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.)