“Ah, Fitrambler, old chap,” says Gloom-Laden, pleasantly.
“Gloom-Laden, old boy,” I replied, amiably.
“What are you having?” Gloom-Laden asks.
“Same as you, I think,” I respond; there’s only 2Bs or 3Bs available.
Apart from sounding like a Toff’s convention, it’s an amiably start to an evening. And why not? It’s been roughly seven years since we enjoyed a drinking session with just the two of us.
Gloom-Laden pays for the beer. Arkells 3Bs. An ale I find rather inconsistent in recent years. Earlier this year the Duke of Wellington produced some good quality 3Bs, but my last couple of visits found it rather under par. In the Plough, Old Town, it never tastes right to me although Mr Neatentidy rather likes it.
As Gloom-Laden paid for the beer, I looked around and some memories played across my mind. The Clifton, where we’d agreed to meet, was a pub off the beaten track. Back in the 1980s it was a pub Blameworthy and I spent a fair amount of time in, along with the Duke, the Baker’s in Emlyn Square. Those were the days of the nine pint sessions, two to three nights of the week. I often think fondly back to those days. I also look back and wonder how the hell I made it into work, the next morning. At our peek we did that two to three nights a week.
In those days there were two bars in the Clifton. Blameworthy and I used the Public bar and often played darts.
The basics of the layout, besides taking down the dividing wall hadn’t changed that much. Like most pubs these days there was an absence of cigarette smoke, but the smell of beer, stale and fresh.
The bloke serving behind the bar is about late twenties, a little older than Blameworthy and I when we used this place regularly. He looked a lot taller than either Gloom-Laden or myself, but after a minute I got the idea the floor behind the bar was raised a little.
The bar curved around the seating area so wherever you are you can be seen from the bar. In the 1980s when I drank in there, it was a two bar pub, but the wall separating them is long gone.
We decided to stay in what would’ve been the old public bar, not far from a dart board and a pool table.
Gloom-Laden and I sat down not too far from the bar. It seemed to a quiet night.
The evening was organised by email, the first sent when I was on holiday in North Wales. I followed through a couple of weeks later. Gloom-Laden had broadband these days, something I tried to convince him of the virtues of back in the early part of the decade. He had not been keen then. He also doesn’t own a mobile phone; possible one of a dying breed.
“If I’d a use for one I wouldn’t hesitate but to get one, but I don’t,” Gloom-Laden said.
For our first meeting in years I suggested The Clifton because it was in the same street where Gloom-Laden lived.
The pub wasn’t all that busy, but then, it was only about 6.40pm.
We settled down. The beer wasn’t bad. I was expecting worse.
I remembered it was Blameworthy who suggested Gloom-Laden and I would get on. We’re both amateur writers; his efforts lay in the short story area, whereas mine have always been in the novel-length area.
I remembered our first meeting. It wasn’t the best of starts as I was rather rude to the poor chap. It was because I was forced to sit next to Gloom-Laden and I’d have preferred to have sat alone…
So, when he tried to make conversation I was exceptionally rude.
However, whether by fate or chance, the incident didn’t stop us from becoming friends.
Another trip arranged by Blameworthy not so long after put me in the presence of Gloom-Laden. It was a trip to the beer festival being held just outside Gloucester in Winchcombe, Postlip Hall. Or more accurately the barn a short distance from the Hall. I would’ve preferred it to have been just Blameworthy and myself but…
Well, let’s be sensible here. There was beer to be drunk, a place to see which I hadn’t seen before. What could I do but make the sacrifice and accept a stranger in the camp? A social obligation!
With the assistance through the course of the day and much of the evening of a minimum of 12 pints of beer (maybe a few more) I decided Gloom-Laden wasn’t a bad chap after all. I think, among all the other subjects we discussed I recalled our first meeting and I apologised.
