Another Sunday, another session. Me and Gordon, Elaine and one or two others
are sitting at a table by the windows, talking and laughing and drinking our
second or third pints. Mayhems lurching around somewhere, sun-burnt and
Sheffield Wednesday shirted, knocking into knees and tables, his face slowly
adopting its maroon snakebite shade. Its a sunny day outside, and the
gardens thronged with students getting in the way of the spliffers. Even
Bob Browns in a good mood, sipping cider with ice and smiling and
laughing with an aggravated Jewish Dave, whos trying to watch cricket on
the telly because Kent are playing in a big one day game.
Theres pretty girls, all flowery and flip-flopped and fresh with cheerful
drunken boyfriends shaking their heads clear of hangovers and laughing about
things that seemed so serious last night. Itll all end in tears later,
but it feels good now, fizzy like cold lager.
Even Gordons cheerful in his shirtsleeves. Hes in the middle of an
amusing story about some ex-bird of his from Middlesborough. Hes rolling
a cigarette and shaking his head and smiling ruefully, enjoying the applause of
our laughter. Then his eyes go back to their usual disappointed hurt look and
he says, Oh
Fucking hell. He looks past me to my left towards
the door, and then back down at the unfinished cigarette between his fingers.
He completes its rolling with a precise, over-careful violence, and spits a
piece of loose tobacco out from between his chapped lips.
Whats wrong? I ask. Elaine and the others look quizzically at
twat, says Gordon, almost whispering with rage. I turn to
my left and see an unremarkable looking dark haired man, thin, not that tall,
and angry looking. Hes sharp-nosed and his dark blue eyes dart about
suspiciously. Hes got the raw looking suntan of a man who works outside.
Hes dressed in jeans and white trainers, with a rather odd looking
combination of a white short-sleeved shirt with a royal blue T-shirt underneath
it. A young lad of about 13 or 14 accompanies him, and he barks instructions at
him in a Glasgow accent. Theres drunken aggression in his voice, but
its confident, hard, bad-tempered hungover growling rather than rowdy
Billy! he barks at the youngster, Billy! Find a fuckin
table! Doon there, by the fuckin windaes near they c*nts! He points
a finger at us, and I turn away from him to follow his sons progress.
The young lads dressed in a tracksuit and a baseball cap. He looks
nervous and awkward rather than hateful and aggressive, but hes got his
fathers sharp nose and deep blue eyes. Red hair shows from under his
black Nike baseball cap. Hes got a big, white, blushing face with buck
teeth, like a 1930s soap advert. Hes polite and asks about vacant
chairs amongst the students and locals that surround us. He does well to secure
two places at a small, round table next to the fruit machine that a dining
couple have just vacated. Its not by the windows, but its as close
as hell get.
I can hear his dad at the bar, barking orders at Emily the barmaid. Aye!
Two fucking pints! Export! Thats whit Ah fuckin telt
yoo! I watch and bristle slightly as he flings a five pound note onto the
bar. Em handles it better than I would, carefully taking the money with her
cool, white hands and crouching rather than bending to get the two packets of
beef flavour crisps he demands as an afterthought. She stands, smiles and asks
him for another ninety pence, please.
Ah thoat they pints was two poond forty-five each! Thats four poond
And the crisps, Em smiles, fifty pence each.
Fuckin rabbin me fuckin blind! He chucks a pound
coin onto the bar and Em catches it on the half volley and smiles again and
its enough to make my heart go. Might as well keep that
fuckin change! he spits. Whit fuckin use is ten
fuckin pee tae anywahn! Hes only got little hands, so he has
to put the two packets of crisps in his mouth whilst he carries the pints to
the table and his son.
He puts the pints down on the table and lets the crisps drop out of his gob.
There ye go, son, get that doon yir Gregory Peck! He indicates the
pint of Export with an aggressive nod. His son nervously takes a sip. His hands
are small too, and the pint slips slightly in his grasp and he spills a tiny
drop. Mind yir fuckin pint! Ah peyed fae that! the father
lovingly instructs. His son nods nervously and makes an indeterminate low
whining noise. His dad sits down and lights a cigarette, then he gives his son
one and lights it for him. They both sit and smoke and sip lager. The
fathers blue eyes look round for a challenge, the sons look at the
Ems out from behind the bar and collecting empties, with a fresh smile
for each punter, skilfully stacking pint glasses and pop bottles, stuffing
empty crisp packets into them and clearing rubbish from tables. Her freckled
face with its small-toothed smile discreetly interrupting the slurred, summery
conversations. She even keeps smiling when she gets to the father and son combo
sat by the bandit. She looks hard but sympathetically at the son, assessing
easily his young age. She catches his blue eye with her own and he looks down,
he wants no part of his fathers crime.
Are you 18? she asks. The young lad doesnt answer. He blushes
and looks at the floor.
Yoo doant hauv tae tell her, his father instructs.
Is he eighteen? Em pleasantly directs the question towards the
Whit thi fucks it goat tae dae wi yoo? he challenges.
