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By Rachael, our Co-Artistic Director and troublemaker-in-chief.

I love the pub. The pub is my happy place. When lockdown started, i said my life hadn't really changed, i just didn't go to the pub anymore. I hadn't realised that it had had such an impact on me. 

I go to the pub because it's somewhere I can chat with friends. It feels like a great leveller. You can all have different drinks without having to have a full bar stocked in your house. I also love the element of surprise - anyone could walk through the door! A friend, a co-worker, the next love of your life (still waiting for that one). People come together, and that is what I missed most. There are two types of people in the world, those who relax when they're by themselves, and those who relax when they're with others. I am certainly the latter. The fact that I've spent the last 14 weeks seeing the odd person here and there at a 2 metre distance has been hard. 

There's been tears, fatigue, pure hopelessness at times. I felt alone a lot, like I'm sure many others have felt too. These last few months have been a strain on everyone's mental health - it's not been all banana-bread-making-joggers-wearing-gardening-loving joy. I've cried. A lot. I didn't know what to do with myself. I've zoomed my face off talking to folk, but nothing has the same impact than face to face contact.

So, the pubs are open again! Hurrah! What a joy! But my happy place isn't as happy as it once was. It comes with a certain degree of fear. What if it gets busy? Should i wear a mask? What if drunk people don't adhere to social distancing? A lot of my friends are not going to the pub, they don't want to risk it. I don't blame them at all. We all love the pub but is it worth risking your health?

I was never going to go out on "Super Saturday", I knew it was going to be like New Year's Eve on steroids. However, the Sunday afterwards, whilst some people were nursing their hangovers, I went to the promised land. I promised myself if it got too busy, I'd leave, if people were getting rowdy and drunk, I'd leave. I went to a small, independent pub, not near any of the big drinking streets, and I went with a group of friends. I was nervous for how bad it would be, but it wasn't. 

And I smiled. I smiled the entire time I was there. We all sat outside in the classic overcast summer sun, socially distanced, hand sanitizer aplenty. I felt safe, there weren't really many others there, and everything was contactless. I hadn't realised how much i needed to see a group of people.

I had distanced myself away from my friends for the last few weeks, didn't want to be moaning or be a burden. When I told them that is how I had been feeling, they (metaphorically) scooped me up and gave me the love and support I so needed. My friends are phenomenal people, and I don't know why I didn't tell them sooner, but they know now and they're here for me.

Despite being socially distant, my friendships have become stronger. I know a lot of people aren't comfortable going to the pub just yet, and that's absolutely fine, you'll return when you're ready and feel comfortable. However, for me, going to the pub was the best thing I've done for my mental health for a long time, and I'm more grateful for my friends than ever.


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