PANDEMIC PUB CRAWLS
A Night at the Tipsy Angel
What do you do when they close all the pubs?
A Vroni without pubs is like a fish without water and therefore not a viable proposition. Extreme times call for radical measures, and if I wasn’t allowed to go to the pub, I was just gonna open one myself. So this is the story of my pandemic pub crawls.
I’ll have to start at the beginning, even though you might have heard this story before. Last year I saw a newspaper article, it was not very big and towards the bottom of the page, and it said that some kind of new virus was becoming a concern in China. Phew, I thought, luckily that’s really far away.
‘Freu dich nicht zu früh’, we say in Germany, don’t start celebrating yet. Or more precisely, ‘you idiot, a virus doesn’t give the tiniest hoot about borders and distances, and will be with you sooner than you think’. Alas, it took another couple months or so, and they shut our country down, too. The whole world went into some kind of strange pause mode, hoping to reopen soon when things would return to normal. We are still waiting for this one year later, and in the meantime, governments have tried many things to combat this virus and help people survive. They shut the shops, they told everyone to work from home, they stopped any unnecessary travel. But the thing that affected me the most, was that they shut the pubs! Shock, horror!!!
Of course this makes perfect sense. A virus feels very happy in a pub environment, so to keep everybody going was out of the question. But I was now stuck. Coping mechanisms had to be put in place. The next best thing I could think of was to open my own pub. In order to make this safe it had to be in my own home and with no other people in it. Luckily there are phones and video calls and sometimes, in good weather and with restrictions permitting, even gardens.
My plan was simple. Give the pub a name, arrange a time and date, and bring a drink. Friends were inventive and many funky pubs opened their doors to visits from this little punter. And so it began.
On 18th of April 2020 we opened our first bar in the house. This was the Royal Scum, named by my daughter who fancied a pirate bar. She said they have glass eyes and prosthetic legs behind the bar, you can get them with your drink. Its a bit of a rough venue and kicked us off to a good start. That night I went to another Edinburgh bar, The Flodden Inn, and then to a little Bavarian town for a drink at the dignified Cafe Caro. You might as well start with a pub crawl and I had many more adventures going from door to door all over the world with a simple call, always drink in hand and happy to be having fun with friends who were so far away. Even friends who were in town got a visit, as we were not allowed to see each other even just a few streets away.
Strange times indeed, but my evenings gave me something to look forward to. I would actually prepare as if I was off to the pub, put on make up (haha its minicule) and brush my hair. I put on outdoor shoes. Even if it was just on the phone, I felt like I was going out.
Ilse’s Piano Bar
When I went to my mum’s pub, she would prepare a couple of really nice glasses and fill them both, so she could clink them for me to hear. She said, you leave the problems at the door, even in this virtual bar, and just have some fun. She’d play me a Chopin tune on the piano, and with it sing a song about a pug who stole eggs, got murdered and then mourned by many pugs. I know. My mum also took the pandemic pub idea to heart when she opened Ilse's Piano Bar to her friend Viola, so she could celebrate her 88th birthday with champagne and fun in the pub.
Just before the very first lockdown happened I made new friends. They were some of the last visitors from abroad and loved the Scottish live music in Sandy Bells. When you see people like that you grab them and drag them to the Royal Oak, its just one of those rituals you’ve got to keep to. By the end of the night we were best friends, and this lovely American couple have stayed best pals with me throughout this whole damn pandemic, providing much needed emotional support and getting drunk with me on our pub nights. When I say night, I mean day for those in the USA, as Rachel and Scott had to do much afternoon drinking as they are seven hours behind. They didn’t mind and we spent our pub dates drinking whisky and chatting about the latest politics (Trump) and restrictions (oh no). I celebrated Christmas and my birthday at Flinn’s Folly, drink in hand and happy.
The Rough Pubs
Sometimes it gets late and you really fancy a bit of a wild drink, not that tame red-wine-and-olives venture of every other day. So a few dives opened their doors, and the wildest nights were had at the Oablinger Boazn which serves Schnapps and stays open very late. On one occasion the pub manager forgot to shut the bar or go to bed and woke on the sofa, lights and music were still going and the last schnapps waiting to be drunk. Be careful when you go to a rough pub. Even by phone they are dangerous places and you may wake up feeling worse for wear the next day.
Well, its simple really. Don’t take my pubs away. I didn’t like that one bit and can’t wait for them to open again once its safe. Until then I will have a drink in one hand and a phone in the other, and we shall have the good times in any way we can.
We opened 24 pubs in 10 cities located in 5 countries. They were managed by 15 beautiful hosts. We spent 180 nights in bars which caused eight hangovers, ouch. The Tipsy Angel was the busiest pub with 44 nights of fun, and we had three people who opened three bars each, which is actually a bit excessive, isn’t it? Of those the absolute winner of decadence is Richie, who opened 3 pubs in 2 countries!
Our pubs are The Flodden Inn, The Night Cap, The Quine Vick, The Rusting Laurel, Zum Balkon-Heurigen, The Garden Pub, Claremont Castle, Le Balcon de la Bretagne, The Royal Scum, The Thirsty Horse, Cafe Caro, The Tipsy Angel, Die Fromme Sau, McMurray's, Ilse’s Piano Bar, Cat Central, Mickinger Boazn, Kaiserlich-Königlicher Weinkeller, The Scary Goat, The Kelvinbrigde Inn, Oablinger Boazn, Flinn’s Folly, The Lockdown and The Lily Pad.
Thanks to my pals Luci, Julie, Moomoo, Vicky, Helga, Joffy, Jeff, Calum, Karen, Jude, Dai, Johnny, Micky, Anja, Dave, Derek, Jules, Sam, Paul, Sarah, Richie, Rachel and Scott for being great friends in a pandemic and to my beautiful daughter Sophie who is a bright shining star in a sometimes dark universe.
Before we turn off the lights and kick everyone out into the night (you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here!) I would like to pass on my life motto to you: 'Meum est propositum in taberna mori, ubi vina proxima morientis ori'. I desire to end my days in a tavern drinking, may my neighbour hold my glass when I am sinking. Or the Bavarian version of this: 'Schnaps! Das war sein letztes Wort. Dann trugen ihn die Engerl fort'. Schnapps! Those were his last words. Then the angels carried him away. And the thought of those angels dragging heavenwards a drunken Vroni, shouting 'can I just have one more', is one of the loveliest.
Hey thanks for reading this to the end. You may now pour yourself a large drink and a chaser for after : )
[Published 18/4/2021 by Woodland Wottage Productions]