We arranged between us to meet up in the Glue Pot for a session outside the usual monthly one. If I remember correctly, the usual monthly one began to fade and just Gloom-Laden and I got together on a monthly basis; with a guest appearance by Blameworthy and others from time to time.
Over that period of about half a dozen years Gloom-Laden and myself had many a long discussion, many a long argument and many a drunken stagger home. Of those many arguments over the years on various subjects from books to films, politics and people. I probably won most of them. Not because I was necessarily right or cleverer than Gloom-Laden but purely because memory held up better than his and so I usually got him on what can be best described as a technicality…
Sneaky? Absolutely, I admit it, but not proudly so.
I did learn a great deal from Gloom-Laden and read quite a few of the books he recommended; one in particular was The Warden by Anthony Trollope. I became quite fond of that author.
I tend to believe what brought to a close these regular meetings was when I brought others from work to the sessions. That and the fact that we drank more than he liked to in a session. Plus being what is tactfully described as being visually challenged, the walks home from the Glue Pot were rather awkward. As a good friend I should’ve been more sensitive to that and ensured he got home safely as I’d done in the past. I know believe his excusing himself from the sessions was, in no small part, my fault.
Of those walks back to Clifton Street served as a platform for great debates, sometimes arguments, depending on what the subject we were talking about was when we left the Glue Pot. Or, if we extended the evening by having a curry in the Jewel In The Crown. Gloom-Laden often liked it to a couple of writers who use to take long walks and discuss matters, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis…a rather nice thought…
I guess it was around 2001-2 that the gap began.
Time moved on and I often thought of re-establishing contact, but the nearest we came to that was the occasional accidental meeting around town, forestalling his walk home.
However, it was the indefatigable pub sniffer himself, Blameworthy, who kick-started the reunion. Although even his not inconsiderable persuasive powers took three attempts before Gloom-Laden elected to re-enter the scene. Well, Gloom-Laden is nobody’s fool…he knew what the possibilities were of rolling home the worst for wear after a session with both Blameworthy and myself…
It was at a Beer Festival the reunion began (as described in an earlier blog scribbling “The Chippenham Beer Festival”) and was the total opposite of our first meeting.
A second and third meeting followed, one in the Duke and one in the Wheatsheaf (both a matter of record on this blog) before a gap began again.
While the Pink Lady and myself were enjoying the delights of North Wales it struck me Gloom-Laden and myself hadn’t arranged a session of just us two; a chance to hit some of the topics of yesteryear or introduce some new. Besides, I felt it would be a bad thing let things go again…
So, through email – have you tried catching a pigeon in North Wales or training a seagull to do a pigeon’s job? – I suggested we meet up…hence the evening I began to describe earlier in this narrative.
The date, 1st October. The place, The Clifton. The time, 6.30pm.
As always seems to be the case when I need to leave work early, fate conspires against me. I didn’t get away until 5.40pm. By the time I caught the bus time was moving on.
Then there was the ubiquitous flood of teenage brats slowing down the bus as they charged on. Peace was disturbed.
So, it was after 6pm when I got to town.
There were several routes to the Clifton and I chose the easiest. I wasn’t feeling particularly energetic.
Within a few hundred yards of the Clifton, I see the familiar figure of Gloom-Laden striding towards the pub.
We talked work for a while, then we talked about the election, and how the coalition had lasted a lot longer than expected.
Unlike the old days the subject of politics could be covered without any argument. That’s not to say we agreed, but there wasn’t a heated argument over our differences.
Our talk covered the iPad and the Kindle. I pointed out that I hadn’t fully given up on the printed word; there were books that would be in my collection, ones which no electronic device could or would replace.
“It’s getting nearer to what I predicted,” exclaims Gloom-Laden. “That you won’t actually have real collections, real libraries. It’s all be virtual and you just download what you want.”
Years ago the idea of not having things as a physical collection bothered me. I still feel a little the same way, a liking of ownership. However, I am okay with the Kindle form of ownership.
