Written by Gaz_15A

26 Oct 2017

The events in this story occurred in the autumn of 1987 when I was 19 years old, which is quite along time ago now. But the memories of it are still very clear to me and pleasant to recall, although tinged with some shades of nostalgia and regret.

At the time of which I write, my parents owned a small cottage in Wales, near the sea, some 150 miles from where we then lived which they rented out to various tenants over the years. The existing tenants had moved out and the house was due to be occupied in October by a couple of postgraduate students at the nearby university. My father wanted to replace some of the furniture which was in a state of disrepair so he hired a van and asked me to take it down there. It was agreed that I would stay in the cottage for a few days as a little holiday before returning to university myself.

The house had no television and older readers will remember what life was like 30 years ago in the age before the advent of the internet, mobile phones and all the other distractions which we are told have improved our existence. I took with me a few books to read, a portable radio cassette player and some other necessities.

Back then, I was somewhat naive and sexually inexperienced, although not a virgin. So I cherished fond illusions of pulling a local girl, taking her back to the cottage and having my wicked way etc. With this in mind, on my first night there, after struggling with transporting the new and old furniture to and from the house, I repaired to the village pub, confident of my ability to chat up at least one lady between the ages of 18 and 65.

No chance. This was Thursday night in a village pub in Wales in the 1980s. There was an elderly couple in the lounge eating chicken and chips in a basket and in the bar I encountered three ancient locals playing dominoes, an agricultural looking guy reading a paper in the corner who occasionally tipped some of his beer into a saucer on the floor for his mangy sheepdog, an unused pool table and a juke box which on closer inspection appeared to contain forty-fives dating exclusively from the pre-historic era of Elvis Presly, Buddy Holly and the Shadows.

''Oh well'', I thought to myself, ''the evening is still young and perhaps the talent doesn't come out until after nine.'' So took a seat at the bar, lit a cigarette and, feeling very cynical, world-weary and surfeited with life's disappointments, I ordered a pint of beer.

That was the first time I ever saw and spoke to Ben, the barman. He looked about the same age as me (he was a couple of years older I later learned), he had plenty of time on his hands on that quiet night and additionally, he was very good-looking, as I suppose I was back then, with all the freshness and crispness of adolescence still upon us both. Probably few new faces were seen in that pub at that time of year and in between serving the domino players their half-pints and taking away the remnants of the chicken and chips from the lounge, he was happy to talk to me, curious to find out what had brought me there and gratefully accepted my offer to ''have one yourself'' when I ordered my third pint. As the evening wore on, I began to realise that the local talent wasn't coming out that night, if indeed it existed at all.

''The story of my life'' I said to myself, enjoying the feeling of being a hard-bitten cynic. But all was not lost, although I didn't know it at the time. And anyway, I'd enjoyed chatting to Ben and we'd hit it off, making furtive jokes at the expense of the primitive regulars. He rang the bell for last orders and I said I was off home. ''Will you be coming in tomorrow night?'', he asked me. Friday nights, he declared, were always a bit livelier. I thought about it for a moment, realising that the next nearest pubs were in the nearby town about five miles away, which meant driving and not being able to drink. And what I find there if I did go? ''Sure'' I said, ''see you tomorrow'' and off home I went.

Well, Ben was right, Friday nights in that neck of the woods were a lot livelier than Thursdays. But now I will have to beg my readers' patience and ask them to trust me that finding out how and why they were livelier will be well worth reading in Part II.