A Beer Garden Birthday

Sunday afternoon – 10th October 2010.  This was supposed to have been the luckiest day of the century and, coincidentally, it was my birthday!  My husband decided that as the day was unusually sunny and it was somewhat warmer outdoors than during previous days, we’d take a stroll up to the local beer garden.  I agreed wholeheartedly and did not need any coercing.  Perhaps something exciting and unusual would happen as this was deemed by numerologists and their believers to have been an exceptionally lucky day.

Upon our arrival there was no one in the beer garden in spite of the mild and brighter weather conditions.  Admittedly, our local’s beer garden does not resemble a garden at all.  There are no flowers or hanging baskets – a handful of rudimental wooden tables with benches adorn an area adjacent to the car park.  The landlord has put away the sun umbrellas as, these days, we rarely seem to experience solar activity in the north of England, and the metal ashtrays have either been taken indoors or stolen.  In fact, there’s not much of a garden aura about this place at all, but on this bright autumnal afternoon I summoned my cheerful powers of imagination to create an illusionary outdoor area adorned with garlands of joy and hope.  At least I was able to drink a couple of beers in peace without being rained on and, more importantly, I was able to smoke some cigarettes with my beers without being fined or threatened with ejection.  In short, I was able to be myself.

I fail to appreciate the logic of those persons in favour of the implementation of a blanket smoking ban inside public houses, clubs and other places.  Some of them favour a café society and dream of everyone enjoying a smoke-free and conformist way of socialising which appeals to them.  They fail to take into account that in this country the weather is unpredictable.  There may be benign temperatures and pleasant outdoor conditions for eating and drinking in other European countries, but such conditions fail to materialise here in the north of England most of the time.  People like me who enjoy the simple pleasure of a cigarette with a drink are forced outside to weather the elements.  It’s no wonder that very many of the former regular pub-goers have either stopped visiting their local hostelries or rarely frequent them.  By now, many of their locals have most likely closed their doors for the last time, been boarded up or even demolished.

I personally experience a distinct lack of dignity when I have to stand outside and have been subjected to extremely distasteful comments and gestures on some occasions.  On Sunday afternoon I did not experience any of this as there was nobody there.  That is, no one except my husband and I and we were joined for a short period of time by a local undertaker who commented that some of our local public houses are now as lively as the local cemetery!  There were a few people inside the public house, but they gradually drifted off.  By 6.30pm it was far too cold to remain seated outside and we wandered indoors.  At least I’d enjoyed a couple of hours just being myself and feeling like a human being and an adult in the garden without flowers.  Yes, I was fortunate on this one particular special day.  I was very lucky to have been able to feel like a normal human being on my birthday and lament those birthdays in bygone years when I actually was a proper member of society.  I lament my loss of status – the status of normality and look forward to a time when this particular birthday feeling can return for me and others like me.  That would, indeed, be an exceptionally lucky day!