My first pub was my parent's old local. In the basement of the big hotel up the road from our house was the "Cellar Bar." It was a friendly enough place, and when I started going there we knew a handful of the locals already. It was frequented also by a lot of the students from the English School down the road, and this meant that there was a fresh intake of Swedish girlies at least every few months.
To start off with it was a very small group of us that would quietly sit in the corner with a pint of Strongbow, but as time went on more and more friends would turn up. We'd also made more and more friends there at the same time, mainly 4 girls all in their teens. Vanessa, Claire, Claire's older sister Lucy, and Sam. Before we knew it, we had a fair smattering of underage drinkers, all cockily ordering pints "of your best beer, please bar-keep," knowing that our fake IDs would and did get us anything we required.
Ah yes. The fake ID. In my first week at college, I happened across a huge pile of some unused ID passes for the college. They had the person's photo, name, date of birth and official stamp. Somehow, and I've no idea how, they ended up in my bag. All 500-ish of them. For a small fee (£5) and a passport photo, you could get your own ID confirming that you were indeed 18. I'd paste the photo onto the card, fill it in with letraset transfers, and then I'd made a rubber stamp that would endorse the whole thing, before paying a visit to my local easy print stationers and getting it laminated. No one had any reason to doubt it.
So, the evenings were filled with underage alcoholics flirting with Swedish women without a chance of understanding us. The other older locals would welcome us, and the small bar would be packed with 400 people on a Friday and Saturday night. One night a local, Andy, (black, cameo style hair cut with flat, black top) walked in as the cold evening had laid down a small covering of snow outside.
"JESUS CHRIST!" someone shouted, "A pint of Guinness has just walked in!"
The pub also had a few other entertainments. We had a dartboard. To start off with this was good. We played 301, 501, round the clock and cricket. Then the beer would take hold, and we'd invent new games like "see who can hit the board from the furthest away" and a Friday night would see all the local patrons ducking to the cries of "look out!" and "incoming" as we'd see if we could throw the dart the 40ft from the entrance to the dartboard. No, no we couldn't. The wood panelling around the dartboard never recovered, and the spotlight above the board used to flicker really well.
The place got a bit of a reputation for underage drinking, not surprisingly really, and the police would call up regularly. At the start this was a bad thing. The cry of "RAAAAAAAID!" as the police would be seen spilling out onto the car park meant that most of my mates would scarper out the backdoor and up the stairs to the hotel to get out of the way. As the police would burst in, the previously heaving pub would be like a sedate wine bar. A handful of locals sat supping quietly, the jukebox on in the background. The problem was that the bar manager (a delightful bloke called Tam) knew who was underage because they'd be the ones scarpering. So we got confident quickly, and the police would turn up. One Friday night, BLS was home from university, and the usual crowd of about 40 of us were sat at the end of the bar in the "snug." "Ey up," said someone, "filth are 'ere." Suddenly, much moving and rearranging of non-alcoholic, looks non-alcoholic and alcoholic pints would all be shuffled around so the ones obviously underage had the coke. The ones borderline underage (at least in looks) had the vodka and cokes, and the obviously looks old enough (me) had the pints. In walks William. Old William to his friends...
"I take it you're all old enough to drink?"
"No." Says I.
"What do you mean, no?" he thundered back.
"Well not all of us are drinking occifer. *hic*" I replied.
He left without so much as a caution. They soon learned to leave us alone.
Some time later, and I remember it was about the time of hooliganism within the ranks of football go-ers. Birmingham City were playing Crystal Palace, and a large heavy handed mob were being escorted along Church Road past the pub. Seeing Palace fans in the pub meant they thought they'd come and say hello, maybe quaff another shandy or two, and then leave peacefully. Well, that's not what happened. They came in, beat the crap out of the jukebox, wrenched all the urinals away from the wall in the gents, threw stools, tables and anything else that came to hand around, smashing the mirrors, and generally wrecked the place. We arrived later on to find the pub closed. The bar manager was there, nearly in tears, and the bar was closed then for over a year. In the meantime I left the area.
Next Sunday will see me return. Last time John and I were there, the bar was still shut. Looking at it now, I suspect its open again. This means that we'll have to pop in for one. I'm sure TDT will put up a fight, and we'll leave empty and dejected. Unless we see old friends who are still local, which is more than a distinct possibility.
Darts will not be included. (probably)
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