There’s just enough bacon left in the packet for my two-rasher sarnie. That’s worked out well.
Dave makes his long trek to work, while I sit in his kitchen reading the paper and working my way through more Home Brewed. I’ve made quite a dent in the crate. Though Dave did say: “If you drink two more bottles I’ll have a whole crate of empties for Henry to take back.” Glad to oblige, brother.
Henry and Dave both turn up at 11, the appointed hour. I’m amazed at the improvement in Henry’s timekeeping. He always used to be late. Sometimes very late. Or didn’t turn up.
I way my goodbyes to Dave and Henry whisks us off to town. We’ve a bit of time before my train.
“We could try the Clay Tavern.” Henry suggests. “If it’s open.” It’s before noon.
“Why do they keep changing the names of pubs? What the hell does Clay Tavern mean?”
When we get to Slaughterhouse Lane the pub, whatever it’s called, is closed.
“Spoons it is, then, Ron.”
“The kids really like it there. Wetherspoons in general and the Sir John Arderne in particular. It was the picture of a man poking his finger up someone’s arse that swung it for Lexie.”
I get a pint of a beer I’ve never heard of from a brewery I never knew existed. It’s wet, alcoholic and tasty enough.
I should eat something. But what? I don’t want too big a pile. The small breakfast will do. Best hurry, mind. Only three minutes until 12 when they stop serving it.
“Do you anything, Henry?”
“I’ll have a crushed avocado bagel, please.” He says.
“Crushed avocado fucking bagel? What’s the world coming to when you can get a crushed avacado bagel in Newark Wetherspoons? You couldn’t have found either of those items in Newark when we were at school.”
Luckily, there’s no queue at the bar. My brekkie order goes in at 11:58. Yes!
“How’s your bagel?”
“I’ve never liked bagels. Like boiled cotton wool. But less appetising.”
I can’t see many other possible takers for a crushed avocado bagel in here. Me and Henry are the youngest, other than the barstaff. Until a middle-aged woman and her slightly disturbing-looking teenage son sit at the table behind us. We are in Newark, I guess. It’s full of frightening looking people. Just don’t ever catch their eye and you’re usually OK. Unless they’re really crazy, obviously.
My breakfast is middling for Wetherspoons. Having had their breakfasts in many different locations, I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of the form. Best so far was in Edinburgh. As was the worst.
I only have time for the one pint. And a couple of cheeky whiskies. It’s a long train ride and I’ve no cans packed.
A woman of around my age is sitting in my reserved seat. It’s one of a block of four around a table. Her mate is sitting opposite and the table is full of travelling paraphernalia: food, magazines and booze, obviously. This is England.
Turfing her out of my seat could be awkward. Especially if she just sat at the remaining empty seat at the table. The aisle seat on the row behind is empty, though reserved. I’ll just sit here and see if anyone turns up.
The ride to London doesn’t excite much. Done this route so many times before. I close my eyes after we pull through the tunnel 20 minutes in. I don’t want to accidentally catch a glimpse of Newark’s evil twin, Grantham. Bad luck.
No-one does turn up to claim the seat where my arse is parked. Why do so many of these reserved seats go unclaimed?
It’s a bit weird changing trains in London for Amsterdam. OK, I still have to change in Brussels. But it’s all railed transport from here to home. Train, train, tram. Stumble down the street and fall through my front door.
I’ve quite a while before my Eurostar. How could I possibly fill the time? Maybe there’s some sort of warm, public space serving alcoholic refreshment? Like a pub. Oh look! There’s one.
It’s on my way. Sort of. Not that far out of it. I quite fancy a pint of ESB. Or two. As I approach the bar, there’s quite a pissy smell. Have I been careless in the toilet again? I ignore it and get my pint of beery stuff.
I twig that the source of the smell is the grey-haired bloke sitting at the end of the bar with a half of very fizzy Lager. He’s doing no-one harm. And I’ve been stinky myself. I’ll just try to stay upwind.
Just the two ESBs, that’s all I have. Before traipsing back to St. Pancras. Collecting rations on the way – an egg and cress sandwich, salt and vinegar crisps. One bag for me, four for the kids.
This direction I’ve a first class ticket. Bigger seat, some free food and drink.
I don’t bother with the wifi. I’ve got something to watch on my flipflop: Luizen Moeder. Very funny and the characters very much like those you find in Dutch primary schools. In particular, teachers who talk to parents as if they’re six years old. Highly recommended. Though I suppose you need to understand Dutch.
There’s a choice of roast beef or quiche. I go for the former, making a sarnie out of it. It’s OK. Especially with the wine.
I’ve a little time before my connection in Brussels. What to do? If only there were somewhere warm and dry I could shelter. Prefereably serving alcoholic refreshment. Like a pub.
Fortunately I was here not that long ago with Dolores. I know there’s a pub opposite the station: Taverna Horta. I sit myself down and look at the beer menu. Oh, look what they’ve got! My favourite: St. Bernardus Abt.
I photograph my beer and the interior of the pub. After a while someone comes up and asks why I’ve been taking photographs of him. I explain that I’m just photographing the pub. He seems to struggle to understand the concept and asks to look at the photos I’ve taken. Not remembering which button it is, I fiddle with my camera for a while. The bloke gets bored with my technical incompetence and wanders off again. That was surreal.
The rest of the train journey is uneventful and thankfully on time. A short tram ride and I’m home. And back on the grid after three days. Now I just need a day to go through all the emails and messages.
The Clay Tavern
Slaughter House Lane,
Newark NG24 1ER.
Tel: +44 1636 918630
The Sir John Arderne
3 Church St,
Newark NG24 1DT.
Tel: +44 1636 671334
The Euston Flyer
83-87 Euston Rd,
London NW1 2RA
Tel: +44 20 7383 0856
Place Victor Horta 30,
Tel: +32 2 522 49 06
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