A Vivid Memory

Illustration: blue Whitbread beer crate.

When I was at nursery and just starting school, my parents ran a pub in Exeter and many of my earliest memories are from this time.

Late­ly, I’ve been think­ing a lot about the day I ‘helped’ my tac­i­turn Lan­cas­tri­an Grand­pa with the stock-take.

I don’t remem­ber it all that clear­ly – I was four – but there are few almost still images and short frag­ments of play­back, cut togeth­er in a mon­tage.

The weath­er was grey but must have been warm because I’m sure I was wear­ing shorts. I’m also sure I was sat on an upturned crate, in the yard by the cel­lar door.

The cel­lar itself was white­washed, cold and damp, with spores on its breath.

Gramps was wear­ing his black Har­ring­ton jack­et with the red tar­tan lin­ing, grum­bling as he shift­ed bot­tles around with yel­low-stained, tough old hands. He was prob­a­bly smok­ing – he was always smok­ing – but I can’t remem­ber for sure.

There was a blue plas­tic crate full of bot­tled beer with blue labels – light ale, I sup­pose – right next to me for a long time. The caps were bright blue and smooth, pret­ty and but­ton-like, and I remem­ber cov­et­ing them.

Then a crate full of root beer in glass bot­tles land­ed in front of me. I asked what it was – is it like cola? He told me. I pestered him to let me try it. Even­tu­al­ly, he grumpi­ly popped open a bot­tle and then went into the bar, still mut­ter­ing, to pay for it.

But I hat­ed it so much it made me cry. (Which is prob­a­bly why I remem­ber this moment at all.)

5 thoughts on “A Vivid Memory”

  1. Sure it was root beer? I don’t think I’ve ever seen any­thing under that name that was­n’t a US import. Dan­de­lion and bur­dock was what the big kids drank when I was in pri­ma­ry school, and I remem­ber think­ing that tast­ed utter­ly foul.

  2. must have been warm because I’m sure I was wear­ing shorts” – I know I’m much old­er than thee, but when I were a lad we wore short trousers all year round through to the end of junior school, the only con­ces­sion to cold weath­er being long socks …

    Root beer is indeed vile – tastes like some­thing you’d rub on your legs after a hard game of rug­by.

    1. I remem­ber look­ing for­ward to going up to big school because I’d be able to wear long trousers – but at the same time look­ing down on the boys from the farm at the end of the vil­lage who already wore long trousers, because that was wrong. (Even the girls from the farm wore trousers! Looked rather good actu­al­ly. Wrong though!)

      I grew less con­ser­v­a­tive in lat­er years, along with almost every­one else in the world. But this was only(!) 1970.

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