16 Years Sober and the Pub Still Gives me the Fear
I went to the pub yesterday and ended up leaving in the middle of a birthday party. Here's how it went down.
My good friend has just caught up with me in age, literally today in fact! She sent me an invitation to her birthday party, but I didn't read it properly because I wasn't going to be able to make it. I was away that weekend you see, intending to go to the first masonic meeting I've been to since lockdown 1.0. Turns out our ferry operator - Caledonian Macbrayne - had other ideas. Storm Arwen was afoot, so all sailings on Friday were cancelled, the day I was due to leave the island. That meant I was going to be here to film the annual Christmas trade fair on Saturday, AND make my friend's birthday party on Sunday, you know, the party with the invitation that I hadn't read properly?
Now, before I go on, I'll just put this out there - I do not like parties. There, now I've established that, so you've got some context. But it was my friend's 50th and it was to be a party with instruments, so I figured I'd hang in her flat for a few hours and play some music.
Her mum picked me and some other party-goers from the ferry and dropped us off ... at the pub. A pub mind you, not a bar. The kind of provincial Ayrshire pub that gives me the fear, because it's just the sort of pub I used to go to on Sunday afternoons to drink my hangover away. I used to romanticise these kinds of pubs, you know, the spit-and-sawdust kind, with old men at the bar, some with dogs at their feet, football on the TV, maybe some younger folk throwing darts or playing pool, the kind of place where you know the barman's name and he knows yours. That kind of pub.
Even as I write these words, I still have the fear. If I had read the invitation properly and Googled the name of the pub, I'd have seen straight away that that wasn't the place for me on a Sunday afternoon.
I sat feeling awkward for a couple of hours, surrounded by some friends and a few people I'd never met before, listening to 80s music that was too loud so that I couldn't hear anything people were saying to me. I tried hard not to keep looking at my watch.
Then I got a text from my wife, letting me know how stressed she was because of her work and a particular family issue that we're dealing with, and she basically asked me if I could come home on the earlier ferry.
And so that's what I did. I'd only just five minutes before sneaked into the kitchen of the pub to make myself a cup of instant coffee when I got her text. But I grabbed my guitar and my jacket, gave my friend a hug and then walked at a shin-splint-inducing pace to catch the ferry home, just making it by about two minutes.
I did feel like a dick for leaving early, and I felt disappointed in myself for not being able to fake it to make it, you know? - make an effort to enjoy the company and maybe actually start enjoying it? I just couldn't do it though. So if I never go to the pub again, it will be too soon. I've learned a lesson and will henceforth be politely declining party invitations unless they're from my kids when they get older, and probably not even then.