Christmas in the Pub, 1983

A 1980s photo of two boys in a pub.

In the picture above you can see the aftermath of Christmas present unwrapping in the bar of the Artillery Inn, Exeter, probably at around 6am, on 25 December 1983. That’s me on the left with my little brother Tim at my side.

We’re wear­ing wigs left over from the pub Christ­mas pan­to in which my Dad played Wid­ow Twan­kee. He wore clip-on ear-rings, a bra stuffed with news­pa­per, and a pin­ny. The make-up treat­ment made him look like Mol­lie Sug­den in Are You Being Served, despite his gin­ger mous­tache. Anoth­er mem­ber of the cast, then a stu­dent at Exeter Uni­ver­si­ty, went on to be a top-flight news cam­era­man at the BBC.

My broth­er is wear­ing his favourite under­pants. His favourite trick when we lived in the pub was to escape from the flat, scram­ble down the flight of stairs behind the off-licence, and burst into the pub wear­ing only those Y‑fronts. He would then run scream­ing down the entire length of the bar before dis­ap­pear­ing out of the back door. I reck­on he was addict­ed to the cus­tomers’ laugh­ter.

In the back­ground is a box for the Return of the Jedi edi­tion of the Mil­le­ni­um Fal­con with a yet-to-be-stick­ered X‑Wing fight­er pro­trud­ing from the top.  Among the good things about my par­ents run­ning a pub was the amount of space it gave us to run around in when the doors were closed and I have a mem­o­ry, which I think was from this Christ­mas or maybe the birth­day that fol­lowed, of rac­ing with speed­er bikes through the chair legs which for the pur­pos­es of play were the great red­wood trees of the for­est plan­et Endor.

My broth­er is drink­ing a bot­tle of R. White’s Orangeade, anoth­er perk of life in a pub being ready access to the worst (best) soft drinks. I guess being allowed that at break­fast time was a Christ­mas treat.

One of the down­sides to liv­ing in a pub was that Mum and Dad worked late the night before and then Dad had to dis­ap­pear for a few hours around lunchtime on Christ­mas Day to serve the reg­u­lars. Hav­ing talked about it with them since I know Mum and Dad found liv­ing where they worked dif­fi­cult and even at the age of five I could pick up on the stress in the air.

On the win­dow you can just see the words ‘Mer­ry Xmas’ sprayed in dec­o­ra­tive snow – the wrong way round, real­ly, if it was meant to be viewed from the street. There were also art­ful drifts of snow in the bot­tom cor­ners of each frost­ed pane. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, when Christ­mas was over and the fake snow got wiped away it took the nico­tine stain with it so that peo­ple were being wished the ghost of a Mer­ry Xmas for months to fol­low.

5 thoughts on “Christmas in the Pub, 1983”

  1. Love­ly mem­o­ries, thanks. Reminds me of my child­hood grow­ing up in a pub, although there weren’t the same ten­sions. At week­ends and busy times grand­par­ents were always there and were an impor­tant part of the staff. Loved Christ­mas time, so busy. All the fam­i­ly would come round on Christ­mas morn­ing and we’d open presents in our part of the pub, uncles with pints, aun­ties with mar­ti­nis, most of them smok­ing. By the time we were four­teen we were expect­ed to help out with every­thing. That meant serv­ing on too. Thank­ful­ly I’ve always been fair­ly tall! Once I got to six­teen Mum and Dad used to go out for the evening leav­ing me in charge, some­thing that in these snowflake days is prob­a­bly unbe­liev­able. There were no prob­lems with the Police, they used to call in reg­u­lar­ly – I think the appoint­ed vis­it­ing time was 7.30pm on the first Fri­day of the month. And plain clothes through the back door at about 3.30pm on a Wednes­day after­noon, they used to drink in the local booz­ers in the after­noon after clos­ing on a rota­tion­al basis, apart from Thurs­day which was mar­ket day and open al day in Peni­s­tone. Hap­py days!

  2. When are we going to see Tie Fight­ers, X‑Wings – or my own child­hood trea­sure – the scout walk­er adorn­ing the beams in pubs? They’re a part of our shared cul­ture too! My uncle’s dog Basil chewed off one of Luke Sky­walk­er’s hands (odd­ly fore­shad­ow­ing a Star Wars plot device).
    Love­ly piece of nos­tal­gia!

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