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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A Pot of Ale and Safety

A Pot of Ale and Safety


I glared at Bailey in as vicious a manner as I could muster. “You bastard, you’re fucking late.”

“Fuck off.”

I could punch that face, right now. Hangover. Too many session beers. Oh yes, that’s right, I could hear the smug voice behind the raised glass from yesterday afternoon as we’d pitched up at ‘Hooters’, Nottingham: “This, Addison, pal, is a session beer.”

“A what?”

“That’s right. ‘Banks’ Mild’. Drink as many of these as you like, pal. Have no effect on you, I tell you. Slow and steady. Down the hatch, pal.”

“Right. Two more of those then.”

“And then two more after the other two more.”

Our host was a cheery fellow. To start with. “Call me barkeep,” he’d said, waving the roller skating girls in our direction with plenty of jugs – and Banks’ Mild, too. He stopped being quite so friendly when Bailey started singing Charlton Athletic tunes in a provocative fashion, three or four jugs down the road. “Tell your mate to shut it. There are Forest fans in here. Or you’re leaving.”

“Sorry. Not even a Charlton fan, either.” And I’d looked at Bailey with alarm. “Supports Wolves. We’re off there early doors tomorrow.”

I wondered how we’d get through the game.

Needn’t have, though. Worried about the game, I mean. Neither of us could remember any of it, except, inevitably, Charlton had lost. Well, Charlton always lose. They should replace Athletic with Nil to save time when the scores are read out on Sports Report.

I changed up to fifth and put my foot down. We’d made the A50. It was 11 o clock and we had to get cross country - make The Wheatsheaf in Wolverhampton by 12, so we could check in, get beered up and arrive at Molineux by two thirty, latest. Bastard Bailey. Bastard session beers.

“Slow down.” Bailey rolled the window down and puked up a Full English in the direction of the hard shoulder. Most of it was flung against the car by the force of the apparent wind velocity and speed. Some made it back inside. It began to reek.

“Stinking bastard. You’re cleaning that when we get there, don’t think you’re not.”

The girl serving in the Wheatsheaf passed Bailey a cloth and bucket without comment. As the scrubbing proceeded outside, I sat, feeling ill but glad we’d survived the drive, pushing my fork around a plate of luke warm spaghetti bolognese previously slopped onto a plastic plate in front of me. Seventy five pence poorly spent. “Any parmesan?” I asked.

Bailey scoffed outside. “Parmesan? This is Wolverhampton, pal.”

“Fuck off.”

“I’ll see if I can get some in Low Cost,” answered the girl. And she left, taking the opportunity to spark up a fag.

I downed the second pint of lager as Bailey returned with the bucket of rancid water, thoughtlessly placed by my feet. “Tip it away,” I scowled. Looked at the clock. Two pm. And Molineux a good walk from here, in biting winter winds.

We seized our scarves and hats and I buttoned my coat across the Charlton top I was wearing. We walked to the ground in sulking silence.

Wolves won, of course. Bailey was delighted. Gloating. But on the way back there’d been a scuffle in the underpass. I hadn’t wanted to get involved but we’d had a couple of rum punches in The Feathers, opposite the Steve Bull. Jamaican. Samantha makes them.

They can cloud your judgement.
The policeman wasn’t very understanding, but she trousered her truncheon. Eventually. “Teachers? You’re both teachers?” she asked. “Well you should be setting a better example. There are families here. Children. What would they think if the knew?” She sighed. “I advise you to get out of Wolverhampton. But sober up first.”

The M6 was packed with Sunday drivers. My head was pounding and the traffic was shimmering in the freezing fog. Bailey wasn’t much better and we had another 300 miles to go to make home. School tomorrow.

Bailey was fidgeting in the passenger seat. I spoke. Well slurred, probably. “I can’t go on. The car smells of sick. My head is completely shot. My hands are trembling. Take over.”

“No fucking chance.” Bailey’s eyes kept closing involuntarily.

I looked at the sign coming up on the left. Coventry 29 miles. We’d have to stop. As we neared the exit for Corby Services, it read: ‘Welcome Break’.

Welcome break, welcome break, welcome break…the words pirouetted through my brain. I was going to be sick. I indicated left.

“No!” snapped Bailey. “Push on to Coventry. I’ve a plan.”

“Plan?”

“Yeah. Remember? The school senior rugby team is playing against Coventry today. In the final.”

“So?”

“We’ll bowl up there, watch the game from the bar, get some snooze. Wait for your head to clear. Hide in the crowd. Push on after the match. If nothing else, we can say we’re true to our school. Or I’ll get on the coach and go home with the lads. Can’t stand this car. It smells of vomit.”

“Bastard.”

“And you.”

The plan had merit, so we found the place. I pulled in and got out unsteadily. The winter breeze made my head somersault, but I steadied myself. Bailey was puking into the verge again. But I felt a sense of relief. A good hour’s break. Possibly two if it went to extra time. And anonymity in the crowd. Nobody would notice our filthy hangovers.

Someone approached as Bailey straightened up.

“Shit! The Headteacher!”

She smiled wanly as she approached us, looking us up and down and clocking the car and the adjacent verge.


“Hello girls,” she said. “Come to watch the match? How sporting of you. You can sit with me.”