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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.

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pubs

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.

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pubs

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.

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pubs

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.

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pubs

Pub Life: Cat People

Illustration: Cat T-Shirt

Smokers’ corner on the pub terrace, by the back door to the toilets.

She is smoking, sipping from a pint of lager, and looking at her phone. He approaches, nods, places his own pint of lager on another wobbly old table, and lights a cigarette.

She stares intently, clears her throat, and says: “Not being rude… What’s that on your T-shirt?”

He sits upright and stretches the fabric away from his gut to display the graphic.

“That’s Princess.”

“She’s yours, is she? Aw, she’s lovely.”

“Yeah. Love of my life I always say. Expecting kittens, as it goes.”

The woman freezes with her beer half way to her mouth and pantomimes astonishment.

“Really? REALLY? You won’t believe this but I’ve literally been looking to get a new cat. I’ve always had cats, ever since I was a little girl, but I couldn’t have one in my last place. Now I just want loads.”

“Well, Princess is white with black patches and the one we think is the father–” He rolls his eyes. “–is black with white. So the kittens’ll be one way or the other.”

“How much, then? If I wanted two, say?”

“Hang on, hold on…” He pulls out his phone, fiddles with the screen, and then holds it for her to see. “Add me on FB and we’ll sort it out later, alright?”

“Sorted.”

They both go back to smoking, in silence, and staring at their phones, those two cat people, basking in the sun.