Sunday, August 26, 2007

Snapshot circa '97

I hit the stool like the shipwrecked hit land. I was full to the brim drunk and I couldn’t hide it if I tried. My fingers curled around a glass. Which pub I was in I didn’t know. They all looked the same and after nine o’clock they took the menus away with the pub’s name on them. Looking around didn’t help; fathers dancing with daughters, work clothes passing for good in the gloom, money counted out beneath tables, racing slip confetti on the floorboards, swear words punctuating tobacco stained sentences. Then I remembered. It was in my hand; a scrap of paper, just a corner of something else. And written on it was a snippet, just a few little words. In a drunken version of my handwriting it read ‘THE WIGGLE WAS FUN, WELL IT WAS BEFORE. THE HAIR IS NOW GREY, BUT WHAT THE HEY!’ Seventeen words, in four lines, sealed with an exclamation mark, which I normally don’t like. I guess it was a poem of sorts. A memory tumbled into focus. It was written about and for the woman sitting beside me. I was going to give it to her. How many men in her life had presented her a poem? I was confident none. I slid the poem along the bar and fixed my eyes on hers as she read my words.
“What is it?”
“Read it.”
“I can’t, it’s all blurred.”
She was right. It was unreadable. I had slid it through a ring of beer left by a glass.
“What did it say?”
“It was a poem. I wrote it for you.”
“You remember how it goes?”
“I do, but it was meant to be read, I don’t want to say it out loud.”
She wiggled a hand in front of my face. No wedding ring, I noted. Then I understood and began to write the poem on the back of her hand.
“I’m Very.”
I stopped writing. I wait for more. It doesn’t come.
“That’s your name?”
“Very Ellis.”
“It’s a very unusual name.”
“Well, it’s very me. Have you finished?”
I nod, I had. She takes her hand back and fishes for a cigarette.
“Aren’t you going to read it then?” I say.
“Later I will.”
“It’s not long.”
“I know, but I like to read in bed.”

Now I’m not drinking pubs just aren’t the same. Pubs these days are like swimming pools that have been drained; everything pretty much looks the same, but the vital ingredient that made it fun is missing. Stepping into a pub used to be like stepping through a portal to another world. A more colourful world where only the Guinness was black and white. Alcohol was your passport. With pint in hand you never knew where you would end up. Every pub had its cast of characters ready to act out the play for today solely for your entertainment. There were the dodgy geezers who’d try and sell you static caravans in the Essex hinterlands, the Jackanory merchants who had all had trials for Spurs , the pasty faced bores, the fruit machine feeders, the fat jokers crying on the inside, the ex-cons, the wastrels, the floozies, the braggers, the diehard dandies, the lonely, the incoherent and confused, pantomime landladies who could sniff out trouble at a hundred yards and pub dogs that would sniff your crotch. Like toys that come to life at night they would play and fight and squabble and love while no one was looking. Except someone was looking, and how I miss it now.