"S'like 'avin' a pint in Chern-o-bill" said Tel, disparagingly, as another plastic-visored staff member passed back into the relative emptiness of the pub to fetch the drinks. He scuffed at the marauding, knee-high grass near the table and then carefully checked the toe of his canvas shoe for dogsh*t.
It was Monday. The weather was mostly cloudy, with an occasional shower forcing us into the fag shelter, kicking old stubs so they rolled and parted like Moses and the waves. We could have sat inside, but Tel was under orders from ''er indoors' not to come back with uninvited guests, like Coronavirus, or me, or "one of the lads". Avoiding Coronavirus was easy. There was more chance of catching dysentry or cholera from the bogs. Three months and they still smelt like someone in need of severe medical treatment had just evacuated in there.
Jamie the landlord was on food service and we didn't fancy eating there. Neither did many locals, to be fair. The bar area was as deserted as an F1 racetrack stand. Even the OAP regulars were suffering wives at home. We had Tel and I, a woman with a dog who'd left a good three-quarters of her lunch untouched and was gamely trying to feed bits of the pate to her dog, who sniffed them and then went back to sleep. The ice in her diet coke had melted, turning the remnants of the drink a sort of tan brown. There was George, the bloke Tel thinks lives there, at his seat near the bar, his pint of IPA moving slower than his arthritic slump to the bogs, where he spent twenty minutes having a slash. That was it.
We ordered and decided to brave the pub garden. The views of the Stour aren't bad, the drift towards The Royal Hospital School a miasma of flying birds and the odd small boat a-bobbing along. The garden is a mess that, under normal circumstances, would have had the merest hint of work done to make it appeal to the footsore walking fraternity. They weren't walking today. A bloke and his (far younger) girlfriend stood framed in the door, him with chunky gold bracelet on his wrist and half-sovereign ring on most fingers, her dressed for Barbados, sipping a bottle of Malibu Twist through a straw. They looked. They held a hasty consultation and went back in. I didn't blame them. Tel didn't either. He supped his pint and muttered about "noo local, thass wot we need". I agreed. We did.
His retirement then. First proper day. He was up at six. "Can't get used ter the routeen yet, still fink ah'm workin'". He doesn't have a newspaper so he made toast, coffee and a large glass of Tropicana Smooth ("can't stand it wiv bits in, like drinkin' it outa horse trough"). He rang me at seven-thirty, waking me from the sort of nice early morning dreams about being lost in foreign cities with a beautiful, busty young girl on your arm and the sun burning your face. I swivelled in bed and picked at my phone, before the ringtone stopped and I'd be left with a voicemail that I couldn't be arsed listening to. "Mornin'" came the voice at the other end. "Jus' makin' sure you're ready to meet at twelve". I muttered something and he laughed and hung up.
We finished at five, the pints slopping around my insides, unable to take the sheer depressing mundanity of the pub and the lack of life. "We'll try the Crown next time" said Tel. We went for something to eat. "Dun wanna go 'ome yet, the wife's out in Colchester wiv Sandy and the kids shopping. We agreed not to bovver wiv tea ternight". We had a curry. It opened at five thirty for take-away only, so we took the bags in a cab back to mine. Beers open and curry dispensed, it was like a Friday.
"I've sorta agreed ter take that job in Boreham that Paula offered me" said Tel as we munched samosas. I coughed; a pea went down the wrong hole. I thought he'd retired? "Nah" said Tel. "Long story". Tell me, I said. He reached for his beer and downed a big swig and wiped his mouth with a bit of kitchen roll. "Well" he said.
The story didn't make sense. "Basic'ly, I 'ad a chat wiv the missus last night an' she said 'Wotcha gonna do then Tel?' sorta like that anyway. An' I dunno. I can't take 'er abroad yet, she don' feel ready, and ah've got no 'obbies" (here I glanced at his beer bottle and he saw me and said "That aint a hobby! Thass necessity") "an' spending' all day wiv 'er sat doin' stoopid odd jobs rand the 'ouse don't appeal even if they do need doin' or she wants 'em done. She wants the bleeding' erf 'alf the time. Paintin', decoratin'. laying bleedin' carpet in the second bedroom. She'll 'ave me dead by sixty".
"Ah mean, ah can't rely on you ter come drinkin' wiv me every day. That's unfair on you and we'd end up spendin' all our USA money geddin' free sheets on weekdays. So I fought abart it, an' rang Paula an' the job's still open so ah said yes an' I'm seein' them on Fridy for a chat and to take my drivin' licence, passport an' me CV". Have you got a CV? I asked him. "Yeah, well, missus is doin' it tomorrow. Means drivin' ter Boreham evry day but iss largely nights so it pays well. An' iss only a two munf contract so I'll be back ready for our 'oliday in Spain in late September". He looked at me with an expression of resignation. I smiled at him. If it's really what you want. He smiled back. "No weekends so we can still get 'ammered on a Saturdee".
I'm going back to work on 3rd August. I couldn't blame him. He felt discombobulated by the lack of work in his life and it must be hard, when you're only fifty-seven, to accept that this is it. "Paula reckoned this job'd be right up my alley, as it were. She said I'd need summink else an' so did you when ah gave up the shop. A tempory job'd suit me. The wife don't need me at 'ome. Not rearly. We can afford to pay for someone ter come in and do the decor".
So we parted at ten, his taxi arriving to take him home, no further arrangements made for another few pints in the depressing local, although he did say he fancied trying The Crown for a few on Wednesday, which we did. And it was busier and better than the local, so I guess that's the end of the local for now. True, it didn't have a telly or Sky or a quiz machine, but that's what made the local so useful. Who knows, when the next football season kicks off in time, it might become the old new local again?
"I noo you'd see my side o' the noo job" said Tel as we drank our pints. I nodded. It feels strange though. In the summertime, when the weather is high, you can sit right up and look forward to getting back to work. I suppose I've just been at home too long. We all have. C'est la Vie.
Yeah, me too. Love a bit of TF. I only found out about The Association when my dad went through a period of donating all his unwanted vinyl to his local Sue Ryder and I rescued one of theirs from the pile.
They flock there 'cos it's become the Hoxton of Somerset. People love to think they're hip and trendy and part of some 'in-crowd' when they're about as far from it as deepest Mars.
Why do you think Walberswick is so popular with the trendy London types, with its unmade roads and sewage outflow pipes? Or Cley or Burnham Market in scum land with their one grocers and narrow streets and houses made from pebbles and bits of flint?
Oh and that Pritchard bloke they spent tens of millions on from the Scum, well, if you thought we diddled Pompey for Harrison, the state of him! Came on as sub, looked like some wino begging for spare change in a bus station.
Saw him playing for Huddersfield tonight (they lost 2-0 at home to Luton) and wondered just why Chelsea haven't released him yet? He's pants. I remember having a bet with Luke when he reckoned old Trev'd be a Prem regular in two years. Easiest fifty quid I've ever made....
There's some big teams hoping Wigan's points deduction will save them: Any three from Stoke, Hull, Middlesbrough, Huddersfield, Birmingham....if League One ever kicks off this year, it'll be stronger than last.
Playing in the park with their mates - Tomato sauce flavour Walkers, Onion Rings, some pizza flavoured US crisps I bought in a US themed shop in Colchester once that tasted like cardboard covered in knob cheese.
Hi Newcy - Tel's Ok. I won't spoil the plot for Sunday's report. I've been diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma after a mole on my cheek went a funny colour and started scabbing, but I've got a hospital appointment next week.