Northumberland, Spring 2013
After his cousin’s wedding, we pick up the hire car and continue north. We’re staying at some point beyond tarmacked roads so we stop at the last village for supplies and a pint. The bartender is just old enough to be serving alcohol and another woman hovers behind her, supervising the transaction. I order two of whatever the ale is.
A pint and a half? she says.
No, I say, Two pints please.
She half-laughs and exchanges a look with her superior. As she hands them over she says hesitantly, I’ve never seen a woman drink a pint. She averts her eyes and lowers her voice further, That’s so cool.
Cotswolds, Summer 2015
There’s a pub dog, dried hops hanging from the ceiling and an oil painting of a flying pig (not a metaphor). There’s no one behind the bar but a man sitting at it gets up to do the honours as we approach. My brother has a red wine, F and I both ask for whisky. F points out a fancy one on the top shelf. The man gets it down. Looks at it, then at us.
Maybe they recognise my brother, he lives across the road, but we’re not from around here. F has a beard and a leather jacket and I’ve got too-blonde hair. I don’t remember what I wore but in my head it’s a floral bomber jacket that certainly isn’t helping.
You want any ice or water with these?
It is less than £7 for the round.
Pembrokeshire, Winter 2017
The landlord just took over a week ago and the woman behind the bar is on her first shift. You can tell she’s new, can’t you? he says to us while she takes our order. We don’t know yet that he’s the landlord because he’s just sat at the bar drinking white wine so we assume he’s an opinionated regular and hate him a bit on her behalf.
While we’re eating we hear him tell the actual regulars about the time he had to leave a pub he was running because of an affair between himself and a woman seventeen years his junior that the locals weren’t happy about. (He ended it with her though, not the other way round.)
He then opened a Portuguese cocktail bar and hired a woman to sit in the window selling ice creams to attract local residents. One of the interview questions he asked her was Will you flaunt your body? She said yes and the punters came from far and wide, according to him.
The upshot of the story is that he’s hoping this new woman will do the same for this place. He and the regulars then discuss her looks for a while and the woman laughs. They all laugh.
We’re stopped momentarily on our way out You’re not going walking in those shoes are you? There are some great walks round here. Where are you from? I’ve got a nephew in Perth. We laugh. And leave.
We’re all the way home before I realise I’ve left my bag.
I spot it straight away as I try to sneak back in unseen. I pick it up and head for the door. But he’s seen me. He’s staring quizzically.
Forgot my bag I say, brandishing it.
I was going to say, he says. He stands up, comes over to me. He touches my arm. Bloody hell. I was thinking, ‘She’s on the game here. She’ll have another fella in a minute.’
He laughs. I hesitate. Then I laugh, too.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 8th January 2017 as part of Internet Care Package.
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