Monday, 18 July 2011


I was thinking how Fridays have always been associated with going to the pub. At least they have for me, for pretty much the last thirty five years. My first job after leaving college was drinking at a small advertising agency. Work was something that seemed to get in the way of visiting the wine bar in those far-off days. As a young artist keen to make my mark (literally and figuratively) I noticed there were plenty of people who spent an inordinate amount of time 'out with clients' - mostly that meant long lunches at the wine bar, pub or a particular french restaurant that stocked a very reasonable Pinot Noir. In those days my meagre salary meant that i was unable to join the party - except for Fridays.

If we were lucky, lunchtime would be the starting point - the whole agency would decamp to 'The Wheatsheaf' one of the account execs had his own stool with a little wooden plaque that said - Stuart's Stool' I assume this enabled him to A) Find his place as he staggered in from yet another client meeting and B) Enabled him to remember who he was at closing time. If it had been a good week, the art studio would be treated to a couple of rounds of beer and maybe a cheese and onion cob, if it had been an exceptional week it would be a couple of rounds of beer and a steak and kidney pie. Quite often we stayed in there all afternoon, there was no need to worry about driving - none of us had cars.

That Friday ritual has travelled with me through various jobs in various locations; and even now I still see Friday as a night to visit the pub - these days it's usually a less full-on engagement. Three pints and i'm done. The reason I mention all this is that last Friday I met with Gary and John at one of our regular haunts. There was an old Peugeot bicycle standing by the door - it brought back a few memories. I once had a most satisfying Peugeot. It was a proper racing bike with glue-on tubular tyres. The Chainwheels were drilled out and it had Campagnolo gears. It was light, for its time, and fast. I remember I had to get my Dad to sign the forms as a guarantor for the hire purchase agreement - I don't remember how much it was, probably over £200, maybe £300 - but it was over 30 years ago. Once in the pub I saw the cyclist at the bar - he was getting on in years; he had the look of one of those meerkats that are all over the tv advertisements at the moment, pencil thin and straight. He wore leather cycling shoes that had been polished to a patent shine, no socks and a shiny short sleeved cycling jersey. I got chatting to him, told him about our end-to-end adventure and he came back at with some tales of his own.

He told me that he had been having a few troubles of late. His wife was an alcoholic. He had been sitting at home and she emerged from the kitchen with a saucepan of boiling hot mince and onions and tipped the lot over his back. She was now being treated at a clinic somewhere. He then added, and he described it in such a way that made it seem little more than a minor inconvenience, his house had burnt down. He was now living with his daughter but had received a letter saying that his wife would be ready to return soon. He seemed anxious about this and as I left him he said he might just ride off on his bike and get lost somewhere.

Sometimes you have to remember there are always those with more problems than your own.

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