As well as leading two creative writing groups, I am also in a writing group; there are seven of us and we meet roughly once a month and read something we have written on a topic chosen the last time we met. Today our topic was ‘Royalty’… and I confess I was absolutely stuck… I just could not think of anything to write at all…
… and then I had a thought about something I had written a while ago, well two somethings actually. One something I think I have shared here, about a man called Gus who was wandering aimless and rather lonely in a marsh area beside the sea… he finishes his walk and on the way home drifts into a pub. The other was about a woman who was staying in her father-in-law’s house and visiting him every day in hospital; he was very ill, very, very ill, but his son, her husband was away in America. She was for the moment not working so she had come to stay in the old man’s house and visit him. These two characters, Gus and the woman came together in my mind, and this is what happened:
Royalty – part 1
She realised as she got to the bar that the last time she’d been here was with Philip… There were two pubs in the village, and since she’d been down here on her own, staying in her father-in-law’s house so she could visit him in hospital, she’d only been to the other pub, the Schooner. She’d been for lunch… a couple of times… she’d been for dinner before visiting in the evening, a couple of times… but she hadn’t been here, to the Royal Hotel.
The other pub, The Schooner was convenient, but somehow impersonal… the staff were polite and efficient, but somehow…
Why hadn’t she come here, to the Royal? It was a typical village pub, and had a more homely, friendly feel; she glanced at the menu while waiting for the Canadian boy serving behind the bar to return with her change and thought it sounded altogether more interesting… Maybe tomorrow she’d come here for lunch…
It was busy but there was a space on the bench seat by the window. There was a group of women sitting at the next table so she took her change and went and sat down beside them… Maybe she could get talking to them, maybe she could have a conversation… she was starved of contact, and although she didn’t mind being on her own, it suddenly seemed a welcome proposition to actually converse with someone. Her father-in-law was declining day by day; anything he did say was so random and unintelligible that trying to make a conversation was like trying to catch soap bubbles blown by a child.
She sat down and glanced at the four women but they were there in an intense conversation. A jacket lay on the seat beside her and probably belonging to the people on the table to her right, two middle-aged couples. She caught a burst of conversation from them, the woman with the dark perm talking to the woman with shoulder length blond hair, was complaining about students in her son’s hall of residence all being ‘foreign’ and how the places ‘stank of curry’… Hmmm… maybe this pub wasn’t so congenial place after all.
A man was approaching with a pint of beer, preoccupied and patently thinking of something else and he squeezed between the table and the next one with the two couples before realising she was sitting there.
“Oh! Is this your seat! I’m sorry, I didn’t realise, I thought it was free!” she exclaimed.
“No, no, that’s fine! Sorry, I just left my jacket…”
He was interrupted by a young couple who asked him if the two chairs at the table were free. Yes, yes, they were he replied, still standing between the two tables.
“I’m just on my own, this seat is free,” she said, indicating the place beside her, realising that the jacket must be his.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle while the young couple, who had thought she and the pint of beer man were a couple, took off coats, organised phones, put drinks on the table… and the man, after asking again if it was ok for him to sit beside her, did just that, and sat beside her.
She would knock back her beer and go; having wanted company she now felt awkward with the bloke beside her and the young couple across the table. They too had subsided into silence, concentrating on their phones. The young woman looked like a student, fashionable, long dark hair and a serious face, the lad looked rougher, awkward almost, compared to his lovely girlfriend.
She would finish her beer…
“Are you in the quiz?” They all looked up at a small man in a yellow sweater with a golf club log who was standing with a sheaf of quiz sheets and a pint glass of pens.
… How did it happen? Who said what? Who tentatively suggested that maybe they might… should… could… Later no-one could remember, but they each handed over a pound, and were given a quiz sheet and a selection of pens and suddenly they were a team!
If you want to know what I had written about Gus previously, here is a link: