Bros

We’re back in lockdown for a week as of 8pm last night. At about 4.30, I got a call from Cheeseboy telling me that he’d planned to organise a drink with me Friday night but, as that was no longer an option, why not tonight – sneak one in before the deadline?

I was in bed and not feeling much like doing anything, but I said yes. Opportunities for me to get out and see people before I go into surgery were diminishing anyway, and with lockdown, very little remained possible. I’d organised lunch on Saturday at a steak restaurant. Bit of a last hurrah and the final to get something decent I could chew on before being restricted to a liquid diet. Now, that was cancelled too.

It was a good decision to join him. We went to True South, which is walking distance from home. It was packed with people with the same idea as us. There was a raucous, almost festive atmosphere, full of good fellowship. It had very much the last supper vibe, with people opening up to between tables, laughing and joking with bitter humour at yet another lockdown. We’re old hands at this now. No-one likes it, but most of us understand why.

We were there for a bit over two hours. We had a couple of pints eat, a bowl of fries, and a couple of pinot noirs – including some shelf stuff the proprietor let us have knowing that for the next week, he would be closed to custom.

I was grateful to Cheeseboy. Gratitude is a recurring theme over the last month or so. I’ve been blown away by the kindness of friends and acquaintances. The Cheeses have been particularly good, supporting me through the house move and providing help at every turn. I expect when I return from the hospital that Mrs Cheese will have rallied her network to provide me with the pureed foods I must sustain myself on. She’s also coordinating with a nutritionist friend of hers to put together a meal plan. Cheeseboy also promises to do a few things in the new home while I’m in hospital – including, he reckons, selling my dining table, too big for the house.

While the practical help is a boon to me, the moral support really fills me with humble joy. It fills me with warmth.

So it was last night. We sat there having a drink, as we have a hundred times before, and the conversation, more or less, was like we’d had a hundred times before. The exchange of easy friendship lends perspective to what I’m fighting for and gives me strength.

We laughed a lot, as always. At one stage, we got talking to the people at the next table. The woman there thought we looked like brothers. Yes, he’s my Dutch brother, I told her. It’s the first time that’s happened. We don’t really look alike outside a few generic descriptors – both have glasses, our face shape is probably similar, both with a light fuzz on our cheeks and both greying, though he has the edge on me. People say he looks like George Clooney, which I don’t (though some claim I have his personality), and I’m about four inches taller than Cheeseboy. We are brothers in spirit, though. This is what you live for.

At 7.33, the proprietor came out to say the place would be closing in five minutes. Some had beers in plastic cups so they could finish them outside. Cheeseboy and I, we left at about 7.40.

It was a good experience in a lot of ways and probably emblematic of the times.

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