Backstories

Mr Led Zep

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So, another pub observation.

Mr Led Zep.
That’s not his name of course. Nobody knows his name, Mr Led Zep they call him. Not to his face of course, there all just too embarrassed to tell him they don’t know his name.
He’s been drinking here for years, they just don’t know his name.
Mr Led Zep they whisper- still wearing that old red t-shirt.
Mr Led Zep they say- still wearing those tiny shorts.
Mr Led Zep they call- he’ll have his coins.
Mr Led Zep they whisper- still wearing that battered blue cap.
Mr Led Xep they say- he’ll have his pint.
Mr Led Zep they point- still hasn’t had a hair cut.

As he selects his songs- the same song every night.
Two pounds in the machine
sip
Led zeppelin- whole lotta love
sip sip
Iron maiden- run to the hills
sip sip sip
AC/DC- whole lotta Rosie
sip sip sip sip
Guns and roses- night train
sip sip sip sip sip
Cyndi Lauper- true colours.
gulp gulp gulp

Nobody knows why the fifth, nobodies ever asked. They play along of course
“Good choices”
“Awesome”
“Yeah man”

Five songs over and he makes his way out the door
“There goes Mr Led Zep”
“Same bloody songs”
“Can’t he get a haircut”
“Can’t he get new clothes”
“Can’t he play something else”
“Why that last song”
Nobody knows him
He’s a laughing stock.

Another good night at the pub he thinks, crashing onto his worn old sofa. It’s been another long day.
Sitting up he catches sight of her picture.
Her.
The love of his life. The pain as fresh as the day…
The wedding day.
Married, happy.
His choice of DJ, her choice of first dance.
Last dance
Only dance
Her choice of song- he’d laughed.
He loved her, she got her way.
She always got her way, she was perfect.
Until the drive to the airport.
Sideswiped
The car flipped
The ‘irony’ of the protective barrier crushing the life from her chest.

Every day since he’d done his days work, earning his money, enough to pay his small flat. Change left over for a couple of pints and a few songs on the jukebox. Four of his, one of hers. Of theirs.
Every day he thought of ending it, of joining her.
When he was truly alone that’s exactly what he would do.
In the meantime he still had his friends in the pub.

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Life, being bothered in a public place and feeling sorry for someone

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So, tonight if was sat in the pub with a pint, my pad and a pen just scribbling writings down (I think I was writing about rough hands at the time) when a woman, clearly with a couple of drinks in her sat down in front of me. It took a few moments for me to break my concentration before looking up to see a woman in her forties looking at me and waiting for a response (see my post about stereotypical mid life drinkers)
“Pardon?” I ask
“Don’t worry, I just wanted to ask what you were writing.”
“Um…” I pause, not really sure how to explain it
“Is it a diary or journal?”
“Well..”
“It’s ok, nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“No, no.”
At this point another woman joins us, this one younger, probably early to mid twenties, a little too skinny with a head and eyes a little too big, wearing a baggy top that you only see on girls that are skinny but obsessed with their weight.
“I’m just asking him what he’s writing.” Says the older woman
“I’m just writing what comes to me.” Yeah good one, a good way of explaining it, “I’m doing a creative writing course.”
This is a lie, but Iv looked at doing one so seemed an easy out. What followed was a few questions from the younger girl about where, etc before it got more specific
“So why write here in the pub?”
“It’s just a change of scenery, I can absorb the atmosphere and also get a short break from the house, being a stay at home dad and carer.”
“Oh wow, so this is your downtime?” The older one
“Yeah if you like.”
“So what are you writing? I have an idea for a fantastic plot for a romantic novel,” the young ones getting enthusiastic, “two people meet and really dislike each other, but over time they fall in love.”
“Yeah that’s good,” I lie, “I’m actually writing something a bit more dystopian.” Hoping this will put them off
“Oh wow, have you read brave new world, or heart of darkness?”
“Iv read the second yeah, not brave new world.”
Some more chitchat about it then they go back off to their friends apologising for interrupting me.
I go back to my writing grumbling internally about being interrupted in a public place- what are the chances right?