“Right about that one but there is still a sense of ownership with the Kindle and the application of the same name which runs on the iPad….” I responded. “Even if you delete books off the Kindle you can download them again at no extra cost. The Kindle is broken, or stolen, then it can be deactivated and when you buy a new one then you can download the books again onto the new Kindle – no charge as you already own them.”
I do not think Gloom-Laden was sufficiently impressed to charge off and buy one but he was not against the principle. He still prefers the printed word. I cannot blame him from that. Although, he may have felt I sounded suspiciously like an advert for the Kindle…
In amongst our talks on old times I confessed that some nights after a curry as I’d left him at his house, I dropped off on the way home at the Chip Shop in Curtis Street. I bought large chips and fish cakes. How I could justify that I don’t know but there are stories still doing the rounds about the amount I could put away. I think I was a human vacuum cleaner for food in those days.
I couldn’t manage both these days – possibly struggle with one – but not having tea that evening did make me think a bag of chips would be appealing.
After nearly two hours Gloom-Laden went to the bar for a third pint. The pub had begun to fill up, there was a dart match on. One of the bar staff moved the pool table to a spot near to the bar, freeing up room where the dart board was.
It reminded me of the days when Blameworthy and I played darts in that pub. It never seemed so crowded in those days; but then when we played darts that often seemed to be the case; most seemed to be in the lounge bar.
Tonight, it seemed like a Jockie Wilson Convention, looking at the size of the players; even the women seemed rather on the portly side – to put it politely. One exception was a woman in a wheelchair, blonde – from a bottle – who I placed in her sixties but in good health. Well, ok, except for the wheelchair. She manoeuvred it very well. Also, in between throws she taught the pub dogs the shaking hands trick for a treat.
As always when an evening is going pleasantly, it seems to reach the end too quickly. We only drank four pints in just over four and a half hours.
I think, on reflection, the only thing missing from the evening was a further four pints, a large drunken attempt to eat a curry, several arguments…
However, I think neither of us missed any of those things.
We did, however, reach an agreement to do it again, sometime in the future….But hopefully with the presence of Blameworthy.
Then it was home but not before stopping of for pie and chips; a nod to previous sessions, perhaps? Actually, more like the fact I hadn’t had tea and not a lot for dinner…
But it was rather nice.
Many have often asked the question of why is Gloom-Laden called, well, Gloom-Laden.
The man is a pessimist and this often comes right to the fore after a considerable amount of drink. There is also his feeling that every trip Blameworthy is arranging, has arranged will or has gone wrong.
On occasion he’s been correct, a train has been missed and we are late getting home or things have gone very wrong throughout the day. These things only add to his air of pessimism.
In total fairness to Blameworthy, the level of cynicism and negativity Gloom-Laden expresses is totally out of proportion. We’ve only had few problems on our numerous trips with the tenacious beer guzzling Blameworthy.
And there are the times, when feeling the worst for drink, he talks of his plans to kill himself. Or of how pointless life is and why should any of us really bother?
I often think that the man finds the period between birth and death an inconvenient wait…
But during his less morbid moods, which are far more frequent than he’d like to admit, he is excellent company…
I, for one, looking forward to raising a few beers with him at our next meeting; but then, I would, wouldn’t I…?
Apologies to Fitrambler as I seem to have accidentally deleted your email, but this is just to let you and Gloomladen know I won’t be attending the forthcoming session. I can’t face another late, dark evening slog back from one of the usual Swindon pubs. I’ve always preferred daylight drinking and may have been interested had it been a Saturday lunchtime event somewhere out of town, but I know you are often both otherwise engaged at weekends. I take pleasure from the fact that I may have helped to bring you two back together again after a seven year break and I hope you can keep in touch with each other this time. Perhaps the other two original members of ‘the gang’ of five would appreciate an invite occasionally, if it becomes a regular monthly meeting, safe in the knowledge that I won’t be there.