If hes not eighteen hes not really allowed in here, and
hes certainly not allowed to drink beer.
Its no his beer, its mine.
Well, hes drinking it.
Whits that goat tae dae wi yoo? Yoo cannae jist come ower
here and tell the likes ay us whit we can and cannae dae! Ahve goat ivry
right tae sit here wi ma fuckin son and drink fuckin lager!
Its ma fuckin right! His thin chest is bulging almost as much
as his eyes. He half rises from his seat, but doesnt stand as his finger
points six inches from Ems now unsmiling face.
Ive turned to watch and this rigid digit is making me angry. Im
actually pretty sure I could do okay against this character. Theres
probably quite a few more in here who could too, more than he thinks anyway.
For the first time I notice that the electric blue thats showing from
underneath his white summer shirt is some kind of Rangers T-shirt, one of those
stupid cup-winning commemorative things.
Em says, Its rude to point. And he cant drink that in here.
Unless he gives it back youll have to leave.
Thirs nae fuckin way Ahm goin anywhaire!
Ahm entitlet tae hauve a fuckin beer wi ma son! Yoo jist get
tae fuck. Yoo tell her son, get that bitch telt! Get tae fuck!,
fuckin say it, son, say it!
Get too fook, his son mumbles, a little ashamed, high-pitched
Thats it! Thats her telt, son! Now. FAAAAAHHHKKK
AAAAHFFFFF! He yells the last bit with foam on his lips and Em has to
turn away from a fountain of saliva and lager. She turns her back, and then
turns left, up the stairs into the Back Room where Duncan McAllister, the
landlord, is chatting to two plumbers he was at school with in Rotherham.
And whit the fuck ur yoo lookin at! the Rangers fan yells at
scouse James behind the bar. To be fair, its not just James looking at
him. Fuckin set ay c*nts eh son? Yoo telt her though. Well
done, he pats his son on the back, then takes a gross handful of crisps
and stuffs them into his mouth, chomping them hard so that bits stick to his
lager and foam flecked lips. He knows that everyones watching him out of
the corners of previously cheerful eyes. Hes enjoying the tension.
Hes enjoying spoiling things.
Everyone tries to resume. Elaine and the rabbit faced girl she brought in for
the session are talking falsely about some ear-rings Elaines wearing.
Gordons shaking his head and staring at the wall, smoking with considered
precision the cigarette hes finished rolling. He refuses to catch my eye.
Only Mayhem seems completely unaffected. I can hear him ranting about
immigrants from somewhere over by the TV screen.
I shrug and sip. Im not going to start anything with this prick. No one
will. Em returns behind the bar with a stack of glasses collected from the Back
Room. Duncan trots down behind her, his brows furrowed beneath his shiny,
deliberately utterly hairless head.
Duncans not a tall man, or particularly broad, but Ive seen him
lift barrels with a shocking ease. He addresses the Glaswegian in his Rotherham
accent, He your lad mate?
Aye. So fuckin whit? Whoo thi fuck ur yoo?
Duncans eyes are round and clear and bright. Its my pub,
mate, he says confidently and happily, with almost a touch of pride,
and he, he points to the son whose face is now uniformly scarlet,
the colour of a Third Lanark shirt, cant drink ale in here. And
you, mate, cant abuse my staff.
Aw, gi it a fuckin rest ye Inglish c*nt, the Glaswegian
says, and stands up. His lad looks at the carpet.
Steady on pal, Duncan says, Im as Scottish as you. I
might not have taccent like, but I were born in Airdrie.
Well I bet youre a fenian c*nt then! Nae need to pick oan me
an ma son!
Steady on pal, Duncan repeats, holding the Huns gaze, and
beginning to roll back the sleeve of his dark-blue Adidas sweatshirt. The
Huns eyes are looking at his arm and widen in amazement as a Rangers FC
tattoo is revealed on Duncans lean, smooth bicep. Its not some
crappy red lion with a Ready motto either, but the full entwined
RFC with a Red Hand of Ulster above it and 1690 beneath. The Hun
shouldve been paying more attention to something else because as his eyes
cease widening and become all clear and perfectly blue Duncans clenched
fist or maybe just a couple of pointing fingers jab into his solar plexus. He
doubles over and Duncan grabs his collar and heaves him so hard through the
door that it slams back into its frame and rattles. Id heard that Duncan
was a black belt in some brutal martial art or other. Now I believe it.
He returns to the table and tells the son, Now go outside and help your
dad. And tell him never to come back in here otherwise hell get worse
than that. Young Billys stood up now and Duncans standing,
paternally, with his hand on his shoulder. The boys nodding and
cant help looking pleased. As he walks out through the door I can hear
his dad retching in the car park. He leaves with a little relieved trot of his
Duncan looks over at me and holds my eye. We shared fist-pumping salutes and
clenched teeth cheers when McFadden put that second one in against Moldova a
while back, he knows where my parents are from. He knows Ill understand.
Didnt you know you had a Rangers tattoo, Dunc? I say.
No. I try to hide it. Its a bloody embarrassment.
Having seen what I just have, I can only agree.