Living in the Twilight Zone, I don’t get out a lot in the evenings so a Friday night out on the quay with my son and his partner isn’t an invitation to be readily turned down. I walk to their gaff. About a mile and a half. I’d already walked up and around Europe’s largest hill-fort earlier in the day but as everyone I know is already dead, or on their way out, I felt it prudent. After this, we walk into town so I’ve worked up quite a thirst.
In the King Charles, I order a healthy pint of Guinness. Mmm. That went down well but I might go for something less filling at the next joint. We wander past the still working ships and end up in the Lord Nelson where they have a live band playing old rock classics. It’s a bit of a spit and sawdust joint and seats are sparse in order to accommodate all the old salts that might fall in.
The band, All Funked Up, are pretty good even with such a shocking name. They have an excellent repertoire which improves considerably with each glass of red wine. Here’s a funny thing: in this not very salubrious enclave, when one asks for a glass of red wine, you get the choice of a Montepulciano Abruzzo or a very nice Sicilian. And they’re not being precocious. They’re just not selling rubbish.
A sleek grey cat appears on the bar. It’s wearing a diamond encrusted necklace. This is the sort of joint one might expect a Rhodesian Ridgeback but the cat does the job: everyone backs away.
The female lead singer has bright red hair and sports an impressive number of tattoos. She’s got a shouty voice that doesn’t quite reach the depths but she has all the actions and is having an intimate conversation with one of the old sea dogs round the corner. You have to go ‘round the corner’ if you want to use the facilities. A very short woman from Windsor (I know because I interrogated her) tries to climb up on the stool beside me. It’s tricky. However, her husband has bought her a coke. It’s a funny colour. I think it has about ten Bacardis concealed within. Anyway, with each sip, the ascent seems easier.
Once she’s settled, I begin my journey to the loo. The guitarist has left the stage, still strumming. We can hear him but I think he’s ventured outside for a fag. By the time I get to the musicians, he’s reappeared without missing a note. I journey into the domain of old salts. Dangerous territory. In amongst the pirates, I spot a sea dog with ‘guide’ embroidered on his hat. Only the brave or foolhardy would ask the destination.
I forgot to say that, this being an occasion, I’m wearing a sparkly grey full length skirt. Some hours ago, I thought I was the bees’ knees. Now, as I resume my place at the bar to order more drinks, my son’s partner arrives behind me. She puts a kindly arm around my shoulders and whispers: ‘it’s not dreadful news but you do have your skirt tucked in your knickers’.