Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Pint Of Bitter In A Jug

The following stories are in memory of Geoff Squires from Coventry, long-standing resident of Whitstable in Kent, recently passed away.

Let's hope they serve a decent pint in the next life.

The problem with writing as a medium is that it is very difficult to portray the inflections in words
. One word can be said in many different ways
. In this case the word is "no". It can be said as "no-o", with a broken inflection. Or as "no-o" with a rising tone, or as "no-o" with a descending tone. Or just as "no", blandly, with no inflection whatsoever. Or in any one of perhaps a hundred different ways.

This story involves a trip to Southend. Geoff and his mate got off the coach and - of course - they wanted a pint. So they went into the nearest boozer. Geoff drinks bitter, and his friend drinks lager, but they both have one thing in common, that they prefer to drink out of a jug rather than a glass. Geoff went to the bar. "I'll have a pint of bitter in a jug, and a pint of lager in a jug, please," he said.

The barman didn't move. "No!" he said: like that, flatly.

"Oh," Geoff stuttered: "does this mean that you won't serve us?"

"No-o," the barman said (brokenly, with a rising tone).

"Oh," said Geoff again, bemused, "so you don't mind serving us?"

"No," (descending, with a shrug).

That’s when it struck Geoff what the problem was. He looked about the bar and there wasn’t a jug in sight.

"You won't serve our drinks in jugs?" he said.

"No," (indulgently).

"But you wouldn't mind serving us a pint of bitter and a pint of lager in glasses though?"

"No," (positively).

"All right then," Geoff said, much relieved, "I'll have a pint of bitter in a glass, and a pint of lager in a glass. OK?"

"OK." And the barman served them their pints, and Geoff was about to pick them up when something occurred to him. "Incidentally," he added, "why don't you serve drinks in jugs?"

"Because people tend to use them as clubs," the barman said, miming the action of bringing a jug down on someone's head.

"Good point," Geoff said as he carried the glasses over to his friend. And they drank up quickly, and left without another word.

Geoff is a diminutive Midlander with very thick glasses and wiry black hair like a brillo pad. He's very distinctive. This next story also involved a trip to Southend, although this time Geoff was on his own.

He went into a pub and ordered a drink. Now Geoff likes his pint filled to the top. No head. So when the barman handed him a pint with a quarter of an inch of head, Geoff handed it back.

"Can you fill it to the top please?"

The barman tutted, but did as he was asked.

After Geoff had finished that, he went for another. This time the barman gave him a pint with a half an inch of head. "This is taking the piss," said Geoff: "can you fill it to the top please." The barman was obviously having trouble with the pumps because the more he pumped, the more head he got. "Right," he said, "I'm the owner of this place. You're barred!"

Geoff shrugged his shoulders and headed off to another pub. But no sooner had he got through the door than the barman said: "you're barred."

"Barred? How can I be barred? I've never been in here in my life before."

"I've just had a phonecall from the owner," the barman told him.

"Oh well," thought Geoff, and wandered on again. He thought he might as well visit a club this time. He was on holiday, after all. So he looked around for a club, and when he'd found one, went in. He went to the bar, eager for a drink, but, once more, the barman told him he was barred.

"Don't tell me," said Geoff, "you had a phone call from the owner. Does he own every bloody pub and club in this place? I just want to know where I can get a drink."

"He owns two pubs and one club," the barman told him, "and you've just walked into each one in succession."

"Oh well," thought Geoff again, crestfallen, "at least I'm guaranteed a drink at the next pub." And he didn't care how much head that pint had on it this time.

Geoff has a friend, Big Ted, a tobacco smuggler by trade. Big Ted is about 6 foot something or other and the same about the midriff. A genuine man-mountain. You’ve already had a description of Geoff. He’s about 4'11", and wears milk-bottle bottom glasses. They call him "Double-Glazing" on account of the thickness of his glasses.

Big Ted has been in the smuggling game for years. He crosses over on the ferry once a week, returning with large quantities of continental tobacco, which he then sells around the pubs in his home town. There's a few like him in every town. Unfortunately, in the last few years he's begun to lose the use of his legs. Walks with a walking stick over short distances, but needs a wheel chair the rest of the time. Which kind of militates against the smuggling business somewhat. So he got Geoff in to help him. Which is when things started to go wrong.

Geoff does the pushing. So you've got mountainous Big Ted in his wheel chair, and little Geoff puffing away behind, eyes swimming like two jellyfish in gold fish bowls. To say that they're an obvious pair is to understate the case. They stand out like two conked-out Morris Minors in a Rolls Royce rally.

Geoff's got a croaky voice, a nervous disposition, and likes to do impressions of Reg Presley of the Troggs.

Which is fine on Karaoke night. It's not so fine when he's pushing a man-mountain through the Nothing To Declare section of the customs building, in a wheel chair loaded up with illegal tobacco.

"Wild Thing, you make my heart sing, you make everything groovy, Wild Thing….." echoing around the corridor, while Geoff boogies down to the rhythm.

"Shhhhh," says Big Ted, curtly.

And, of course, the obvious thing happened. All the customs men got to know them.

"Hello Ted, hello Geoff," they say as Ted and Geoff are embarking on the boat. And: "hello Ted, hello Geoff, what's that you've got tucked away in your wheel chair?" they say, as Ted and Geoff are passing through the customs hall on the way back.

These last three times they've been caught. Ted is thinking of taking early retirement.

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