Blameworthy, you’re twisting, like a…a..twisty turny thing.
Take note GloomLaden: even in death some things remain the same.
Look, let’s get this straight, dead or alive I’m not allowing him to go drinking with ‘the gang’ OK. I know you say there are only two of you remaining, but how can I be sure?
Sorry, that last comment was from Blameworthy. Personally I wouldn’t be seen dead in the Southbrook, or any other Swindon pub for that matter.
I shall be lying in state at home until the end of the week. Out of consideration for my two old friends, and to allow them to pay their last respects by raising a toast to my good health, I would consider making an appearance at a nearby pub such as the Southbrook, which has the advantage of being less of a distance for them to carry my putrid, rotting corpse. I have just returned from a visit to the Tucker’s Grave with a flagon of Somerset Red cider which, if not drunk in moderation, may give me a more genuine excuse for not attending.
Blameworthy expired (again). Not really a problem. We can take him along with us. Even a dead Blameworthy will out-drink Gloom-Laden and myself without raising a sweat; well, a metaphorical sweat, that is. Dead bodies don’t sweat, as far as I know…
No, I believe Mr Gloom-Laden and myself will put up with the smell and it’ll be business as usual….
It is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you all, once again, of the sudden death of Mr. Blameworthy. This time he was sitting peacefully at home in front of his computer when the Good Lord took him from us. May he rest in peace, especially in the evening after work on Friday 22nd October and Friday 29th October.
Oh No! Not another session with Fitrambler and Gloomladen….
“Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
I’m here. Feeling my age, nearly every night this week. Set up what I want to do then have my tea, sit down on the settee and fall asleep for a couple of hours.
Took some pictures around the lawn woods today. It seemed such a nice day that I needed to get out and do something. Could be linked to the death of Tony Curtis. Yeah, ok, I know that sounds odd. But years ago a friend and I use to hang around there on good days. We often chatted about the series and I’d begun writing then. The friend lived just off Thurstone Road, and I use to walk in the direction of his house while we talked, then back up towards Old Town passed The Planks and then through Lawns and home to Park South, where I lived then.
It’s changed a lot since those days. New trees down the path leading into Old Town, I thought the old ones were better, but then I would.
Anyway, I put forward the suggestion we three meet up on the 22nd October. Or if that proves to be difficult the 29th October. However I’m open to other suggestions….
The game’s up; I’ve been rumbled. Having faked my own death in order to get out of the forthcoming session with Fitrambler and Gloomladen, for some inexplicable reason, probably sheer boredom, I then decided to impersonate Mrs. Blameworthy so that I could have conversations with myself from either side of the grave. It seemed like a good idea at the time but now I’m in the doghouse once again. I shall just have to go back to being plain, old Blameworthy. Then again, trying to raise a response on this blog is a bit like communicating with the dead. Is there anybody there……knock once for no and twice for yes.
Mr. Culbability-Fabricator really is the family solicitor though, honest.
Let’s not forget Fitrambler & Gloomladen
….Pete and Dud; Richard Prior and Gene Wilder; Lois and Clark; Robin Hood and Little John; Lord Brett Sinclair and Danny Wilde; Steed & Mrs Peel; Steed and Mrs Gayle; Steed and Tara King (stretching it); Gambit and Purdey; Bodie and Doyle; Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson; Barnaby and Troy; Lynley and Havers; Troy Tempest and Phones; Steve Zodiac and Venus; Adrian Monk and Natalie Teager; Dan Dare and Digby….
I’ve just been corrected again as the ventriloquist and his dumb bird apparently ARE called Keith Harris and Orville, but I was mistaking him for Keith Allen…the ventriloquist that is, not the dumb bird.
FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE: Bill & Ben; Tom & Jerry; Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson; Posh & Becks; Ant & Dec; Lennon & McCartney; Bryant & May; Galton & Simpson; Del & Rodney; Brighton & Hove; Batman & Robin; Cagney & Lacey; Gallagher & Lyle; Jagger & Richards; Renee & Renato; Titch & Quackers; Butch & Sundance; Jack & Vera; Ronnie & Reggie Kray; Antony & Cleopatra; Terry & June; Fred & Ginger; Marks & Spencer; Lager & Lime; Rod Hull & Emu; Cheese & Onion; Bradford & Bingley; Ear, Nose & Throat; Third Party, Fire & Theft; Earth, Wind & Fire. I’ve just been corrected here because I thought the ventriloquist and his dumb bird were called Keith Harris & Orville! Now what an excellent pairing that would make.
…..Mike and Bernie Winters; Dalziel and Pascoe; Morse and Lewis; Sooty and Sweep; Starsky and Hutch; Mulder and Sculley; Randall and Hopkirk; Jeeves and Wooster; Richard and Judy; Gallagher and Shean; Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis; Rowan and Martin; Ronie Barker and Ronnie Corbett; Derek and Clive; Fry and Laurie; Newman and Baddiel; Punt and Dennis; Hale and Pace; George Burns and Gracie Allen; Cannon and Ball; Mel Smith and Griff Rhys-Jones; Mitchell and Webb; French and Saunders; Bob Hope and Bing Crosby; Abbott and Costello; Penn and Teller……I could go on…Hmm, I think I just did….
We should all be grateful that Blameworthy is no longer with us at this point. I feel sure he would have gone off completely at a tangent and – aided and abetted by that Gowithit woman – listed as many famous double acts as he could think of. Hinge & Bracket spring to mind…and Flanagan & Allen. Rodgers & Hammerstein; George & Mildred; Tate & Lyle; Bang & Olufsen; Pinky & Perky; Chas & Dave; Robson & Jerome; Dagenham & Redbridge; Gin & Tonic; Lucky & Pozzo; Wallace & Gromit; Ike & Tina Turner; Deputy Dawg & Musky….the list is endless.
Stan & Ollie I didn’t mind, although I’m sure Gloom-laden would forgive me for saying neither of us could claim to be the skinny one!
Yes, I suppose it was a little over the top and insulting. I’m sure Fitrambler & Gloomladen can be much funnier than those two third rate ‘comedians’, but suggesting Morecambe & Wise would have been far too complimentary. I couldn’t use Jekyll & Hyde as that would suggest you were one and the same, and had spent four and a half hours in the pub talking to yourself. Mills & Boon would be suggestive of something entirely inappropriate. Peters & Lee even more offensive to the visually challenged one who is also reluctantly still alive, unlike the blind, piano playing half of the former duo. Perhaps we should just leave it as your original suggestion, but Gloomladen would have to be Tolkien, so that he could condemn your writing of childrens stories by shouting Lleeeewwwiiiissss!!! Having said that, Tolkien wasn’t exactly writing for grown-ups was he?
I take offence at the S. Little and E. Large remark!
J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis???
S. Laurel and O. Hardy perhaps.
Or S. Little and E. Large.
The ghostly echoings continued to waft mysteriously from around the lavatory pan throughout the night; I’ve had very little sleep as a result. I think my dearly departed is trying to get across his feelings of injustice after having been castigated by Fitrambler recently for making comments which were not considered to be in the spirit of the blog. If Blameworthy can succeed in making contact from the other side through cyberspace, I believe he intends to return as ‘The Spirit of the Blog’ which will allow him to express his thoughts more freely without fear of retribution. In life he was forever an inveterate piss-taker but would often restrain himself for fear of causing undue offence. I just hope he has the decency to cease his theatrical, banshee-like wailing while I am trying to listen to the Archers this evening.
See my previous comment for a possible explanation.
The secret is, Mrs Blameworthy, to arrive a couple of minutes after Mr Gloom-Laden. Mr Blameworthy, God rest his soul (makes sign of cross but doesn’t know why) was always a man never to hesitate when going to the bar. It wasn’t always easy to beat to the bar for one as swift as myself, let alone the reticent Mr Gloom-Laden.
