Growing and up and playing football in Somerset – Part 2

Many years later when we had all grown up, and left home, my three brothers and my Dad went for a few drinks at the Wyndham Arms pub. When I was at the bar trying to attract the attention of the barman, who was more interested in doodling in the dust at the other end of the bar, I caught the eye of Bob Spiller who was perched on a stool. Bob was a farm labourer of indeterminate age, round ruddy face, with at its centre a proboscis the size of a doorknob. Bob was about 6.3 and built like a barn door. He had long been an object of fear for many of the kids in the village because of both his size his alarming habit of getting drunk and riding round the village on his old pushbike swearing and cursing at anybody who caught his eye. “ Go on, get out of it you young buggers”, he would shout at us as he weaved round the village, “ I’ll bloody run e over”. At the bar Bob nodded at me, “Alright Jim” for some reason Bob called us all after brother Jim, even Jim, whilst at the same time tapping his now empty pint glass. “Hello Bob, fancy another pint”. Bob, who was not the most gregarious of blokes wordlessly proffered his glass to the barman, who had managed to drag himself away from his dust doodling to sullenly and silently serve me. I can only imagine that this was not the first time that two of them had spent an evening in quite, gentle contemplation of life in general. The barman poured Bob a pint of rough scrumpy cider, topped with half an inch of Orange Juice. Scrumpy cider was a speciality of this part of Somerset, with most farms producing their own. Rough scrumpy cider was the cheapest and most potent, being basically pressed apples, filtered through layers of straw and sacking. It was not a drink for the faint hearted and even a hardened drinker like Bob had to top it with orange juice to soften the harsh taste. Besides an alcoholic content that blew your head off after a pint, it tended to leave hardened drinkers with a permanent red nose and veined cheeks that got redder and more prominent once they had a few drinks. Bob’s nose was glowing and throbbing very nicely at this point, indicating that was probably not his first pint. Bob either nodded his thanks or had dismissed me, whatever, I went back to the table with my Dad and brothers. Next round, up goes John. Same story, “Alright Jim”, glass tap, another pint of scrumpy for Bob. This continues through our five rounds. Even Dad gets called Jim. Bob has not moved from the bar and his nose now has a life of its own, with a small alien trying to escape from it. As we go we get the slightest nod from Bob, which causes him to sway slightly and nearly fall off the stool. The barman and Bob have still not exchanged a word, despite the fact that Bob goes in the pub every day and has his own stool at the bar. Next day Dad is driving out of the village in his Hillman Husky estate car, when he comes across a bike on the side of the road. In the hedgerow is Bob, sound asleep. Dad decides to leave him to sleep it off. A couple of hour’s later dad is returning along the same lane and he sees Bob still asleep in the hedgerow. Feeling slightly guilty about his families’ role in Bob’s drunken state, Dad manages to get Bob out of the hedge and into the back of the car. He drives him to his lodgings, drags him out of the back of the car and points him in the direction of his front door. Bob manages to stagger a few steps before turning round to Dad, “thanks Jim” he slurs as he sways the final steps and crashes into his door.