• Keith Dersley

IN AND OUT OF THE PUB

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

Malcolm devoted a lot of effort to his art and a lot of seriousness to his beer drinking. After waiting a while, he would announce his verdict on the quality of this or that ‘drop’. Pubs that fell short, including those supplying a certain local brewery’s ales, which he considered too gassy, were ignored for ever more. They were nothing but ‘barns’.


One night we were at his local with Nick and Boaz. Nick had been at #NorthgateGrammarSchool a few years before us, and now worked for Barclays Bank, so he could afford to buy most of the pints we swallowed. (He was also happy to pay for bags of crisps and packets of cheese specials.)


Boaz was a classmate from old 5A3, an erudite German scholar, as Malcom and I, in the imaginative atmosphere of the public bar, were stars of the artistic and literary skies.


We hadn’t noticed three or four youths, a little older than us, at one of the tables. But they had marked our cards, so to speak. To them we were offensive, over-educated wimps who knew nothing of the realities of the building site or Foundry.


At some point I went out to the toilet which was at the back of the pub. To get to the facilities you had to dodge around some piles of bricks, a cement mixer, Nick’s impossibly low-slung racing bike, and the landlord’s car.


By the urinal were the youths, fastening their flies. I nodded amiably. How green I was.


‘Do you want a crisp, mate?’ said one, holding out a crinkled silver bag.


I just knew I was in for trouble.


‘Thanks,’ I said, and reached out.


He jerked the bag away and poured the contents over my head.



A guy who would throw his crisps away had to be a desperate character. In that instant I thought of #PatrickMcGoohan, and how John Drake would react. I lashed out and pulled back, wrenching my coat lapels out of his hands. Jumping away, I ducked between his two friends and out through the door.


I ran away from the pub and into the drive of a nearby house. I got down and lay flat behind a bush.


It was getting dark. It was quiet. Footsteps.


‘I don’t think he went this way, Terry,’ said a hooligan.


There I waited, in the dark. The sound of laughter on the tv behind the window blinds of the house.


All I could do was return to the pub, though there was a shape prowling around that looked like Terry.


I almost barged into Malcolm who was coming out the same door.


‘Here he is!’ he called to Nick and Boaz, putting an arm around my shoulder.


That Terry character outside was not a quitter, because he had been in and out of the pub looking for me.


‘We realized you must have had words,’ said Malcolm. ‘The geezer told us he wasn’t very happy about the clip you gave him on the chin.’


‘He may be in again, then?’


‘Possible. But when we realized what was going on I rushed home and told my Dad, who called the police.’


A police car arrived and, a little later, Malcolm’s father.


‘I’m ready for ’em,’ he said to one officer, showing him a spanner in a woollen sock.


‘I didn’t see that, sir,’ said the copper with a grin.


They soon rounded the boys up. They had still been peering around outside and feeling hard done by. I got some vile looks.


‘It’s not the first time we’ve had trouble with this lot,’ said the landlord.


‘Do you recognise anyone here?’ the officer asked me.


I recognised Terry, but decided to say nothing.


‘What worried me was my racing cycle back there,’ said Nick to the sergeant. ‘That’s nearly two hundred quid’s worth of bike, that is.’