My favourite little tale from my days as a drayman. (Name has been changed for privacy)
“The Bristol Tavern”
The faint rumble of traffic, and occasional clang from pedestrians as they walked over the great metal access door, were just about audible from the street, high above. The street of Stokes Croft, very close to the city centre. I was in the cellar of the Bristol Tavern, a dark dungeon like abyss, with damp atmosphere and probable rodent intruders. It felt so far beneath the surface that I could Imagine Peter Cushing emerging through the stonework on his return leg from “Journey to the centre of the Earth” still driving his specially modified gigantic mobile drilling device!
I had been to hundreds of pubs and bars in my many years working as a part-time drayman. Serving those, and other establishments in Bristol, Bath and surrounding areas with beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks. Every one of them had a different cellar. Some were similar, some were very different, each of which had their own “personalities.” Some of them when either the landlord couldn’t be bothered or could not afford to fix, or even just too lazy to open the main cellar door outside for easy access, other ways had to be applied.
Landlady Sally with big blonde hair and beaming smile still hadn’t fixed the main cellar door. The only other way to the cellar was through the pub, then around and back behind the long bar where there was another trap door to a very steep wooden staircase leading down to the cellar. I had done this a few times before, but it was awkward, time consuming, and potentially dangerous. But Sally was a good customer and very polite, so we draymen always put in the extra effort to deliver.
It was a relatively quiet Friday morning sometime towards the end of 1999, with the pub closed, and as far as I was aware, just myself and Sally within the entire establishment. Normally a very busy pub filled with smoke and ale glugging jolly folk, making sounds of “rarrh rarrh rarrh, hey hey hey, cackle cackle cackle”…….But not this time.
“Can you change the barrel whilst you’re down there Neil?” A distant voice from on high requested.
Cheek! What barrel? There’s loads down here, as if there wasn’t enough aggro already. Hmm, wait a minute. “Neil” did she say? Sally knew my name? How so?” I thought to myself. “Sure thing Sally” I politely shouted back, having just tripped over an empty barrel, which I assumed to be the most likely candidate for attention.
Not always happy with my job, I could console myself with the thought that I would soon become a qualified statistician after years of merging my part-time work with part-time university studies. Yes, a new vocation where I could escape the outrageous expectations of cellar duties, for a life predicting the future without the use of a crystal ball, but by combining statistics and the rules of probability. What happened next though, was beyond the scope of probability theory.
After several trips up and down those steep rickety stairs that creaked and groaned with every step carrying 9 gallon, 10 gallon, and 11 gallon kegs and casks way beneath the street, I was coming back upstairs for the last time. Looking almost vertically upwards I could see that my exit had become blocked. Sally, or who I assumed to be Sally, was stood astride the exit with one foot either side of the trap door tending to some duties, perhaps pouring me a drink for my anticipated return to ground level. I could see that whoever it was, was wearing a skirt, but my goodness what she was not wearing, were any pants! Oh my gosh! I am an honourable gent and tried not to look, but it was too late, I had already seen, retinas scorched forever more. And had I not been looking where I was going, continuing on my current course, then I would surely have travelled straight up her loose fitting skirt and received a face full of curvy buttocks! Not at all unpleasant, but rather stunned, I had to pause for a while to stop myself from falling down the stairs. “Tavern” had taken on a whole new meaning. What was going on? Had she forgotten to dress that day? Was she toying with me? Was this her way of rewarding all of my hard work with this flash of nakedness? I never was the brightest spark when it came to deciphering female codes. Whatever it was, it would be difficult not to think of her as “Sally No Pants” ever again. And when I finally emerged from the square hole in the floor, we smiled at each other, probably wondering what the other was thinking, for I had just seen something I shouldn’t have, or maybe I was supposed to.
Must remember to pick up the latest instalment of that essential monthly step by step guide, slowly building into one complete manual; “Womankind decoded for Dummies”, on my way back. That is, if I ever make it out of here, looks like the front door has been bolted shut.…….
Coming soon; “Bruton Manor”
Not coming soon; “Bristol Tavern Part 2”
Neil Goodwin 2020