A little later I’m still writing away when a familiar voice interrupts me
“So how old are your children?”
Looking up again I see the younger girl sat at the next table surrounded by handbags as she’s seemingly been abandoned for the cigarette run.
“Six and nearly two,” I reply always happy to talk about my kids, “a boy and a girl.”
“Aw, I don’t think I’d be ready to have kids, I think I’d be selfish and focus on my career so I can provide.”
“That’s fair enough, having one changes things mind.”
“Yeah, hey you wanna hear a sad story, the reason we’re out drinking tonight?” I sense instability, “I saw someone die Monday. Oh and isn’t it sad that I’m 24 and haven’t ever been in a long term relationship.”
“Well that’s a pretty crap week then.” I’m out of this conversation, she’s clearly got some issues. Fortunately her friends arrived back and I was able to stop talking to them.
Afterwards I did feel some pity for her, obviously seeing someone die is going to be an issue, but more that she’s made this decision about not having children until she’s older when she clearly hasn’t even experienced love yet. She’s missing out. Unfortunately for her they left for the globe, I doubt they’ll find love there.

Life, mid life pub drinking

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So, sat in the pub observing I think I can now accurately describe the stereotypical mid life drinker.

note, it’s Saturday night so it’s a very specific drunk group I’m watching

The Saturday night regular is somewhere between mid thirties to late forties, it’s hard to tell as a live of dull dreariness has ravaged them anyway.
With a few drinks in them the eyes have sunk in and every movements a stagger. Except the arm, that lift of the pint to the mouth is as steady as it needs to be.
The clothes are predictable, with the guys wearing either a short sleeves casual shirt or some form of football top, normally an england one. The women push just over the line of overdoing it, as it’s the highlight of their week and they can try on their latest primark/tk maxx trash.
You can’t work out which ones are the couples, as the whole group flows around each other a little too drunk and a little too touchy.
The sales songs are on the jukebox, the ‘classics’ at least the ‘karaoke classics’
Banter with the landlords common, at least in so far as he humours them whilst their hands are in their pockets.
And this is their Saturday night, any more would be speculation and that would fit more into my backstories, although I’d bet there are kids at home.

Other observations I made of pub regulars

You can always tell the farmers and girlfriends and the farmers look exactly like farmers, but with clean versions of their daily wear, whilst the girls massively overdo it with sparkly black dresses that look far too out of place in a small village pub

Banter with the landlord is common enough that the younger guys try it
“Pint please”
“Here you go”
“Aw thanks for the drink, jim”
Irish look (I’ll get to the Irish look in a future post) it’s basically a don’t fuck about look.

Johns story part two

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So, I didn’t stop there, as my observations of john changed my opinion slightly as he opened up more to poor Derek.

John, part two

Yes, I know. My life pathetic, my wife is a bitch, she’s fucking the gardener, but I’m still better than you.
You have a car? Great, I can buy a better one
You have a dog? Bet it’s a mongrel
You own a house? Mines bigger
Oh and I have a cleaner, and a gardener.
Your wife’s a bitch? Yeah mine too, and she’s fucking my gardener.
You work? I’m retired
You’re retired? Iv done it younger
Oh, you’re my gardener?

Rita’s story

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So, another backstory, also from the pub

Rita, the barmaid. She’s pretty good. Good at her job anyway.
Life? Not so much.
She’s single, not really an issue
She’s 50, still ok
She’s never been in love. There have been men of course, many men. She’s fifty and an barmaid, there have been plenty of men eager to take advantage of an easy lay. But never love.
Men have been revisited, often multiple times, rarely on consecutive occasions. Given the numbers you’d wonder why she isn’t a mother.
She doesn’t use condoms, she wants the feeling
She’s not a mother, maybe it’s her body, maybe it’s the smoking, maybe it’s the drink, maybe it’s luck. It doesn’t matter, she’s childless and she wants one. Two. Three. Any. But it’s getting late, her clock is ticking, she’s 50 and single, what else can she do? Without a child her life’s been wasted, pointless.
She wants children
She has none
She’s getting old.
Tonight will be the end of it, it cost her her job but she did it, enough free drink for the youngest, fittest guy in the bar, enough free drink to make him want what she can offer. It cost her her job, but tonight’s her chance.
She’s fifty, he’s twenty two.
Tonight was it, if she’s capable, she’ll be pregnant.
She needs it, needs kids, tonight’s the chance.
Tonight she gets pregnant or she doesn’t
Tonight leads to happiness or it doesn’t

She’s desperate.
It’s been two weeks, two weeks of no sex, no smokes, no drink, two weeks of crossed fingers and crossed legs.
She’s desperate, she wants kids, she needs kids.
The stick is there, soaked in her piss
Patience
Patience
Pissing on a stick, so classy
She’s pregnant
She’s not pregnant
Patience
Patience
Nothing else matters but the stick
Here she sits, in a grotty cubicle, in the grotty pub she worked in until so recently.
Grotty toilets
Grotty pub
Pissing on sticks
Patience
Patience
Pregnant
Not pregnant
She has everything she needs here
The cubicle
The stick
A blade
She’s pregnant
She’s not pregnant
She’s fifty
This is her last chance, her last attempt at creating life.
She’s pregnant
Or she’s dead.
The stick starts to change…..