I am still of the opinion this is a hoax. But if it isn’t then all I can say is he was a great man, a loyal man, a voracious drinker and a good friend. We will never see his like again.
Unless of course, in the soon to be rejuvenated blog called Fitrambler and Bameworthy (Deceased), where a pub detective and his ghostly partner have adventures throughout many a pub estates……
Hmm. Must get to work on the first instalment.
Regular blog followers may not be aware that I have experience as a spiritualist medium; I often receive messages from the other side. As I was cheerfully making a cup of tea yesterday evening I heard a strange ghostly voice echoing from the vicinity of the downstairs lavatory, where my late husband spent much of his time. I found it hard to believe that he might be trying to communicate with me from beyond the grave, after all he made very little effort to communicate with me from this side of it, but nonetheless I moved closer to the lavatory door and listened very carefully. The words I heard were very indistinct but I think he was saying something like ……..GloomLaden………..first round in Clifton………..never happened when I was alive……whhoooohhh!!! I tell you all this in the hope that it might make sense to someone out there, but of course he may have just been rambling incoherently again. Some things remain the same, even in death.
I just saw his like again.
It is with the deepest regret that I have to announce the recent tragic death of Mr.Blameworthy. He met his unfortunate end whilst undertaking research for a forthcoming book on the unspoiled pubs of England. Making his way to the ‘Cock in Hand’, a fully intact Victorian Gin Palace on the Wandsworth gyratory system in South West London, he was crossing the busy six-lane carriageway, with a copy of the Good Beer Guide in one hand and England’s 1000 Best Churches in the other, when he was distracted by a bright beam of light glinting romantically on the corinthian pillars of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s 18th century masterpiece, the church of St. Agnostic the Suspiciously Fraudulent in Pope’s Passage. In a moment of indecision he was seen stumbling hesitantly across the central crash barrier, unsure whether to go back to visit the church or continue across the road to the pub, when he was struck violently between the shoulder blades by a runaway horse-drawn dray belonging to Thronk’s Brewery of Cheam. His subsequent foul-mouthed outburst spooked the two massive shire horses even further, causing them to veer sharply into the path of oncoming traffic, thus shedding their load of forty four firkins of Fuggle’s Finest Flagship strong ale. A tsunami of foaming brown beer swept Blameworthy off his feet and as he sailed uncontrollably across the tarmac on a tidal wave of ale, into the gutter directly outside the pub, he was heard to complain of the beer being slightly murky and needing more time to settle. As he staggered uncertainly in to something approaching an upright position, and absent-mindedly wandered back into the road, dripping with four hundred gallons of ale, he was hit full in the chest by a huge, wooden hogshead of Entire Butt Imperial Russian Stout. Unlike the goalkeeper in the TV advert who tries to save a bouncing bomb from hitting the dam, Blameworthy – arms outstretched – never had a chance. As one who, in any case, would have refused a pint of lager even if his life depended on it, he was crushed hopelessly onto the road surface like an ant suffering a direct vertical hit from one of those heavy, old, cracked leather, rain-sodden footballs which some elderly readers may remember having to play school games with during the cold, wet winter days of the 1960s. He was killed instantly.
He leaves behind a somewhat relieved widow and a son who is to be informed of his father’s death as soon as he tires of playing ‘Killer Puffins of Doom’ on his X-Box. Those who may have been hunting down Blameworthy in order to castigate him for the suffering induced by numerous past disastrous drinking binges, often the result of your own weak-willed overindulgencies and lily-livered lack of stamina, will now need to seek out an alternative scapegoat on which to pin the blame. I shall miss his wryly pithy comments on the blog and his well informed discourse on pubs, ale and churches. His body is to be buried at sea to make life a little more hazardous for those – Mrs. Blameworthy included – who may wish to dance on his grave. We shall not see his like again.