‘But we always go to nice, smart bars’, I replied, before heading quickly out the door preventing a chance to protest.
We marched quickly into the city on a crisp, cold Wednesday night.
The stars were out, the moon was bright and with lights shining softly on the Harris Museum, I can’t recall Preston city centre ever looking so nice.
There was, however, a key element missing - people.
Clean, calm and picturesque it may have seemed, it was also completely and utterly dead.
Undeterred, we marched onto my pub of choice. Shut.
‘I’m getting a bit chilly now’, said Miss Shivering Chardonnay Sidekick.
‘Don’t worry, I’ve got a back-up plan’, I replied. Shut.
She refused to enter the third option I presented and I don’t really blame her.
If the temperature had not slipped below freezing, Miss Shivering Chardonnay Sidekick’s cheeks would, by now, have started to redden.
‘Right, it’s a nice bar or I’m going home’, she announced, not unreasonably.
So I caught her up as she stalked towards Forum.
Stepping through the glass-pannelled door, I had to fight my natural instinct to baulk at the lack of open fires, wooden beamed ceilings or cask ales.
Instead it was leather settees, textured wallpaper and soft lighting.
‘But it’s open’ I told myself, ‘And a timely diplomatic move’.
I flicked through the drinks menu, past unspeakably expensive champagne, elaborate cocktails and wines from around the world, until I found the beers.
I had been expecting to force down a pint of lager or at best John Smith’s but to my surprise they stocked a couple of bottled real ales.
I chose a bottle of Thwaites Wainwright and then had another convulsion when the barman asked for £3.95 with another £4.10 required to cover the cost of Miss Chardonnay’s small wine.
With my body starting to defrost in the warmth, it was now me whose cheeks had started reddening, as I reluctantly handed over my prized £10 note.
‘Calm down Ben, you were expecting lager, so this is a nice bonus’, I told myself as I placed the coppers back in my wallet.
Slouched back into a lazy leather chair, I began to relax as the trendy jazz/reggae/funk/electro background music bounced along, loudly enough to create its desired impression, without getting in your face.
With the city centre as quiet as I had ever seen it, the only pubs which seemed to be doing any trade, or indeed be open, were showing the night’s Premier League matches.
And while Forum certainly could not be described as busy, there was a steady trickle of people who came in during the evening, so it must be doing something right.
Yet I can’t help feeling, if it had just one real ale pump, it may just bring in a few more.
Still, I should be counting my blessings, I got a good beer which I was not expecting and it averted a diplomatic disaster, which would have put any crunch European summit to shame.