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Slowly Zooming Into The New Normal....

April 2020 has been one of the strangest months any of us can remember, and in navigating through it, different things have become the norm to which we are having to get accustomed....
The face of Britain's streets, Spring 2020
Little over a month ago, a photo like the one above, taken in Brighouse town centre on a midweek late afternoon in early April, would have been unthinkable. No people, no traffic, pubs shut, businesses mainly closed. Likewise, the picture below, taken on my kitchen work surface last weekend, would have also not been possible a few weeks ago. As a regular pub-goer, I simply would have not have been able to muster a line-up like this from the limited stock of oddball drinks - with the exception of a decent port - that I had lying around in the house because, with very few exceptions, if I wanted a drink, I went out. If I stayed in, I didn't bother.
April 2020 drinks at home squad
Of course, as we all know, things have changed. And for so many of us, we have had to adapt our lifestyles to fit the new normal. Some, like one of my brothers, have decided to use the closure of pubs as a time to cut out the beer, meanwhile some of us, whilst not fully embracing the current situation, have patted it tentatively on its shoulders. Some have gone at it full pace, their regular morning clatterings into the recycle bins an increasingly familiar sound across many a neighbourhood.

And for those of us who have looked around, it is possible to get some pretty decent beer delivered to your home. I had a bumper week last week, managing to get hold of a 5 litre keg of Jarl from Fyne Ales, plus a case of mixed cans from Arbor, both delivered without any issue from their breweries in Inverary and Bristol respectively. This week I have done as well, with near enough next day deliveries from Tempest Brewing in Tweedbank with 5 litres of Vermont Sessions IPA and Barry at Crafty Fox in Brighouse with an excellent mixed can selection. More and more breweries, having had time to assess the situation, have begun to brew again, aiming at the drink at home market, with the likelihood of pubs opening again being months away. In fact I heard of one brewery who have now decided to bring forward investing in their own canning line rather than continuing to contract out due to the huge upsurge in demand they have had since the lockdown. Some breweries, such as Elland, Ossett, and Nightjar are also offering a drive-through collection service. And with several pubs and bars now operating or looking to offer a delivery service there is now no longer any need to rely on the whims of the supermarkets or your standard off-licence for a drink at home. Enterprise and initiative will usually find a way around a tricky situation.

And so as we negotiate our way through the new normal, week 6, I think it is now, how much will Covid-19 impact on our future lives? It is hard to see us going back completely to the frenetic world of only a few weeks ago, with its clogged roads, crowded spaces, and pressing deadlines. For those who have lost loved ones, or their livelihoods, the consequences of the last few weeks will remain for a long time. For those who are on furlough, or are in an industry such as hospitality where there is massive uncertainty over what kind of future is coming up, it is a very worrying time. And for others, daily lives disrupted, like it or not, the lockdown has given many of us time to reflect, to re-connect to our families, our roots, and to nature, and the chances are that some, even after such a short time, will be reluctant to go back to the old way of living again. Who knows, some of those working at home may have their Major Tom moment and go AWOL as in the song.
Time to appreciate the world around us
For many people, working from home has become part of the new normal. Yes, communication is more difficult without the chance to physically pop over and explain face to face, but technology has by and large risen to the challenge, with Skype, Zoom, and the like all playing a part. Employers are no doubt thinking why pay for expensive workspaces when people can quite easily work from their homes. Employees are enjoying the extra time they gain by not having to commute, the money they are saving in fuel costs and clothes - fashion chain Boohoo have recently said that there has been a switch in their sales from clothes for going out to jogging bottoms and smart tops, presumably for those video calls into work.
Remember when their doors used to open?
We are in uncharted waters here. We can only speculate how long we are going to have to spend time in lockdown. And back to the pubs we love, when are they going to be open in the way they used to be with social distancing ongoing for the foreseeable future? We just don't know. It could be months yet, for those that survive this enforced inaction. And for those that do, what about those customers? In the months away, will they all go back? The ease with which excellent drinks have now become pretty readily available will no doubt persuade a reasonable number, particularly on a cold winter's night, that they may as well stay in. Some of those who have previously shunned home drinking will be converted.

And yet, I don't think I'll be one of them. Despite the implications of excess above, I don't fundamentally drink a lot or enjoy drinking at home. And I miss the pub. I really do. We are essentially social creatures. The joy of sharing time together, the spontaneity of banter, the infectiousness of laughter, the chance to share some private conversation over a couple of drinks, a handshake or a hug, all are what we are missing now. We can live so much of our lives online, but it only goes so far. That said, I have had a lot of pleasure joining in on the Zoom meet-ups and events at The Grayston Bear - the virtual pub set up as lockdown arrived by Michael Ainsworth from The Grayston Unity and Meandering Bear in Halifax (who incidentally are looking to offer a home delivery service soon). Ultimately, though, the shared time amongst the Celebrity Squares-type boxes on Zoom is not a long term substitute for real world contact.
My whole world went Zoom...
Which is why we are in uncharted waters. The damage and changes that Covid-19 has already wrought will continue to have a lasting impact on the social and economic structures we have all grown up with, long after the last confirmed case has finally become a distant memory.

And like it or not, it looks like the new normal is going to be the normal for some time to come....

Follow me on twitter:  @realalemusic


  1. That's a lovely, intelligent piece, Chris.

    I guessed you were someone who preferred the pubs to cans at home, just as you can't completely replace live gigs with a HiFi.

    Like your brother I've stayed completely off the beer at home, and I haven't missed it at all. I don't feel virtuous, it just confirms why it's about pubs for me.

    Stay safe 👍

    1. Thanks, Martin. Very much right there, I'd rather be at a pub than having a drink at home! And I do miss live music as well!


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