Over the past 16 months, many things in our society have changed: we stayed at home, we baked, we zoomed, we tutted at people enjoying green spaces, we seamlessly slid ‘lockdown’, ‘pandemic’ and ‘social distancing’ into our vocabularies. But one thing that has stayed absolutely, stubbornly, admirably the same is the British public’s dedication to a Big Night Out.
Forget Shakespeare, Constable, the Beatles, our true culture is best embodied by our seemingly primal urge to drink to excess, scream the lyrics to cheesy 80s music and generally make a tit of ourselves on the dancefloor.
So, doing my patriotic duty, I found myself queueing to get into a bar at 12.01 this morning alongside old timers, first timers, at least one Tory backbencher and, inexplicably, a Boris Johnson lookalike flanked by leotard-clad dancers brandishing huge sparklers. There was a palpable excitement in the air, a suggestion of ‘what if’ that’s been airbrushed from society for more than a year.
But not everyone was so joyous – as the snaking line outside Maggie’s soon discovered. A curmudgeonly old woman tipped water over us from her flat window, situated directly above the entrance. A member of staff emerged from the bar, heroic, with a long pole in his hand. Was he going to prod her with it? But no, he pulled down the awning to applause, thwarting her soggy protest and keeping us dry. There will always be pessimists: plus ça change.
After a short wait and a cursory scan of my temperature, I was in. Stepping into a world of unmasked revellers throwing overpriced drinks down their necks at a rate of knots was, at first, overwhelming.