It was the sort of pub that you wouldn’t take your wife into. Full of men with flat noses and either a pencil or a cigarette behind their ear. Some were working men, wearing heavy clothes, washing away the dust from their throats with pints of cold beer, each telling a story of a hard days graft. They started early and liked to be downing their first beer about three o’clock. Scaffolders, plasterers, bricklayers, plumbers and labourers. Some tore things down and some built them up.
Then there were men who never seemed to do any work, yet always had bundles of cash in their pockets. Smartly dressed men who always drank from the top shelf. The sort of men who would happily lend you a few bob if you asked them. No paperwork needed, just a handshake and the money was yours. But it had to be paid back by a certain date of course or there’d be consequences.
There were old men, regulars who came in every day whose future was as unsure as a fairground goldfish yet happy in the knowledge that this was a safe place to be. Warm, cheery and cheap. Not that the beer was cheaper than anywhere else, but the fact that they hardly ever bought a drink. The workers or non-workers would usually end a round by saying something like “Oh yeah, and get old Jimmy one as well.”
A diverse mixture of men, some not so bright and some with an IQ of 150. For example, there were two Black Cab drivers, one who thought that Art Deco was the name of an American Trumpet player and the other won Mastermind in 1980!
Everyone had their own corner. The workers always used the far end of the bar near the toilets, the non-workers had the part of the bar nearest the main entrance. The old boys sat on the stalls in the middle. If by chance you sat on one of these stalls and an old boy came in, you immediately stood up and offered him the seat.
The air was rich with colourful language and bursts of loud spontaneous laughter. Everyone’s name seemed to end in an “e” sound. Names like Billy, Bobby, Frankie, Joey, Kenny, Stevie and Davey.
Tommy was the landlord, an ex amateur heavyweight boxer. He was good but never quite made it as a professional, he cut too easy and bruised quicker than a ripe banana. The pub’s walls were plastered with photos of him in his boxing prime with celebrities from the seventies and eighties. A reminder to the punters not to take a liberty in his pub as although he was a bit past his best he could still throw a wicked right hand and knock you sparko.
The barmaids were local woman of a certain age, that in their day would have put any page three girl to shame. But too many fags and one too many sunbeds had taken their toll. They knew everyone’s name, what they drunk and could serve three people at once without need for pen and paper. They always had a smile on their face, a dirty laugh and could swear better than most of the men they served. But no one ever overstepped the mark or took a liberty with them.
The jukebox played everything from Sinatra to Sheeran and you could guarantee that by four o’clock in the afternoon the music would be pumping and someone would be dancing while others sang along to every word.
The pub had no kitchen and didn’t do meals. But at five o’clock Tommy would put some saveloys in the microwave and thirty seconds later they’d be on the counter with chunks of French bread and jars of English mustard. All free for the punters to help wash down the afternoon's booze.
So when people ask me “ Do you miss the pubs not being open?”
Well...you can guess my response.