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Tu-Gin-Su, Hav-U, F***ing Boring and I went to the Castle. You go up New Town road and take a left. It’s tucked away, but cheerily lit and welcoming.
As soon as we went in I was just delighted. Why oh why have I lived in this town for fourteen years and never been in this place? It’s ADORABLE. A tortoiseshell cat called Titch lay sprawled across two bar stools. There’s soft pinkish flowery wallpaper. The place looks like it hasn’t changed for decades. Nobody’s messed with it. There’s a bell, a brass knight, a darts board, a Martini mirror. In the next room there is a Kit-kat clock, a Finest Scotch Whisky mirror, old paintings, wooden shiny panelling and notice-boards with kids’ pictures. We asked the bar-maid if a picture of a pub was the Castle. She asked someone else, who said, ‘nah, got that from a charity shop.’ They really haven’t tried too hard (in a good way). It’s original, and secret. Til now, ha ha.
We headed to a cosy corner near a fireplace, book shelves, a pile of board games, and a chilled chap called Paul who was doing the crossword. We stood our drinks on Brigadier beer mats with ‘Bang on,’ written on them. Tu-Gin-Su nodded at the curtains: ‘1980s M’nS’. She knows about such things. We chortled over a ‘Worzel Gummidge’ annual, ‘The Commonwealth Book of Cricket No. 3’, and ‘Deborah’s Secret Quest.’
F***ing Boring went to the hole in the wall cubbyhole thingy to get more gins and kit-kats. She wants to set Hav-U up with her cousin. He’s popping over from some far-flung place. ‘You’ll only have a day and a half to make it work,’ she said.
Hav-U, in her normal, sceptical mode, looked singularly unimpressed with the plan.
Fucking Boring told us about her first wedding, in France. The priest ranted on in French for ages: ‘blurgh, blurgh, blurgh, blurgh.’ The interpreter waited several minutes for a little pause, looked at the congregation, said, ‘Firstly…’ and looked back at the interpreter expectantly. It was apparently very funny/you kind of had to be there.
‘Are we walking the ponies Sunday morning?’ asked Tu-Gin-Su.
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘of course.’
‘Or is it…hmm, weather-dependent?’ she asked.
I realised she meant, ‘You-not-being-hungover-dependent’. The last Sunday she met me at the ponies I was in recovery from Maura-next-door’s killer cocktails. Tu-Gin-Su took off rugs and picked up poos on her ownio while I lay on the grass puking quietly into the thistles. Not good. I should follow Fucking Boring’s lead and give up drink. My body has identified it as a poison.
I loved this pub so much though that when the others got up to leave, I borrowed two quid from the kitty and stayed for another half. The bar-maid didn’t realise I only had two quid til she’d poured most of a pint so I got the biggest half you’ve ever seen. I rang Fred who was on the train and asked if he would come home via the Castle. Got chatting to Paul in the interim. He said there used to be a great pub called the Fox, opposite the vet in Rye Street. ‘Pokey, three bars, proper olde worlde,’ he said wistfully. I told him I’d fallen instantly in love with this pub and he said, ‘yeah, it’s because nobody knows about it, we’ve got it to ourselves.’ Oops. Don’t say I told you.
Fred turned up and got a pint of Doombar in.
We rummaged amidst the board-games and came across: ‘Mid-Life Crisis.’ We couldn’t resist and started rolling the dice, hopping through our thirties, forties, fifties, and zapping each other with divorce and stress points.
Crisis after crisis drove us to drink: I had another Guinness, Fred tried a pint of Seafarer’s.
The game made us die laughing. ‘You discover your child’s nursery teacher is on drugs. Add 100 stress points.’ ‘Your spouse has been leading a double life. Take a CRISIS card.’ ‘You discover what a proctologist does for a living. Take a CRISIS card.’ ‘You haven’t been feeling well, so you see a psychiatrist who tells you you haven’t been feeling well. Pay £1000.’ I need to have this game for Christmas. Sign up anyone who wants to join in: we’ll be playing round the clock.
We said goodbye to purring black and white Oreo, and Titch. The bar-maid told us they are part of a great clan. It reads like Genesis: Mittens begat Alfie, Oreo, and Sprite, who begat Ella and Bisto, who begat Titch and Zorro…
‘Litrally’ what have I been doing all my life? *strikes head* I should have been taking a daily stroll with all and sundry through the grave-yard to the Castle.