Pub life: at the craft beer bar

Keg taps.

Do you mind if we sit here? Guys! Guys! There’s room here! What do you want to drink? Uh, there’s like, one hun­dred dif­fer­ent beers. I don’t… I’m not… Do you..? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, man, that sounds good, I might have the same. Same for you too? Same all round? Cool, cool, three gin-and-ton­ics, cool, cool…

* * *

Is it OK if we, er… Oh, ta.

Four pound odd for two-thirds of a bloody pint? You’re hav­ing me on, aren’t you? Two thirds!

And they’ve a list in there of about fifty bloody beers – do you know how many of them are bit­ters? None. Not bloody one.

There’s not even a red ale – noth­ing but pales and IPAs.

And not much under five per cent either, mind you. Ooh, gah, taste that… No, go on, taste it!

Nice!?

Nice?

It’s not bloody grum­ble mut­ter nice grum­ble slurp…

* * *

Hel­lo.

I’m a princess.

Bye!

* * *

Is this OK for you, Dad? Not too cold? It’s OK, is it? If Mum goes… And I’ll sit… Are you sure it’s not too cold? Because we can swap seats if…? No? You’re sure?

Fine, OK, so, who’s hav­ing… Sor­ry, Dad?

Yes, that’s why I asked.

Yes, I know, that’s why I…

Right, fine, every­body up, we’re going inside. Because Dad’s cold. Dad’s cold. No, I was­n’t talk­ing to you, I was telling Mum that you’re cold. No, she’s not cold…

* * *

Are you going to talk to me or just look at your phone? Because if you’re just going to look at your phone I’ll have to start bring­ing a book with me.

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.