At the Cliftonville pub in George St., cross-wording with my son (not as acrimonious as it looks or sounds, see entry Feb 18), a bill for two margherita pizzas, a pint of Stella and the same of blackcurrant and soda has just come to £13 something. It’s ridiculous. Add to that the Wetherspoon pubs’ policy of no muzak and the place is a haven for quiet souls.

Except that some people come there, it seems, to laugh. Screech screech. It should go the way of the muzak. Perhaps with everyone’s instincts to follow instructions honed to fever-pitch by Covid, one might make and glue firmly to each table-top a warning: ‘In the interests of limiting virus spread it is forbidden to laugh at this table. Vocal Chords. NHS. Save Lives.’

I reckon it might work. And the idea might be catching. There’s too much laughter in the world anyway. Again and again I happen to turn on the television (Can one still say that? “Turn on”? It seems so dated) and there are three or four jackasses in a studio laughing their heads off. The word is, Get the viewers to laugh. Then they’ll come back. People laugh at the flimsiest reason possible. They should be put in the stocks.

Back to cross-wording. I use the hyphen here to suggest the to-and-fro yatter between the generations, as we look up from the clues. We’re both learning, he possibly more than me as he’s more open, I think, to different points of view that may or may not confirm his thinking or develop it. Whereas I’m of the opinion I have little to learn.

The staff at the Clifto are rushed off their feet. Too many absentees. The “pingdemic” is playing havoc with staff everywhere. The country is still inching along nervously, the blind leading the blind. But it’s still marvellous just to be able to walk in, drink, eat, talk, come to in the mornings, settle back in the evenings. A home from home.

Not every day, you understand. Sometimes – not that often – I have things to do. But what a moment it was when the old Clifto re-opened after the lock-out. Sitting there, that first Edenic morning, I was (in mind at least) an open, fresh-faced gent who was not only more than content to be alive but – perhaps a first in my adult life – more than content that others were too. For a day or two I didn’t even mind the laughing.

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