I went back up to Oxford this weekend on a secret mission. Meeting an old friend I haven’t seen for 20 years, it was a discreet exchange of brass instruments for small boys in our families. But it also gave me a precious hour to lose two decades.
A quiet slip into the back snug of the King’s Arms took me back to being 19, with the same aged wood panelling, the same lovely fires. The same splendid beer. Even the absence of wonderful tobacco smoke couldn’t spoil the sense of permanence.
Travelling through that patinaed door, in one step I had travelled back to times of discovery defined by the boundlessly wonderful horizon of the universe of love and life that is so wasted on the teenager.
Pint in hand and smile flickering on face, I relaxed in a time-sagged leather sofa, toasted my feet, flicked through the intellectual camera role of fierce adolescent intelligence and lovely company in the album of times spent with my university friends in that bar, reliving the shell of confidence concealing angsted uncertainty on awkward dates or the opening of life’s questions with others making sense of their new adult world.
For all that life lived, family built and maturity grown bring self knowledge, sometimes you wish to go back.
Until you realise it’s now £4.50 a pint.