Movenon celebrated his 50th birthday last Saturday. Some time ago he told me and the rest of the Wednesday Group he intended to have a party.
He’s the last of us old school chums to get to 50. At least of the little group that still keeps in contact. I was the first to hit that number in 2007. It doesn’t seem all that long ago but 53 is hovering gloatingly over the horizon.
Movenon decided he would hold the celebration in the Kings and asked us to clear our calendars and attend, although his actual birthday isn’t until later in the month. But it was a convenient time for him to get his family and friends together.
Knowing that he’s got quite a large family and quite a group of friends, I knew it would be quite a big party. I’m not over keen on big parties these days, not so sure I ever was. When he handed out the invitations a couple of months back, I tried not to commit, being that I’m rarely free on Saturdays.
Getting nearer to the date I still my doubts but the way my Saturday panned out, I decided to go. Admittedly, it wasn’t a decision finalised until a few hours before the event.
When I got there around 9pm, I remembered what Mr Pointyview told me about the Kings these days. He’d been there over the Easter Weekend and while other places were heaving with people celebrating the extra days off, there was hardly anyone in the Kings.
It was like that this Saturday. Although going into heaving pubs wasn’t something I enjoyed, seeing a pub as large as the Kings with only about four or five customers made me feel rather self-conscious.
I headed out the back way, near to the toilets, because I thought Movenon’s party would be there, but most of the spare rooms were darkened. It was another of those times I wished I’d paid more attention when being given instructions.
Neatentidy said he would be there around 9pm, so I texted him to see where I needed to go.
As I strolled back towards the bar a few memories stirred. I don’t know why that night of all nights. I’d been there often enough in the past…
The Kings, or Kings Arms as it’d been then, back in 1974, was the first pub Neatentidy and I visited on a regular basis; and that was due to a touch of serendipity. In that year, mid-teens but out of the pubescent acne stage, I had a weekend job in a shop now long gone. G.J. Handy’s.
It was a hardware shop and initially I worked there Saturdays. The following summer I worked during there during the school holidays.
Not long after I got the job Neatentidy got himself a Saturday job as well; in his case a grocer’s around the corner. It was convenient, we sometimes met up lunchtime.
However, some months later Neatentidy left school and I decided to stay on to take a couple of A Levels. Although I expected at the time we would lose touch, Daddy Fitrambler found that to be the case when he left school.
Fortunately, it never happened that way as Neatentidy and I – after a gap of a few weeks – began meeting up on Tuesdays. Being about 16 we tended to just stroll around talking.
Then one weekend, I agreed to help with stock-taking at Handy’s – extra money always welcome – and as it was an all day job, the boss would provide the lunch.
On the day I found out that lunch was to be at the Kings Arms. I wasn’t really keen on drinking in those days, but come lunchtime, a colleague, some twenty years older than me, ordered a half of lager and lime. I did the same.
In those days I didn’t use pubs except when with the parents, so my knowledge of beer wasn’t all that good. What little knowledge I did have, came (frighteningly) through tv adverts. So I took the lead from my co-worker – my senior by around twenty or more years – and followed his lead. What he ordered was good enough for me; or at least it would have to be as I was unlikely to go through all the keg taps until I found something more agreeable. (That sort of thing was to come later in life; 1977 springs to mind but that’s another story.)
I drank about a pint that lunchtime and felt very light-headed for many hours afterwards, but managed to do an afternoon’s work; a possible trial run for later dinnertime sessions of the late 70s at my current employer.
It was that lunchtime dinner and drink that gave me a good idea; I’m occasionally prone to them. So on our usual Tuesday meeting, I put it to Neatentidy that we could go there for a drink. He was quite keen on the idea. I suppose to be fair and honest, I believe something like that was what he wanted to do all along, he’d probably suggested it but I hadn’t been keen.
Yes we were only 16, so underage, but dressed a little more like adults in jackets and ties, we got into the Kings Arms and were ordered two halves of lager and lime. We drank a further two halves each and left at around 9pm to get home by 9.30pm at the latest.
We felt quite light-headed, merry and things became a lot funnier than normal.
The King’s Arms wasn’t the same then, internally. As you walked through the doors you could go straight ahead to the toilets, dining room, to the left a reception, to the right was a long room, a bar away from the rest of the place.
On most Tuesdays over the next few months we were mainly served by a rather rotund barman, balding, the little hair he did have was grey. His face was a smiling face, a cheerful chap, but with some of his teeth missing at the sides of his mouth, only obvious when he grinned.
He was a nice bloke, but we found him a little amusing; or to be more precise, his name was amusing.
I suppose Cyril isn’t the most amusing name in the world and thinking purely about the name, it still isn’t but it was the context, I suppose, the history of the time.
You see, around this time there were these adverts on the box about Wonderloaf, a sliced bread nationally available. The commercials were set, unsurprisingly, in a bakery. The baker – dressed in white with the cap shovelling loaves in and out of ovens, presenting them to the cameras – was called Cyril. His grinning face and the loaf were in turn presented a few times to the audience accompanied by a jingle; something to plant itself in the minds of the viewers as in so many adverts then and now.
It went: “Nice one, Cyril, Nice one son, Nice one Cyril, Let’s have another one…”
I daresay you’d be hard pushed to really latch onto a belly laugh from that. But Neatentidy and I did. We racked our brains to see how many times we could use Cyril or better still ‘Nice one, Cyril,’ in our conversations or brief bar encounters with him, when buying a round.
After handed over our halves…”Nice one, Cyril…” or going up to the bar with empty glasses. “Yes? Another round?” he’d asked pleasantly .”yeah, let’s have another one…”
You get the drift…
Yeah, ok, you had to be there!
I rather liked that old layout with the separate bar, rather than its open plan look. I reflected on that as I got back into the bar.
I suspected the ‘do’ for Movenon would be upstairs and I could hear the loudness of music as I approached the bar. Neatentidy probably wouldn’t have been able to hear the text alert, so I asked about the party at the bar.
A couple of minutes later I was upstairs and in a small room with a bar, which led to a larger room. The music was really blaring out now and I was beginning to wish I hadn’t decided to come. After all, I had a blog to write and I could have used the time to do it. But that was unfair.
Neatentidy was at the bar, with Mrs Neatentidy. We greeted each other and that meant I was trapped, I couldn’t sidle off. With normal lights of the room, being invaded every so often by multicoloured lights from the disco room, the 70s music and the dance floor populated with the over the top 70s costumed guests along with some bewildered old ‘uns (and apprentice old ‘uns like me).
Neatentidy suggested a move to the Disco room. I went along with it but I groaned, inwardly. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to help Movenon celebrate the half-century, but the flashing lights and the noise…