I grabbed a seat in a busy pub and waited for a friend. He wasn’t late, I was early. Still I was concerned we wouldn’t be able to hear each other over the laddish din. Even the short bar stools were occupied by people spilling their pints on the varnished circular tables.
Across from me sat three lads sharing a phone. One in a maroon rugby jersey was holding off about some ‘fat bird’ he knew in his nasal Geordie accent. He thumped the shoulder of the lad who was holding the phone, seemingly just for the hell of it.
By this point I had taken out my chunky blue jotter and was distracting myself with a jokey story about the Trolley Problem.
It took the Geordie lad a moment to notice this. “Harry Potter over here,” he muttered. He meant the glasses as that was the only similarity between me and the boy wizard.
“Hey, mate,” he said. “What you writing?”
“Something for work,” I lied.
“What’s it about though?”
“Nothing of interest.”
Though he still had on his open mouth smile he clearly wasn’t happy with that answer. “Seriously though, what you writing?”
I paused and looked him in the eye. “Work, you know?”
He would have asked a third time had the phone holder not thumped him back. It occurred to me the Geordie lad thought I was writing about him and his mates or maybe even the ‘fat bird’ they just had been discussing. Perhaps I should have been more open and honest but I really wasn’t in the mood to justify myself to a nosy bar fly.
My friend arrived shortly after that and supplanted himself between me and Geordie lad who had fortunately lost all interest. He announced to the whole pub that they would move on to a nearby alehouse and make a proper night of it. I was glad to see him go.
A frustrating experience but, most frustrating of all, I didn’t get back to my story. The Trolley Problem had run away without me.
I hid away in a café that itself was hiding from the high street. I settled at a granite top table beside an oak staircase and ordered a hot chocolate with all the trimmings.
Having brought my chunky blue jotter, I started outlining a plan. The idea was thin, about a printer that printed dreams, but I made it work with two creative characters. Sometimes that’s all it takes to be inspired.
The short blonde manager in a comfortable green hoodie stood behind the counter's cake display and grinned warmly at me. “Are you a writer by any chance?”
“Is it a dissertation?”
“No. I’m not a student.”
“Oh. So you’re a creative writer?”
“Excellent.” She seemed genuinely pleased. “Well, I’ll leave you to it.”
Such interruptions can put me off my stroke but not that day. The sun was shining and the background chatter was moderate. Soon enough I had finished the plan and had started the story itself.
A meeting broke up and a tall black-suited man with thinning brown hair stopped beside me.
“Sorry to bother you but I’ve never seen anyone write so fast before.”
“Well. You do remind me of a lad I used to know. He had fast penmanship too. Hand-wrote his entire dissertation. Is that what you’re doing?”
“No. I’m not a student.”
“A creative writer then. Published?”
“Some places. Not many.”
Nevertheless he seemed genuinely interested. He offered me his hand to shake. “What’s your name if you don’t mind me asking?”
I told him. He repeated it though if he was actually committing it to memory I do not know.
“Right. Well I’ll look out for you on the shelves.”
Another, more substantial interruption but I didn’t mind. The sun was still shining and the background chatter had diminished even further with his exit. Besides I had been rather sweetly complimented. The manager must have noticed the little smile playing on my lips as I sipped my hot chocolate.
“Our own resident writer,” she said with a chuckle.
I’m afraid I haven’t been back since.