Pub Life: Sexy Connect Four

Why choose this pub, with its bare boards, real ale, hard white light, and stink of pork scratch­ings? Why make love here?

They arrive through a side door in a swirl of straw­ber­ry-scent­ed vapour, inter­linked and unable to stop star­ing at each oth­er.

He is in slacks, leather jack­et, slip-on shoes, and sock­less. A chipped tooth gives his smile some extra flavour.

She is all dan­gling bracelets and ear­rings, hair teased high and fixed with spray – a prop­er Going Out get-up.

They loud­ly order drinks, lager and white wine, and lean upon the bar, still tan­gled togeth­er, her hand up the back of his leather jack­et, his in her waist­band. They whis­per to each oth­er over the most­ly emp­ty pick­led egg jar on the counter and laugh dirt­i­ly.

The beard­ed man behind the bar looks star­tled. His wife looks star­tled. The reg­u­lars look star­tled.

The dog doesn’t care.

Hey, babes… Babes…”

Leather Jack­et points at the shelf.

Do you want to play Con­nect Four?” he says, some­how sug­ges­tive­ly.

She goes to the toi­let while he sets up the blue rack and sorts the red and yel­low coun­ters. She emerges with pupils dilat­ed, blink­ing and bright, and speak­ing twice as fast.

They play as if nobody can see or hear them, as if they’re Faye Dun­away and Steve McQueen lock­ing souls over a chess­board. Even­tu­al­ly, she wins, and they clink glass­es in mutu­al appre­ci­a­tion.

Then, the game hav­ing got them going, they have to get going, link­ing togeth­er again and head­ing for the door. They stop on the thresh­old as cold air floods in around them.

Blow­ing kiss­es, he shouts, “Good­bye! We love you all!”

She yells: “We’ll have the KY jel­ly out tonight, I tell you that much!”

And then they’re gone.

The land­lord blinks. His wife blinks. The reg­u­lars gig­gle.

The dog licks at an elu­sive Mini-Ched­dar crumb trapped between the floor­boards, pur­su­ing his own love affair.

Pub Life: The Weegie and the Marbles

Illustration: "Old Boy With Pint".

An old pub in a quiet part of a busy city, and an elderly regular, watery-eyed and pale as paper, is sunk in his usual seat waiting for something to happen.

He looks at the TV, then at his news­pa­per, then at his watch. He stares into space, and per­haps into the past. He lines up the spare beer mats, then shuf­fles them out of line again.

Then, at least, some real excite­ment: a mixed group of twen­tysome­things enters, laugh­ing and chat­ter­ing. They are all tall, styl­ish, and dis­tinct­ly Mediter­ranean.

The Regular’s glit­ter­ing eyes track them across the pub car­pet. Two per cent of a smile appears on his thin lips.

The Vis­i­tors are qui­et­ly excit­ed to be in a Real Eng­lish Pub, star­ing at the ceil­ing, the ornate bar, the prints and mir­rors.

They all thrust bank notes at one woman, appar­ent­ly the best Eng­lish speak­er, and shove her towards the bar as they take over the table next to the Reg­u­lar.

The Reg­u­lar, his neck long gone, slow­ly turns his entire tor­so so he can watch them. The smile increas­es by anoth­er degree.

Where you from?” he gar­gles in their direc­tion.

The Vis­i­tors freeze and mut­ter attempt­ed trans­la­tions at each oth­er. The sec­ond best Eng­lish speak­er, beard­ed and quiffed, acts as spokesman.

We come from Greece.”

The Reg­u­lar nods – of course, he thought as much.

Well, me – I’m a Weegie.”

Silence. Baf­fled blink­ing.

A Glaswe­gian.”

Fur­ther mut­ter­ing.

I’m from Glas­gow.”

Bulbs light up.

Ah! Glas­gow! Yes, we know it! Alex Fer­gu­son! Celtic foot­ball club!”

A lucky guess, appar­ent­ly, as the Reg­u­lar is not offend­ed, but after this break­through, con­ver­sa­tion stalls.

Lagers and gins are sipped as the Greeks look anx­ious­ly at each oth­er – when is it accept­able to start talk­ing among them­selves again?

After an uncom­fort­able while, the Reg­u­lar shifts some phlegm about, and leans clos­er.

So,” he says, “here’s what I’m won­der­ing…”

Yes?”

When are the Eng­lish going to give you back those Elgin Mar­bles?”

And with that, the con­ver­sa­tion real­ly catch­es light.

Pub Life: Cool Hair

Cool hair mod.

Midday, a busy pub but with conversation at murmur level, and subtle grey light on dark wood.

Enter The Mod, a styl­ish lad in his ear­ly twen­ties in design­er par­ka and suede moc­casins, car­ry­ing an embroi­dered car­pet bag. He buys a pint and sits with his back to the wall.

