View from the Bridge: 3
by John MorrisonContents
It is the sort of pub where they think shandy is a cocktail. Where a man with a full set of teeth is regarded as a tad effeminate. Where conversations usually start with "You can say what you like about Adolph Hitler, but...", and go swiftly downhill from there. Yes, it's the Grievous Bodily Arms: the naffest public house this side of the Crab Nebula.
The Town Drunk, though banned from most other pubs in Milltown, is still welcome here - if 'welcome' is the right word to describe a pub with all the warmth and bonhomie of a Woodie Allen family reunion.
A collection of forensic photographs pinned to the wall represents the only attempt at decor. Behind the bar, gathering dust, is a small and worthless collection of trophies, recalling the pub regulars' achievements in darts, dominoes and formation ram-raiding. When the Grievous Bodily Arms won the After Midnight Car-Door Slamming Contest three years in a row, they got to keep the trophy.
He sits at tbe bar, staring blankly into the bottom of an empty beer glass and enjoying annother evening of morose introspection: never a total waste of time. He drinks at the Grievous Bodily Arms whenever he feels life has dealt him a particularly unplayable hand. That's eight o'clock most nights.
The barmaid pulls him another pint of cooking bitter. He doesn't bother to look up; she has none of those feminine charms that might distract a hardened drinker. Imagine, if you will, Claire Short's less attractive sister, with rather more body hair than you'd expect from someone who isn't in the building trade. She divides her time between pulling pints and touting for casual abbatoir work. Some women sport a discreet little tattoo, but you'd imagine that having the words Die, Bastards, Die gouged artlessly into her forehead might be the source of a regretful twinge or two as the years slip by.
Monday night is quiz night at the Grievous Bodily Arms. The prize is generally a year's subscription to Hard Bastard Monthly, or a platter of raw meat: not so much a mixed grill as an autopsy. In deference to the pub's clientele, who are mostly from the shallow end of the gene pool, the questions are untaxing. Like: Who are you looking at? Wanna make something of it? Do you like hospital food?
Fortunately, Milltown has pubs to suit all tastes. The Flag, for example, caters for lovers of real ale, steam engines and computers: the sort of people who think there is something intrinsically funny about bad programming code. You can walk in, shout "anyone got a Maltese rail timetable handy?", and there'll be a stampede to offer you the requisite paperwork.
Beer is taken very seriously at the Flag. Beer Bore, on a crusade to find the perfect pint, is comparing his pint of Throgmorton's Old Throat Scourer with the last such pint he enjoyed. The pump-clip boasts that it is Brewed with Pennine Water - not much of a recommendation to people who know that the most palatable thing you are likely to find in a Pennine stream is a dead sheep. He produces a little black notebook which details every pint he's ever drunk, with points out of ten for each one. Page after page of diminutive, obsessively neat handwriting: the sort of handwriting you see on Crimewatch, when Nick Ross quizzes the resident graphologist. "Are there any clues here that the writer would one day dress up in a clown costume, walk into MacDonalds with a pump-action rifle and blow twenty-seven people away?".
They certainly broke the mould when they made Beer Bore: some sort of health and safety regulation, apparently. He's at that difficult age when a man with a beard, two left feet, and time on his hands feels an irrational desire to take up Morris Dancing. He buttonholes you with an enthusiasm that proves less than infectious, usually about beer, or steam trains or computers. "You'll find this interesting", he lies, as you suppress the urge to add: "Let me be the judge of that". If you suggested he should get a life, Beer Bore will merely beam at you and say: "Funny you should ask, I'm busy downloading one"...
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