Are you open on Christmas Day. From 12-4 sir, comes the reply. I’d normally be at my daughter’s but I’m here this year, she’s at her mother’s in Jersey.
At the bar of the King’s Arms in Oxford and ordering a second glass of Young’s Ordinary. As you do when you’re in a pub you start talking with strangers and I discuss the joys of a pint on Christmas Day with the man.
I retired a couple of years ago and I started travelling around the country on my bus pass. Seen most of the country and off to the Orkneys in the spring. There’s a brewery there, I say. He nods.
He had a tent, pitched at a site on the edge of town. No home either, but an address at his daughter’s in Suffolk. I’m free, he continued, I can go anywhere my bus pass takes me. The beer is crisp, bittersweet, eloquent in the way it wakes up the palate, and now sitting on a coach to Heathrow I wish I had one in front of me. Meanwhile I think of this man who is ranging across the country, light in possessions, able to change direction at will, and at ease with strangers. Welcome to the world of the public house.