But living in the moment has never been so hard
Live for the now, they say. For the moment. Life’s a journey, not a destination. Happiness isn’t at the end of the road. It IS the road.
Well that’s all very well, but I think we’re all agreed it’s a pretty bumpy road right now. Full of potholes that aren’t likely to be repaired any time soon.
I was reminded of this during a recent visit to the Welsh coast. The Indian summer was still bathing us with its precocious rays and after working up a thirst walking the Mutt on the beach, the moment called for a cold one. A decision of spontaneity the like of which we’re all prone to on glorious days.
There, shimmering enticingly in the sea breeze, stood a local hostelry. And here we were, just passing.
“Pint?” I suggested to Mrs Sheep.
And in we went. Or nearly did. Assailing us of such a notion was a parade of signage.
MASKS MUST BE WORN • NO BAR SERVICE • SIT DOWN • SHUT UP • NO MINGLIN’ • NO MORE THAN SIX PEOPLE • NO DOGS • NO FUN • GO AWAY • WHAT DO YOU WANT? A GOOD TIME? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? • DON’T YOU KNOW THERE’S A WAR ON? • PUT THAT LIGHT OUT.
That sort of thing.
But worst of all was the answer to the age old question, “What have I got to do to get a drink round here?”
Download the app. That’s what.
We took a seat in the beer garden out the front, next to the main road, amongst everyone else dying of diesel fumes (latest stats not available). A waitress sauntered by.
“Hi,” I tried. “Could I just…”
Nothing. Artificial intelligence perhaps.
I tried again as she waltzed back past us, having delivered a tray of drinks to an adjacent table.
“Could I just have two pints of lager and a packet of crisps, please?”
“Sure. Just order on the app.”
“Any lager will do, any crisps…”
She’d gone. And so began an afternoon of smartphone anger, IT support, loss of signal, loss of mind and ultimately deep-seated envy at the ease with which the Mutt was able to refresh herself with a slurp from a dirty puddle.
Eventually the app downloaded. It was a race between the sun going down and some revolving circle on my phone’s screen completing it’s millionth cycle. But the app won. Just. After which I was asked to create an account.
Yes. An actual account. To order two pints of lager and a packet of crisps.
So I did. I created an account. After which I was asked whether I wanted to:
• Order Food & Drink
• Take part in a track and trace survey (oh yeah, love to…)
• Click and Collect
• Book a Table
• Book a Room
• Explore the interactive allergen menu (you know, my gluten intolerance seems to have cleared up all of a sudden)
• Work With Us
• Blow Your Brains Out With A Revolver
I briefly dallied with the penultimate option, thinking it a short cut to getting two pints of lager and a packet of crisps, but succumbed to the food and drink option. Which gave me three more options:
• Drinks Menu
• Main Menu
• Jackets and Sandwiches (but no trousers)
My request timed out. “Please check your cellular network or connect to a nearby WiFi network and try again.”
I clicked RETRY. Nothing. So I quit the app. Phoned Samaritans. Then started again, this time with all the anxiety of one of those fastest-finger-first contestants on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Except this was Who Wants To Drink Two Pints Of Lager And Eat A Packet Of Crisps. Please.
This time I made it through to the Drinks Menu. And was offered three more options:
• Draught Beer (four options)
• Draught Lager (three options)
• Draught Cider (two options)
Alternatively we could have opted for Bottles (12 options), Wine (16 options), Spirits (36 options), Signature Serves (dunno), Hot Drinks (two options), Soft Drinks (36 options, including free tap water, which the Mutt ordered) and Snacks (six options, which is pretty poor these days, given there are at least 308 different flavours of crisps).
We ordered… you guessed it… two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please (although there was nowhere to say please), tapped in our credit card details (again) and waited.
Hell was just in the process of freezing over when our order arrived.
“I’m afraid we’ve run out of cheese and onion crisps,” the waitress began, “so I have brought you some…”
“Honestly, a scabby horse will do,” I butted in. Mrs Sheep kicked my shins under the picnic table.
“Sorry… a scabby?”
She wasn’t from round these parts. I spied the replacement packet of ready salted on the tray.
“It’s fine, these’ll do.”
“Enjoy!” she said, robotically.
And I did. Like John Mills in Ice Cold In Alex.
“Blimey, you’re thirsty,” said Mrs Sheep. “Having another?”
I crunched on a ready-slated crisp. “Do you know what? I might just leave it,” I said.
But she was too engrossed in her phone to hear me.
“Ooh look…” she suddenly observed, thumbing her phone's screen.
“That Hancock bloke says we can download the NHS app now.”
“Drink up love,” I said. “We’re going.
A mutton for punishment, Black Sheep welcomes all comments. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to air your points of view. You can also read Black Sheep in Welsh Border Life every month.