The last time I pulled a pint it was 1995, the pub was called “Harkers”, and I was a 22 year old law student earning minimum wage serving up flavoured vodkas and pints of strong continental lager to the townsfolk of Chester. Fast forward to 2011, it’s the “Rhos Yr Hafod”, and I’m a 38 year old ex-lawyer earning nothing at all serving up fags, crisps and pints of real ale to the farmers of Ceredigion. Had the Ghost of Careers Yet to Come whisked my 22 year old self into the future, such an unexpected twist in the anticipated career path would have come as quite a shock. Just as well my 22 year old self didn’t have a vision of her 39 year year old self in an agricultural store buying Myti-Lite Foot Rot Shears and a can of Foot Master violet livestock spray or someone might have been calling for the crash cart, warming up the paddles and shouting “clear”!
Way back when, in a fit of foolish enthusiasm and under the influence of alcohol, Dave and I offered to mind the local pub if ever the need arose. Six months later and there we were, behind the bar, serving up pints with a head you could stick a flake in and pass off as a Mr Whippy in a glass.
Working in a pub licensed to serve until 2:30 a.m. came as a shock to someone whose finely tuned body clock thinks bedtime starts with a mug of Ovaltine at 10 p.m. On our first night we were both so knackered by 1 a.m. that Dave grabbed a horn from the wall display, wiped the dust off the mouthpiece and called last orders with a squeaky parp – I’m not sure who was more surprised that he’d done it, him or the last remaining hardcore locals who were promptly turfed out into the night. Once we’d dusted off our mental arithmetic, spilled a few beers, messed up the till a few times and generally tested the patience of the customers, we got into the swing of things and actually started to enjoy our evenings behind the bar. The silver lining on the cloud of late nights and sleepy, grumpy mornings was getting to know the locals. And what a fine bunch of people they are….
… the evening starts with Iwan drinking his 5 o’clock pint of Youngs, telling stories peppered with “flipping ‘ecks” and singing the occasional dirty song, then there’s Mark who played rugby, his daughter Jess who goes out with Rhodri, whose brother is Alisdair, who works for Charles who runs the local shoots and is married to Liz, who always drinks coffee and tomato juice, both of whom are friends with Gareth who collects military knives and calls me Sue Perkins and drinks with the other Charles, who wrote a song that was stolen by Phil Collins, together with George who owns the caravan park and Dafydd who’s a local councillor and Bill who wasn’t well, all of whom are driven home by Kevin who drinks coke. Then there’s Paul with the crazy eyes who goes out with Sian who hated her haircut so much that she cried, Dai who was in the Welsh champions tug of war team but now rows across oceans even though he only learned to swim in his fifties, Roger the tax man who Dave over charged by £60, the other Dai who’s married to Mary who plays darts with Paul and Sian, the other Dafydd who plays darts with Mary, Paul and Sian, and a David who speaks with a Welsh-Essex accent and plays darts with Mary, Paul, Sian and Dafydd…. are you still with me? So there’s Will Chips whose surname isn’t Chips but is known as Will Chips ‘cos he ran the first fish ‘n’ chip shop in Aberaeron, Tiny Tim who fell off his tractor and fractured his heel bone but isn’t to be confused with Skinny Dave who is someone else entirely, and last but not least there’s Gwilym whose dog saved his life, wants to sell us Welsh cattle and loaned us The Veterinary Book for Sheep Farmers even though he’s never owned a sheep.
D’you want ice and lemon with that?