A warm evening in late summer, the smell of weed on the air, and blackberry stains on the pathway to the pub door.
Ahead of us in the queue a middle-aged woman in sensible shoes and a sensible but bramble-bothered jumper, with black mud beneath her nails.
“Oh, hello — I wonder if you can help me… Do you, by any chance, have any beer dregs I might take away with me?”
She waves a large margarine tub hopefully.
“Waste beer. For the slugs. On my allotment.”
“For the slugs?”
“For the slug traps. Slugs love beer. Keeps ’em off my plants! They drown in it.”
The young woman behind the bar eyes the gardener with suspicion. How can she be sure this strange stranger won’t just guzzle down the slops straight from the plastic the minute she gets outside? Desperate people will do all sorts of weird things for a freebie. She decides on a delaying tactic, a test of commitment.
“I can’t give you any now because we’re in the middle of service but if you come back at closing time when we’re cleaning out the drip trays I might be able to help. Once I’ve asked my manager, obviously.”
“Closing time? Oh, no, I’m afraid I shall be in bed by then. You couldn’t…?”
She waves the tub seductively.
A shake of the head.
And so the slugs, or perhaps the gardener, went thirsty that night.