“What happened to the pub on the corner?”
“Gone, just like the rest of them.”
“What they going to do with it?”
“Flats they reckon.”
“I loved that pub.”
“That or they’ll turn it into one of them pubs that looks just like every other pub.”
“Remember Friday nights we used to spend in there?”
“Yeah, great times.”
Room filled with smoke, Benson’s, Rothman’s and Silk Cut. The smell of spilled beer, Foster’s, Tenants and depends how pissed you want to get. The fella in his suit in the corner. Looks like he’s going to a funeral or a wedding or somewhere he needs to be wearing a suit. He’s just gone for a pint, and you need to get dressed up to go for a pint because you never know who might be there. Loud cackles of laughter, jokes that’ll be forgotten in the morning when the head is too sore to be thinking of anything.
Neighbours walk in and you buy them a pint. You’ll be hugging them in a couple of hours, the greatest neighbours ever, please don’t ever move, you never know who might move in next door, come here I’ll buy you another one, what you having? Someone’s singing, they don’t know the words, no one knows the words but they’ve all joined in and it brings a tear to the eye. A reminder of those that used to be here on a Friday night, now their ghosts are there, drinking pints and smoking fags as they listen.
The geezer that’d gone home an hour ago because he’d had too much falling back in the door. Don’t give him another, take him home. He’s all right! Give him another pint, he’s harmless. What you having mate? He can’t answer because he’s too pissed and doesn’t know what you’ve asked him. He just wants to tell you about how great life is and how great you are and how great everyone in here is, fuck it, he’ll buy everyone a drink. What you having?
I only came in for one after work. Now it’s seven or eight or it might even be nine, I lost count, who cares? Fuller and fuller, the place is packed, people are happy, the world is good and nothing could ever go wrong. A warmth, a coziness, a safety you can’t find anywhere else. Could stay here all night, all the troubles of the world are outside and no one’s going to let them in. I’ll have one more, there’s no point going home just yet, the night’s only just started.
Peanuts, salt and vinegar crisps, pork scratchings, starving and they’re the only thing that’ll make the hunger go away. Give us another pint and a packet of cheese and onion, a packet of salt and vinegar for the boy as well. The boy sits in the corner, wide eyed, munching away on peanuts and crisps, sipping a Coke, someone he doesn’t know telling him how great his dad is. He just smiles and laughs when he thinks he should. He loves it though, no place he’d rather be.
The owner sipping his pint. Close the doors and shut the curtains. Shhhhh! There’s someone outside, I think it’s a copper. Don’t be stupid, there ain’t a copper outside. It ain’t a copper it’s just someone trying to get in. Let him in, I know him, I told him to come down when the Duke closed, he’s all right don’t worry about him. Keep your voices down! Everyone knows your open anyway, what you worried about!
One by one they leave, walking home, some of them take the long route home, enjoy the cold, night air. Singing, laughing, talking as they walk down the street. The ghosts have one more for the road.
“You been in that other gaff since they done it up?”
Music blaring. Generic rubbish, a background noise that someone in an office has chosen because it probably makes people want to drink. Different coloured drinks, yellow, green, blue, orange, a rainbow of sickly sweet alcohol lines the bar as the crowds line up to buy more. Nodding their heads to the music, eyeing up everyone around them. Make sure no one’s looking at me even though I want everyone to look at me.
Groups of people standing around. None of them mix with each other, suspicious eyes. Phones in hand, checking it every two minutes in case you’ve missed something. What can you miss? Better let everyone know I’m here, can’t let people think I’m not out on a Friday night. I’ll take a photo of my drink as well. Eyes darting everywhere, I’m sure they’re staring at me. Paranoia, ain’t no safety in here, I want to go, but I’ll have another drink first, one of them yellow ones, or an orange one, I’ll have them both.
A girl on the floor over there, she don’t know where she is. They’re all just ignoring her, where’s her mates? It don’t matter, it ain’t my problem. People shouting at each other, no one really knowing what they’re saying, too much noise, the music’s louder, the more they drink they louder it gets. Spilled pints, arguments, you keep looking at me, what’s your problem?
The bouncers walking around. Big geezers, they’ll throw you out for nothing, just because they can and they’ll make sure everyone sees. Throw them out, it’s time. Not even the ghosts’ll stay for another one, they never even came through the door.
“What was it like?”