a whole generation of parents out there – so called helicopter parents – who preen, cajole, worship and indulge their offspring’s every whim in the mistaken belief that this is the correct way to bring up well-rounded, decent children.
They even break out in anxiety rashes if they are separated for more than a minute from their offspring. These misguided souls smother their children with devotion making them the centre of their own little universes then wonder why these children turn into spoilt brats in later life - spoilt brats who ironically often come to resent their overweening parents.
Fine, go ahead strap your child to your anatomy while you do the hovering if you must. Record its every move on CCTV. Write a gushing baby-blog on the Internet. But please let us have one place of refuge on this planet where the rest of us can have at least a modicum of peace and quiet.
After all there are plenty of places specifically engineered for you and your offspring: parks, swimming pools, public libraries, Ryanair flights - so why pitch up at my local pub?
Terry and I never did manage to get our quiet pint. We also somewhat reluctantly decided to miss our regular Saturday night pint, but we understand the Goldilocks reading and glasses of warm milk went down a storm.