A few min­utes pass before The Big Lad makes his approach. His eyes are locked on The Mod as he steams across the open bar, clear­ly more than one pint into his ses­sion.

He stops a short dis­tance away and points, just points, for an uncom­fort­ably long moment.

Fuck­ing. Cool. Hair.”

He means it very sin­cere­ly, sounds almost emo­tion­al.

The Mod laughs awk­ward­ly.

Oh, right, yeah, ta.”

The Big Lad hasn’t fin­ished.

No, I mean it. It’s fuck­ing bril­liant. Absolute­ly mint.”

The Mod rais­es his glass.

Thanks, man.” (Mean­ing: now go away.)

No, lis­ten, seri­ous­ly… If I was as good look­ing as you, I’d go out and get that hair­cut today. The girls wouldn’t know what hit ‘em.”

Silence. Shift­ing in seats. The Big Lad’s wheez­ing breath.

Then, remem­ber­ing his pri­ma­ry mis­sion, he lurch­es away into the gents toi­let, smash­ing through doors like a bull­doz­er.

The Mod exhales and slides down in his seat.

Fuckin’ ‘ell.”

Every­one sit­ting near­by laughs, in sol­i­dar­i­ty and relief.

Nobody ever com­pli­ments my hair,” says a bald man, and there is more laugh­ter.

The the door of the gents flies open and every­body freezes as The Big Lad bursts out, still fid­dling with his fly.

He fix­es swim­ming eyes on The Mod.

Cool. Hair.”

Fin­ger guns, a thumbs up, and he’s gone.

A nice relax­ing pint.

Pub Life: The Refurb

Drawing: a pub bar.

Last orders, shredded beer mats and sticky glasses everywhere, the regulars lurching out of their seats with groans and kidney rubbing.

Right, well then, see you Sun­day, Jim.”

The land­lord looks up from the sink.

No you bloody won’t.”

Eh? You off some­where?”

We’re closed for two weeks. There’s signs up every­where – look! I put it on bloody Face­book too.”

What? Why?”

Bloody refur­bish­ment.”

Oh, gawd help us…”

Jesus Christ. Hope it’s not like last time. Didn’t recog­nise the place. It’s tak­en five years to get com­fy again.”

The pub is indeed well worn-in: cur­tains askew and moth-eat­en; tables look­ing as if they’ve been stoned and stabbed; and seat­ing burst open, show­ing its yel­low foam guts.

Ten bloody years, it was,” says Jim.

Cor, don’t time fly.”

Where are we gonna drink for two weeks?”

You’ll bloody live,” says Jim, but there’s a shad­ow of doubt on his face.

Fur­nish­ings stay­ing, are they? Not going all min­i­mal is it?”

If any of the mir­rors are going spare–”

Not turn­ing into a wine bar, is it?”

Hope not but they don’t bloody tell me any­thing.”

Two weeks! Christ.”

Well, good luck, Jim. See you on the oth­er side.”

Jim waves, casu­al and dis­mis­sive, but Jim looks wor­ried.

We’re bloody wor­ried.

Pub Life: Never Too Old

Two men, brothers perhaps, both at least 60-years-old, approach the craft beer bar hesitantly.

This is it.”

He said it was good, did he?”

Yeah, he’s in here all the time with his uni­ver­si­ty mates. Hold up, before we go in, look, there’s a beer menu.”

A beer menu?”

He picks up the binder and turns it in his hands, bewil­dered, as if the very form is alien to him. He opens it and begins to scan the pages with a fin­ger­tip.

These are all beers, are they? Pas­sion fruit… Cher­ry…  They can’t be beers.”

Give us a look. Yeah, look, it says here: fruit beers.”

They’ve actu­al­ly got fruit in them? Bloody hell. I don’t… What’s this… Two-thirds? Is that two-thirds of a litre or what?”

I don’t know, mate. I don’t… I’ll just go in and get some­thing. I’ll work it out.”

Just get me what­ev­er, I don’t mind, whatever’s eas­i­est.”

When the for­ager returns it is with two half-pint stem glass­es, one full of red beer, the oth­er pink.

I just got two small ones to start with. Er… I might have made a huge tac­ti­cal error.”

How d’you mean?”

They’re both sour beers. she says.”

What, delib­er­ate­ly?”

I think so.”

They both sip.

Huh.”

I wasn’t expect­ing…”

No, I didn’t think…”

It’s clever, innit? The way they… How it…”

It’s like the sour­ness makes it taste more fruity.”

And it’s sort of… bal­anced out, is it? If you know what I mean. By the sweet­ness.”

Huh.”

Huh.”

They just bare­ly clink their glass­es in a qui­et dis­play of tri­umph before con­ver­sa­tion turns to foot­ball.