EVER since the Red Lion’s barmaid was breathalysed on a Sunday night, having been flagged down on a B-road that’s little more than a farm track, we determined sporting drinkers have had to initiate the (domino) school run.
Every Sunday evening Scott the country cabbie leaves his comfy fireside for the first leg of his round trip to pick up his ‘pupils’: the brandy-bobbing Byreman from his village, me and the Undertaker from ours and, finally, the five-pints-a-night Farmer Morebottle from his otherwise monastic agricultural retreat on the road to Milfield and Mine Host. For this Scott charges us thirty quid, or £7.50 apiece, one hell of a bus fare for the three-mile ride to the boozer. But, alas, needs must when the breathalyser beckons and the last bus is garaged by 7pm with no chance of return.
Anyway, since word of the barmaid’s B-test got round that’s the way it’s been. That first Sunday night she held us spellbound and appalled at her previous week’s plight.
“Flagged me down with a torch, he did,” moaned the barmaid.
“Told me to blow in his little machine. ‘Course,” she said, brightening, “he had to let me go, I hadn’t had a drink all night. You mean old buggers don’t tip enough for that!”
(At this, Morebottle stiffened and felt for his wad. Not that he feared he’d had his pocket picked but to reassure himself that the wallet was still in his back pocket where he had stitched it for the winter.)
“What was he doing on the Fenton road setting roadblocks for us boozers at THAT time on a Sunday night?” demanded Billy the Quid, sheep farmer and side-bet layer extraordinaire.
“He wasn’t,” said the barmaid. “He was from Morpeth, told me the local ‘polis’ don’t like testing the locals so they send a patrol car out from the town every so often. Said he got lost, waved me down to ask for directions to Ford village and thought he might as well B-test me at the same time.”
Morebottle was indignant. “I hope you didn’t tell him?”
“Nah,” she said, adding sweetly: “I sent him in the direction of the one-way roadworks where the bridge is broken and the traffic lights are stuck on red near Doddington. Should have kept him out of mischief for an hour or two.” How we laughed…
THE BYREMAN is forever in trouble with his lovely Lynda.
Take, for instance, the time they revisited their old courting grounds in the fields around Ashington.
“Look!” said the old romantic, “there’s the stile we used to climb . . . and the footpath we used to stroll . . . and the old dry stone wall where I stole that first kiss fifty years ago! Let’s do it again, for old time’s sake.”
And with that the dairy farming Don Juan gently pressed his bride against the wall and began to smooch his way back down all of those carefree days.
“Wow!” he yelled as he came up for air. “What a kiss! The old spark is still there, what hair I’ve got left is standing on end. What a kiss!”
His bride, sadly, was not amused.
“Get off me, you great lump!” she yelled, thrusting his amours aside. “We’re only tingling because I’m straddled across a flaming electric fence along the wall!”
The Byreman, cheeks pink and pacemaker racing, stepped back as the few excited strands of hair relaxed back onto his pate.
“That wasn’t there fifty years ago,” he said, sadly.
Well, he was in trouble again this week. Leaving home just after dawn for a golf club breakfast and eighteen holes before lunch, the Godzone gadabout espied a sorrowful sight on the chippings in the middle of his driveway: the couple’s cat, cold as ice and already deadly stiff: the couple’s cat sprawled cold as ice and already deadly stiff.As the Byreman picked up their old moggy and laid her tenderly on the verge beneath a weeping willow he thought of his sleeping wife and how upset she would be when she awoke.
Best let her sleep a while longer, he decided. Besides, a club breakfast and a round of golf awaited him. Thoughtful as always, he crept back into the house, found pen and paper and scribbled a note which he left on the kitchen table:
“My love, sorry I have to tell you that Fluffy died during the night. We will bury her together when I return home.”
It was only when he reached the third tee that he remembered the tom cat’s name was actually Sooty. HE had only been part of the family for fourteen years. Since Fluffy died, in fact . . .
Welcome back; tales from the Red Lion & Godzone are a welcome relief from the carrying-ons in Berwick; if the Archers ever need a story-line for tales of country folk this would be a cracker of a starter! May the ink in your collective pens never run dry!
Miss you & your colleagues so much in the Journal now – paper not the same.