4: The First Pub

The Kings Today

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.

Wonderloaf Magazine Advert

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…

102 comments on “4: The First Pub

  1. Actually no, it’s only five now isn’t it. I forgot to include the one I was writing.

  2. GloomLaden you should sport a beard one day it is amazing what one can found in a full bushy beard on a beer swigging, folk singing man in jeans that are too tight and a shirt tucked in and if you wish you can still wear a tie.

  3. Sorry to come in late but been to skittles whilst listen to Jethro Tull and trying to choise which of the 2 beers on ofter to drink. Even I didn’t think I can do justice to 90 different beers. How many ciders will available? I will see you both at the station.

  4. I believe the Gowithits went to see Jethro Tull recently, so they, at least, should feel at home.

  5. Of course, the train will be cancelled and replaced by an antiquated bus without brakes driven by a madman who does not know the way. 89 of the 90 beers will have been drunk dry the previous night or held back for the evening session. The one beer on will be Welsh. The venue (doubtless tiny) will be crammed to the rafters with beer scratchers with filthy beards and a penchant for Jethro Tull. There will be all that faffing about with tokens, thirty six to be proffered for a half pint, recalling the hyperinflation of the Weimar Republic without the saving grace of Hitlerian discipline to follow. Time will evaporate and we will discover outselves hazy and freezing on the station, the last train ever having left in Beeching’s day and we will have to walk home on dual carriageways, dodging traffic in a bid to keep up with Blameworthy’s restless legs. We will never get home

  6. For all you drink-sodden wretches out there, all fired up by GloomLaden’s enthusiastic promotion of the apocalypse on Saturday we’ll be meeting at 10.15 at the station; catching the 10.30 train to arrive at 10.45 and begin the puke-fest at 11.00. There should be about 90 beers available so we can look forward to going through the card, before hiking barefoot to a nice country pub in an adjoining county. This should still leave plenty of time to dive hurriedly onto the last train back, where we can watch GloomLaden gently marinating in his own vomit. I’m anticipating it with relish.

  7. Where’s Mrs.Gowithit when you need her? We could be on for another century here, but we need to do it before Fitrambler interferes with another post.

  8. As in “He floridly talks a good florid-faced session”. You seem to be looking forward to the carnival of vomit and piss now GloomLaden. I rather fancy going on to Bath later; on foot of course. Last train back is at 10:58 by the way. If we leave the festival at about 2:30 in the afternoon, you should be able to make the 200yards to the station in time. Even if you are ‘in your cups’.

  9. The dictionary definition of florid is: Very ornate, flowery. So stop being pedantic; abstruse; didactic; fussy; hairsplitting; nit-picking. Doubtless your face will be florid though, by mid-afternoon on Saturday.

  10. It occurs to me GloomLaden that your persistently flowery – or should that be floury? – language seems to be developing a culinary theme. The combination of my ever-thickening crust of cruel urbanity with Mrs.Blameworthy’s reputed brand of vinegary contempt has all the ingredients of another revolting, stomach churning dessert, offered up by some odiously repugnant TV chef.

  11. You’ll Never Get To Heaven – Stylistics – 1973
    Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now – The Smiths – 1984
    Closest Thing To Heaven – Kane Gang – 1984
    Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carlisle – 1987
    Heaven Must Have Sent You – Elgins – 1971
    Knockin’ On Heavens Door – Bob Dylan – 1973
    My Blue Heaven – Fats Domino – 1956
    Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin – 1985
    Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton – 1992
    Thought I’d Died And Gone To Heaven – Bryan Adams – 1992
    Three Steps To Heaven – Eddie Cochran – 1960

  12. Sounds like Fitrambler may have his hands full in protecting your honour and dignity then Mrs.Gowithit.

  13. Thanks for the times that you’ve given me
    The memories are all in my mind
    And now that we’ve come to the end of our rainbow
    There’s something I must say out loud.

    You’re once, twice, three times a lady
    And I love you,
    Yes you’re once, twice, three times a lady
    And I love you,
    I love you.

    You shared my dreams, my joys and pain,
    You made my life worth living for
    And if I had to live my life over again
    I’d spend each and every moment with you.

    When we are together the moments I cherish
    With every beat of my heart.
    To touch you, to hold you
    To feel you, to need you
    There’s nothing to keep us apart.

    You’re once, twice, three times a lady
    And I love you,
    Yes you’re once, twice, three times a lady
    And I love you,
    I love you.

    ‘Three Times A Lady’ – Lionel Blameworthy – 2010

  14. I for one is looking forward to our outing to Saturday and I will be on my best behave with a low cut top and tarted up as prescribed. Complete with Wiltshire accent.,

  15. in those immortal word from Meatloaf: – Good Girls go to heaven but Bad Girls go everwhere!!

  16. Who knows what other reader of this blog may, reading Mr Fitrambler’s fond anticipation of Saturday’s outing, have decided to come along, to enjoy in the flesh that convivial sodality so apparent from the blog and its comments. I should hate any such person to be lulled into a false sense of security by your protestations of innocence. Perhaps Mrs Blameworthy should attend; her reputed brand of vinegary contempt might restrain you.

  17. The others seem to have, mostly fond, memories of previous sessions with me GloomLaden. I wonder why yours are so different. You forget that the listed attendees all know me well and have no need of any warnings from you. Having said that, I don’t really expect anyone to turn up on the day.

  18. Blameworthy, I feel honour bound to go, having now been listed on this blog as an attendee by Mr Fitrambler. I just wanted to blame you for what wil inevitably happen and warn any others intending to come what horrors may await.

  19. Mr Blameworthy,

    Mrs Sunshine can enter the Fitrambler world and the very fact Mr Gloom-Laden is not enamoured with the name for a mutual friend who is no longer with us, is a good reason to adopt the moniker.

    Mrs Sunshine was an Intriguing woman and I have many a good memory of lunching with her late after some of our past drinking sessions. Never ever sure why she would want to have said lunch with me, especially when I felt it should have been another it would have been more appropriate to be with.

    But that’s the past. Many things were going on around that time. I know I ate a lot of Pizza’s and drank a lot of beer…was even thought to be married or the partner of a friend of hers at one time.

    Hmm. Funny how memories can be provoked…

  20. I think the expression ‘ a feast for hungry eyes ‘ is probably straight out of Dickens as well. Or have you been reading the old Mills & Boon love stories again? I think I may have upset Mrs.Gowithit by inadvertently casting doubts upon her status as a lady. I thought she had done that herself by agreeing to go to a beer festival with us. I finished reading Martin Chuzzlewit recently; a novel containing the wonderfully named Mrs.Todgers. Another character for the blog possibly? Do you know anyone for whom the name might be suitable. I hope you didn’t object to me introducing the late Mrs.Sunshine either, in the face of strong objections from GloomLaden.

  21. My Dear Mr Blameworthy,

    despite the tendency for many to blame you for all their ills – drink related at least – I rejoice in an opportunity to spend time in your company. It is a matter of record that I am a very willing participant in these events.

    I will not let you become Mr Gloom-Laden’s apprentice – not that it would be much of a job because you’ve always been your own man – but if nudges are needed in order to stop you going in that direct, be assured, I will nudge…

    your humble servant, sir,


    NB: Hmm…Knew I shouldn’t have started reading Bleak House last night. Undue influence…

  22. So you’re not expecting ‘an apocalypse of drunken despair’ then Fitrambler. Any more talk like that from GloomLaden and my ‘guiding light’ may well be extinguished. Once again he has dragged me down to his level of despair and I am beginning to wonder if it’s worth getting out of bed on Saturday. If everyone elses experience of sessions with me matches that of GloomLaden’s I may have to do the decent thing to save you all from further ruin.

  23. Mr Gloom-Laden, sir,

    I am glad to see you have not lost any of your customary optimism and zest for life. I am looking forward to our meeting over the odd glass of ale – or even a normal glass of ale – when I trust you will be your usual jovial self.

    And why should you not….

    Mister Blameworthy, an oft maligned gentleman, will be there, the guiding light of the day.

    And of course there the redoubtable Mr Gowithit, a man beyond reproach.

    Then, the fair, Mrs Gowithit, a feast for the hungry eyes.

    Then, of course, myself, a man of many parts, the majority of which are failing to work properly these days. But I don’t complain.

    So, chin up, old lad, if nothing else, it’ll be a day to remember. It’s just a matter, in your case, of whether it’ll be for the right reasons,

    Be Seeing you….

  24. OK GloomLaden, let’s call the whole thing off. You can stay safely in your room instead.

  25. The newts are also rising to my defence. I have decided that if one turns out to be female, she shall be known as Olivia.

