A Vivid Memory

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 replies on “A Vivid Memory”

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.

Yes, that detail I’m sure of. Don’t know what brand, or why we had it, but we did.

“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.

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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