This weekend my parents were in Oxford visiting and took me and my flatmates out for dinner on Friday night. It turned out to be quite the pub crawl. And I promise it gets good near the end.
On Friday we decided to try to get dinner in Headington because we'd just come from the City Centre and we didn't want to pay another £1.90pp to take the bus into Oxford. The Britannia is actually quite close to the guest house my parents were staying in, so we decided that would be the best place since they were severely jet-lagged and wanted to have an early night. We got there first we found a table. At first I thought there was going to be no way we'd all be able to sit together because there were a lot of people there. But then it seemed like we were able to find more and more seating areas. This pub was actually huge. I did not expect it to be so big. So we were able to find two tables we could push together and it seemed like a great atmosphere for my parents and John and Maureen to get to know my flatmates.
After finding a table we ordered drinks and opened a tab. My parents accidentally ordered a cider, which they hated. Luckily when Caitlin, Austin and Libby arrived, Libby liked ciders so it didn't go to waste. The menu actually looked really good so I was pretty excited for my steak. My Mom and Dad had ordered (after exclaiming that they hate how pubs eat--since you have to order at the bar) and we went up to order after them. When we were ordering though they told us that it would be an hour before they would even be able to start making food. At our confused faces, the woman explained that someone accidentally hit the emergency gas button so everything in the kitchen shut down and they had to wait for it to all heat up again.
Question though. How does one accidentally hit a giant red button used to shut off gas in an emergency situation. Sounds like someone just didn't want to cook, so they decided to instigate a break. Because they wouldn't be able to even start cooking for another hour, and they already had food backed up, they decided to go somewhere else.
The Red Mullions Guest House suggested the Black Boy (named after a horse, apparently) in their welcome guide, so we decided to go there. It's on Old High Street in Headington, and we had absolutely no idea where it was. And of course it had started to rain. We find Old High Street and ask somebody who confirms we're walking in the right direction. And we're super confused, because we were walking through a residential neighborhood We were making jokes about how they probably don't get any business since it's in such a random location. Man were we wrong. We couldn't even eat there because it was "all booked." I put that in quotations because there were so many open tables. A little perplexed and getting really hungry we began the walk back to the main road.
Next to the Britannia is a pub called The Royal Standard and we were desperate enough that we just decided to go there for want of wandering around more. The moment we walked in you could tell this wasn't the best place. Two steps in the door and I could already smell stale beer. There are a few people standing around the bar and a few in some chairs having drinks, but no one else dining. It was obviously a bar that served food as opposed to a restaurant pub. But we were starving, so it would have to do.
We had to order quickly because we were coming upon the time they stop serving food. Libby, Caitlin, Austin and I ordered a pitcher of a vodka-based cocktail called Fruit Salad with Melon Midori, Blue Curacao and orange juice in it. It was a really strange green color (probably from the Midori) and it pretty much just tasted like orange juice. Like I'm really doubting there was even an alcohol in it.
The food was okay, not excellent, but it sufficed and we had a nice time (due to the company not really the atmosphere). John and Maureen, the couple my parents frequently travel with are really good family friends (John is my dad's freshman year roommate at VMI so he's one of my dad's oldest friends) and its always a fun time when they are around.
It was what happened after we had finished eating that made this night so memorable.
It all started as our focus was drawn to two guys, for these purposes Green Shirt and Orange Shirt arguing. Apparently Libby had been observing them for a while, as they argued but it wasn't until they loudly determined they should "talk about this outside" that we really consciously noticed them. We were planning to leave soon, so John joked "Maybe we should take the side tour" and we all chuckled, unaware how real it was about to get.
After we'd paid our tab, they came back into the pub and all of a sudden, it was no longer just a heated conversation. They're screaming at each other words I don't understand, but I'm pretty sure I heard the words "I am not old" from Orange Shirt. Then, they began talking with their fists. Green Shirt, clearly the younger, taller and larger man shoves Orange Shirt and eventually his hands find his throat. Seeing both of Green's hands clasped around Orange's neck, I was shocked.
Unaware of what to do. Should I sit, should I stand, should I leave?
Faster than I can follow, Orange is on the ground an Green wails on him. Punching him, hitting him, getting worse and worse. Next thing I know, Orange Shirt has become No Shirt, as Green Shirt rips it off his body. I didn't even know a person could actually rip a cotton-blend shirt off a person's body like that. Not at a seam but right down the middle of his chest. Orange/No Shirt manages to stand up and they continue to shove and end up moving closer to our table. Hands return to throat, and down they go again. They're bumping into tables and chairs, coming dangerously close.
Now I really don't know what to do. As a chronic worrier, I've become concerned for my safety. And it seems my Dad is as well. I book it out of there and my Dad encourages it. Caitlin said that as they moved closer to our table, she just looked at my Dad, having no clue what to do, and he just said "Leave" and she, along with the rest of us, did not think twice.
At this point, I'm on the sidewalk and can't see very much at all. I'm not sure which one, but I know that one of them was banging the other's head into the ground. And I'm told that when he stood up his entire face was covered in blood. At some point, Orange picks up a chair and is getting ready to hit Green Shirt with it. At this point, John intervenes saying "Hey, stop" knowing that if he hit him with the chair, some serious damage will be caused. John said later that he almost felt bad because it took away Orange's upper hand, allowing Green to begin clobbering him.
I obviously don't remember all that much, and they say that a witness's memory is frequently clouded by what they think happened and what they would expect to happen in this situation. For example, I was under the impression that it was the younger guy (Green Shirt) who was doing most of the beating and had the upper hand the entire time over the older Orange Shirt. This was clearly some previous misconceptions about age and also that the guy who provoked it was Green Shirt so I, in my mind, took the side of Orange because he was the victim in my mind. So I probably automatically assumed that it was Green who had the chair, and who was banging Orange's head into the ground. But like I said, I'm not sure who had the bloody face and who was the cause of it.
What I do remember vividly is that the male bartender, a guy around our age, was standing, watching the fight and smirking. Smirking. I could not believe it. I understand that it can be dangerous to try to interrupt the fight but you shouldn't just be smirking. It wasn't until the female bartender nudged him that he went to get someone and do something about the men beating each other right in front him. I think the cook came out to break them up, and it was over before we left.
As we walked home, we were all a little shell shocked. None of us flatmates had ever seen a barfight before. About 10 minutes as we got to Pullens Lane we saw two ambulances whiz past. We don't know for sure, but think it was for the Royal Standard.
All I know is that I don't want this to become a royal standard for our evenings out. It's a great story to tell, but not one I'd like to witness firsthand again.
After an eventful Friday, my parents wanted to find a nice place to eat dinner on Saturday that was a step up from the pervious night. We ended up at the Red Lion, a really cool pub in the city centre. It was really busy when we got there, but they said we could get drinks and sit on the patio and they would let us know in about an hour when a table became available.
John ordered drinks for everyone, including shots for him and I (my parents and their friends are pretty shocked and amazed that I'm consuming any alcohol because I'm not much of a drinker) and enjoyed the beautiful night, and only 20 or so minutes later we were told there was a big table in the bar where we could sit if we wanted to. It was actually a great place to sit because we could enjoy the music and the atmosphere and the table had just been delivered that day.
|Photo cred: Red Lion|
Altogether, two very different experiences, each interesting in their own right, but I would definitely choose the second night, an evening with my family and my friends in a fun, relaxed environment, any time.