  26. The four legged Gowithits still think you are a nice person since you have put a pond in your garden.

  27. The casual reader of this blog can have little concept of the the depths to which Blameworthy stopps when in his cups. Mr Fitrambler is actually rather restrained in his accounts of this man who has les so many – of both sexes and, doubtless, neither – to ruin. What begins as a run out to a nice country pub ends in an apocalypse of squalid, drunken despair. Why do I go? Well, despair is my element in any case.

    Incidentally, Mrs Gowithit, the Wizard of Oz did not sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Doubtless you were thiniing of the Wizard of Oswestry.

  28. Joyless orgies are included in the price of the ticket but you have to pay fifty pence extra for the enjoyable ones. Unless you are a Camra member in which case you get a free half pint of ordinary bitter, which is about as close to an orgy as most Camra members get. I should know; I am one. A Camra member that is not an orgy. An ogre perhaps, but not an orgy.

  29. I was the one who started by referring to you as a lady. I was defending your honour and dignity but you had to go and spoil it all by exposing yourself. Are you now saying that GloomLaden was right and I have always been a heartless cynic? I am wounded. Is there nobody left to defend my innocence?

  30. Joyless Orgies when did they became part of a beer festival do I have pay extra for that?

  31. Blameworthy I was trying to express what a thoughtful and caring person you are but true to form you show that you are heartless. I would be well to stay with Fitramble who would protect my honour and diginty without queston.

  32. Can I just add to Mrs.Gowithit’s comments by making it clear that the bucket and towel just happened to be in the boot of my car at the time. I do not make a habit of carrying them about with me at all times when walking the nine miles to that ‘must visit’ pub. If truth be told there was no bucket, but the towel was real enough. Had I had the bucket to hand earlier, there would have been no need for the towel.

  33. See already GloomLaden’s advertising of the event has attracted Mr.Balmeworthy and Mr.Rantworthy. They sound like an ill-mannered pair of louts. Why did you have to bring up the bucket and towel Gowithit; have you no shame? You make it sound as if I was expecting the vomit and piss even then. I believe that happened near Broadwindsor on the Dorset/Devon borders, during our drinking tour of Southern England. I was going to say that you were always a perfect lady in my presence but even I would struggle to sound convincing with that statement.

  34. I was referring to you in the early part of the day Mrs.Gowithit. What happens later on is anyone’s guess. I of course shall remain a gentleman throughout the proceedings, despite being up to my knees in GloomLaden’s piss and vomit and deafened by his shouting.

  35. I can only say from past experiences that Blameworthy has always been a gentleman and on occasion produced a bucket and towel for me in my hour of need. Not that I have ever had too much to drink and been sick. Note: Mr Gowithit and just miss named Balmeworthy as Rantworthy.

  36. What other woman is going than, I thought I was the only girly allowed on the jaunt.

  37. See you at about 9.30 then GloomLaden, if you’re still keen to do it all again. Would you not agree that the vomit, piss and senseless shouting has been mostly yours on these occasions? The fact that the stench has remained with you, even after you have arrived home the following afternoon, should also tell you something. The bruises may have been the result of me having to haul you up out of the gutter. I of course, have remained sober and urbane throughout each outing, just like I did in my younger days, as confirmed by Mrs. Gowithit recently. Anyway, you should be careful in your talk of joyless orgies and loutish carnivals; you make it sound like an advertising poster. We could end up with all manner of louts, hobbledehoys and n’er-do-wells turning up unannounced. If only Mrs. Sunshine was still around to witness the spectacle. I cannot be held responsible for your behaviour on Saturday and would remind you that you should moderate your behaviour as you will be in the presence of a lady.

  38. So, Mr Fitrambler will be at the Chippenham beer festival and Mr Blameworthy, the Gowithits and myself too. May I have the pleasure of first blaming Mr Blameworthy for the way this is bound to turn out? Blameworthy’s outings always seem like a good idea when he suggests them, sober and urbane and in want only of a tie. But come the day and they degenerate into loutish carnivals of vomit and piss, joyless orgies of senseless shouting and talk of some pub nine miles walk away which we absolutely must visit before the last train departs at – oh, it’s gone. Time and money vanish on these outings and the only thing I have ever gained from them is inexplicable bruises and a stench that has been resident in my nostrils ever since. Readers of this blog lulled by Mr Fitramblers fond anticipations of the occasion would do well to bear these considerations in mind.

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