John’s story

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So, another helping for you

John

You know, were I to write a diary it’d be empty. I have nothing to say and nothing to write. My life’s empty, it’s fairly pathetic, but here I am; at the pub. Drinking with Derek. Because Derek’s here and so am I.
Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing, truly wonderful, if I could tell you my life was normal and average or tolerable and acceptable but it’s not. I’m too old, my wife’s too ugly, she’s probably fucking the gardener. She’d leave me if she had a decent lawyer. The fact is we’re going through the motions, she’s a bitch and I’m a loser.
I’m in my forties, too old to start again, too young to just accept it and settle. Yet here I am, rich enough to stop caring. Poor enough not to be able to change things.
Here I sit, my clothes worn, colours faded, jeans patched up. If I were smart I’d spend the money; new clothes; new car; new woman.
But no,
I’m John, I’m pathetic, I’m a loser, my wife’s a bitch, I’m in the pub, she’s fucking the gardener, I wish I had something.
Anything more than sitting here with Derek. I’m drinking with him because he’s here, and because I’m here, but he has nothing to say either, he has no story. He’s just an old fella with the shakes. He’s probably had as pathetic a life as myself….

Derek’s story

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So, something I used to enjoy was sitting somewhere public and identifying someone. I’d then observe them for a few minutes before inventing a backstory. Tonight in the pub I did the same.

First up, poor old Derek.

Derek.
He’s old,
He shakes,
Everybody knows him.
From the outside you’d think perhaps he’s a part of the furniture here, always been here, drinking his usual in his usual seat, at the usual time.

A lovely story.

But it’s all crap. Nobody knows Derek at all. It isn’t his age that’s causing him to shake, it’s nerves. Derek still lives with what he did, the things he’s done. His hair is grey, and almost gone, he’s lined with age, so many lines. Every line for another victim.
Victim.
What a word.
A strong word.
The truth is that Derek ‘is’ a ‘victim.’
He pressed the button
He pulled the lever
He turned the tap
He flicked the switch
The details aren’t important, from his point of view he killed them all. From the point of view of his audience he delivered justice. The neutral would likely suggest that he followed orders, but he did kill many.
He killed them and returned home to his family. He’d kiss his wife, tuck in his children and sit quietly in his chair with a large glass of brandy. She didn’t complain, that was the way of the time, the man works, the woman cleans, man has a drink, woman doesn’t complain.
But is was nothing as convenient as traditional stereotypes that kept Derek’s brandy bottles empty. He drank because nothing else let him sleep at night. Let him forget.
Forget
It’d be funny, if it were a joke.
Derek pressed the button
Derek pulled the lever
Derek turned the tap
Derek flicked the switch
Derek did as he had to. Because the alternative was unemployment. There was no welfare state, no handouts, if you worked you ate, if you didn’t you didn’t. Derek did what he did because he had a family to feed.
Now Derek sits, he drinks, he’s old, he shakes and nobody knows him. Derek’s an old man, he’s a killer, he delivered justice. It doesn’t matter, isn’t relevant. What’s relevant is that Derek feels guilt. Enough guilt that his body fades, his hair has greyed and disappeared, he shakes, he really shakes.
He’s slowly outlived his wife, his friends, his drinking buddies, all he has left is his guilt.
Derek sits in his usual space
With his usual drink
At the usual time
And Derek is sorry, really truly sorry.
He did what he had to do, but he’s sorry
He fed his family, but that doesn’t atone
He followed orders, and accepted the regrets
He’s Derek
He’s old
He shakes
Nobody knows him
He’s sorry, sorry for every button, sorry for every lever, sorry for every tap, sorry for every switch.
He’s Derek, and he’s sorry
He’s Derek, and he’s a good man
He’s Derek and he’s sorry
And that’s what matters