At 5:45 the crowd is getting restless — where is the pork pie? Where are the cubes of cheese? The nibbles and snacks?
Of course they’re a courtesy, not a right, so nobody can complain, even if they do it jokingly. But, still, when you’ve come to expect it and it isn’t there, you get restless, and start thinking about buying a bag of crisps or, worse, going home for tea.
There is a stir. The herald first, mustard and serviettes, then the thing itself, golden and stout, cut into eighths on a plate.
It has to go down in front of somebody and the somebodies it goes down in front of feign disinterest. A regular heckles, “Alright for some.” Temptation is too much: after about five seconds, someone shrugs and, takes a slice, might as well, then a second to pass to a friend.
The pie is already looking ravaged, crust crumbling and jelly spilling.
Panic sets in and chairs scrape, everyone rushing but trying to look as if they’re not.
Taking three slices, one regular offers a narration to explain his motives: “Best get in before it’s all gone, one for each of us.”
The entire pie has disappeared before the first bowl of cheese has appeared.
The pub itself seems to sigh with contentment. No need to rush away, stay for another, maybe two. Sunday night saved.