Last week I met Jo, a lovely friend I’ve known since the 80s, for lunch in a bar.

As we automatically ordered lime and sodas we reminisced about how much lunch breaks have changed over the past 30 years.

When I first left school, part of the working day involved ordering a pub lunch and washing it down with booze. Entire offices poured into bars, it was the norm. Well, we didn’t have Prets or meal deals in those days. Additionally, this was in the era when pubs still closed every afternoon, meaning a proportion of the British public considered every hour they were open that they weren’t in one was misspent. When at school, it was no secret that our teachers headed off to the local most days.

Try ordering one small glass of wine on a week day lunch break and see how many eyebrows twitch these days.

Back to Jo and the 80s... I was new to Oxford and we worked together in a large department store. Almost every lunch hour was spent in a bar by many of the people who worked there. Just how horrific does that sound now?

We infuriated our boss, she either had a bladder the size of Europe or was an alien, by each needing several trips to the loo every afternoon. Our haunts included The Brewhouse (now back to an earlier name, The Red Lion), The Blue Boar (a bit too far away but they knocked out an amazing all-day breakfast) and The Gloucester Arms, a particular favourite.

The Gloucester Arms was a truly amazing place in the 80s, a rich melting pot of suits, rockers, stray punks and the odd little old lady, all drinking harmoniously. Bizarrely, it just worked beautifully.

It was the same story after work, after we plastered on another couple of layers of make-up, we joined all the workers spilling automatically into pubs to help them to dilute and digest their day. Well, they had just reopened for us.

My grandparents had always kept pubs, including the Seven Stars at Marsh Baldon, so it was an environment I felt comfortable in, and I often worked in them. I took an evening job at the Gloucester Arms, and when it was short staffed worked my lunch break there too. Working a shift was very different from now. Drinking on duty was not only expected but encouraged – I worked in one pub where I wasn’t allowed to refuse an offer of a drink from a punter – and as everyone smoked you could get away with having a puff at the end of the bar. Shocking.

We also had to use mental arithmetic to tot up the rounds. I found it simple then; I’d struggle now, possibly due to all the brain cells I’ve murdered – but I do wonder how we did it after several hours rushed off our feet and several drinks washed down.

Fortunately for the nation’s livers, times have changed. But as we both agreed, those were the days my friend.