Mad Lucy turned up at the Whore’s Bed saying that Dubai Luke wanted to come to Gin. ‘How old is he?’ we asked. ‘About eighteen,’ she replied. Hmm, no, he can’t come. Oh, well, maybe once he can, just for lols.
Just Boring looked at my hair, held firmly down with a knitted band. ‘Take it off,’ she ordered. I took it off. The hair sprung to attention like a massive light-bulb. ‘You need a hairdresser who will RELAX your hair,’ she advised. Mad Lucy agreed. ‘Yes, you really need RELAXED hair,’ she said. Oh bloody hell! The pressure.
We had our usual: Guinness, vodka, gin. The barmaid, Naomi, looks just like Tank Girl. She also has the most fantastic collection of tattoos, some even on her neck and scalp. She’s not got much space left. She’s had nearly 100 hours done and recommends the local parlour on South Street.
We were sitting by the window, next to a wood-burner, at a long, warped table. The view is all battlements, turrets and flint of St Michael’s. This pub must do well out of weddings, funerals, christenings. A papier-mache boar’s head grins out of the window with an apple in its mouth.
We discussed the Radio 4 Ethical Debates. They are tricky, as both or multiple sides are compelling. Then we got onto Jimmy Savile. We were kids when ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ was on telly. I wanted a pony but so did everyone else so I knew there was no point asking Jim. Just Boring desperately wanted to escape from Alcatraz, as you do, but, having well-developed Perv Radar, found Jim too creepy to apply.
Oh, the karaoke started up. The landlord, Pete, who used to be the mayor of Stortford, did a rendition of ‘You Are Always On My Mind,’ quite well really, must be said. He then brought us a plate of spicy Caribbean chicken and introduced us to Adi, his new chef. ‘Ooh, this is so good,’ we told Adi. ‘How do you make it?’
‘I can’t tell you that,’ he smiled.
‘Please! Garlic?…chilli? Maybe paprika?’
‘The last person who got that secret out of me owns KFC,’ he said.
Fred turned up and we got talking about the tunnel we’ve always been told runs from our house via this pub to Waytemore Castle. We asked Naomi if she knew anything about it. ‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘Down in the cellar there’s an archway with a couple of steps heading up that way,’ she gestured up Windhill, ‘but it’s bricked up.’
‘Ooh,’ we breathed, feeling like we were in an Enid Blyton adventure. When we first moved into our house, we squeezed through a trap-door into a cavernous dusty expanse under the floor, and spent ages looking for the tunnel, but it’s murky down there.
That first year we held a halloween party. Fred hung severed hands and staring china dolls on nooses down in that spooky space and trailed a parade of spiders and a lost valley of dinosaurs, arranged according to their correct geological epochs, through the dust. He put the girls’ My-Size Dancing Barbie Doll, bleeding from her eyes, under a ghostly green light…you get the idea. He made a sign: ‘Fred’s Secret Passage,’ and, dressed in dark robes with a gory mask and scythe, stood by the trapdoor.
Thirteen years later, people in the town are still talking about Fred’s Secret Passage. He still says ‘If I had a pound for every person who went down there….’
Mad Lucy’s Nigel arrived. He reminisced upon his youf, thoroughly misspent in the Boar’s, local lad that he is. Ahh Bleeess, we could just imagine him in 1980 at the age of 17. ‘I had my first snakebite in here,’ he said, all wistful.
‘What is a snakebite?’ I asked.
‘Something foul I think,’ whispered Mad Lucy.
‘It’s half cider, half lager, blackcurrant and pernod,’ said Nigel.
‘Ugh,’ we went.
‘No, a snakebite’s just scrumpy and lager,’ said Fred.
‘Maybe you’re right,’ said Nigel. ‘Mine was more a Black Adder, I think.’
‘Sounds disgusting, whichever way you had it,’ we said.
‘This was the only pub that would serve you,’ said Nigel. ‘Tchuh! Next to the Police Station as well!’
‘Ha ha, right!’ said Fred.
Mad Lucy said we should ask Naomi to yank a brick out of the blocked tunnel and shout ‘hallooooooo!’ down it, and some of us lot should go home and get down Fred’s Secret Passage to have a listen. ‘Go on!’ she urged. ‘I’m sure Naomi will get her trowel out.’ The landlord promised us he would go down there next week and unblock it.
Imagine the joint Halloween Party we and the Boar’s could hold down in the tunnel! Mmm, we’ll need lashings of ginger beer! Will report back on excavational progress: stay tuned.