Ťhe pub garden, or beer garden – that beverage befittingly muscling in and rowdily taking sole possession of the name – has come into its own during Covid. But I have always thought beer gardens the crowning glory of the pub experience.
Summer is upon us. Ostensibly. Which means sitting astride the benches of picnic tables dappled in sunlight, knees touching. The atmosphere is jovial under the influence of the sun. Cocktail umbrellas are matched by the real thing, shading burning shoulders. Cool drinks grasped and gulped thirstily. Caps pulled down to protect eyes. Gravel crunching under trainers as rounds make their way back from the bar.
I love the cosiness and dark wood of pubs, the fireplaces and the argyle-patterned windowpanes, but I so much prefer drinking and socialising outdoors. Even more so when the surroundings are beautiful. The greatest pub gardens are those vast ones by the sides of rivers or canals, or merging with countryside. From spring onwards, I strongly assert my position that any choice of venue should have a garden or a city rooftop. Otherwise it feels as though the light is wasted.
As a former smoker, I used to have that inbuilt temperature control that smokers have – untouched by the cold. Or rather, not untouched, but willing to ignore it in order for one’s fix. And so in winter I could be found with friends huddled outside, our smoke making silver shapes under the light from heaters. “Nipping out for a fag” was also a good way to take stock on a night out, or enter into a sidebar with a friend. (Or get away from the attention of lecherous strangers, frankly.)
I don’t smoke now, but there was something about the stoicism of the public, wrapped up in bubble coats and beanie hats, enduring nippy temperatures to drink outside under the initial Covid opening up, that was endearing and proud-making. We were cold, but we were desperate, and we were grateful.
Now that the weather is warmer and the world is opening up, I am even more delighted to drink in the happiness and togetherness of the pub garden.