Royalty – part 2

I shared the first part of a story with you yesterday; it was something I wrote for my writing group. The topic was ‘Royalty’ and I was really struggling to think of what to write when I remembered two characters I’d started writing about before, a lonely man, and a woman who is staying at her father-in-law’s house while he is in hospital. These two people meet in a pub, just by chance, sitting at the same table as a young couple.

If you want to read part 1, here is a link:

Royalty – part 2

“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!
A quiz! She always went to the pub for quiz night at home, well, she used to… But a quiz!
There was a moment’s ridiculousness and confusion when they introduced themselves – she had thought the two young people were a couple, no, they weren’t, they had just got into conversation at the bar; they had thought she and the man beside her were married… no they weren’t, obviously!
“I’m Clare,” she said, and the man beside her was Gus, and the two separate young people were Elliot and Evie… four strangers who were suddenly a quiz team.
Before they could converse or say any more about themselves the quiz started, and they were plunged into understanding how it worked; it was a bingo quiz, and puzzling over the rather tricky and very random questions, Clare lost herself completely in the proceedings. Her three team mates were fun and funny, and as strangers they could relax and be themselves – whatever selves they chose to be.
The first round finished and the carbon copies of their answer sheets were collected… but there was a problem, they needed a team name. They looked blankly at each other… then Elliot said to the man collecting the answers, well, this was the Royal Inn, so they were the Royal team! It seemed a bit weak, but what the heck, what did it matter?
It was a natural time to get a drink… but… but… Gus stepped in; who would like a drink? He’d be pleased to buy a round… Pints of beer seemed to be the order, and while he was at the bar, the answers were read out, and they self-marked – the copies having been collected so no cheating.
Gus returned with beer to find his team in high spirits; he’d had to wait while the barrel was changed, and in that time, all the answers had been read out and believe it or believe it not, they had won! Clare, Elliot and Evie insisted Gus take the cost of the round from their winnings, and use another four pounds to buy the sheets for round two!
The questions were similarly random and tricky as the first round… and this time they were defeated… however, there was still enough of their winnings for four more pints. Clare sat back and glanced at her team mates; what did she know about them? Evie was a nurse and singer with a band, Elliot worked in an estate agent’s, Gus was not working at the moment, and she had told them she was here temporarily looking after her father-in-law’s house while he was in hospital and her husband in the States.
The quiz master came round with one final question for the beer round… Beer round? Yes, the winning team had a free round of drinks next week!
“How long is the Queen Mary, not the Queen Mary 2, but the original Queen Mary?”
It was simple for Gus… 1,019.5 feet…
“The winner of the beer round, with a bob on correct answer of 1,019.5 feet, is Royalty!” shouted the quiz master.
“Yes!! That’s us!!”
Somehow the Royal Team had become Royalty…
“Hey! We’ll have to come back next week to claim our free beer!” exclaimed Evie.
“Brilliant! I’ll be here! You, Gus? You Clare?” asked Elliot.
Clare smiled… If father-in-law was still in hospital, she would be here!
Gus picked up his glass. “Here’s to Royalty! See you next week, chums!”

Royalty – part 1

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:

Home to the Dolph

Although we only go to the pub a couple of times a week (quiz night on Tuesday and usually Sunday too) and although we only go for a fairly short time – less than an hour and a couple of pints, we are real pub people! So when we are away from home, having a good pub nearby is quite important!

A little while ago I mentioned we had been away recently, to Whitchurch in Herefordshire and Shoreham in West Sussex. We were in Whitchurch on our annual family holiday and we went to an excellent pub called The Crown; it was excellent for a number of reasons – it was almost next door to where we were staying, it served good beer, Butty Bach from Wye Valley Brewery, and it had a great team behind the bar. In Shoreham we found another nice pub called The Ferry; I can’t find out much about it, but we had good beer, nice people behind the bar and there seemed to be a lively crowd of locals.

However… however, wherever we go, we always like to come home to ‘our’ pub, the Dolphin, the best pub in the world. We wandered down tonight just after ten, and it was very busy – because it was Easter Sunday. There was a gang of maybe twelve to fourteen people all squashed around a couple of tables in the part we usually go in – squashed because they wanted to be near each other I guess as there was plenty of room to spread out, there was a great gang of people in the bar by the darts board all talking noisily and having a great time,and  a few groups in what we call the cross-benches, the bar between the two ends (it’s our little joke “A crossbencher is an independent or minor party member of some legislatures, such as the British House of Lords…They take their name from the crossbenches, between and perpendicular to the government and opposition benches, where crossbenchers sit in the chamber.)

We had a couple of pints, a good old gossip with Tom behind the bar about his recent holiday adventures, had a conversation with each other about all sorts of things, then sauntered home for a whisky (the Singleton) and now here I am and he is watching a programme about the Romans.

We will wander down to the Dolphin again on Tuesday… and no doubt have another couple of pints of the best beer in the world, made by Otter Brewery…


The best pub in the world… again…

I know I have written many times before about our local pub, the Dolphin, but having bobbed down there for the last three-quarters of an hour or so, I have to repeat… it is the best pub in the world. Going into the Dolphin is like settling down in your own sitting room, comfortable, familiar, pleasant and so interesting.

We often go down to the Dolph a mere five-minute walk away on a Sunday night; often we meet our two friends, the  two T’s, Trevor and Tim, but quite often we don’t. Sometimes we meet up with ‘the girls’ three village ladies, Shirley, Maureen and Jean who are always most interesting to talk to. And then there are occasions when we don’t get chatting to anyone, but we still feel comfortable and happy… and it’s not just the fabulous, well-kept beer, Otter.

We toddled down tonight, partly because Sunday is a sort of regular night, but also because I have just about finished my next novel. Four friends were having a natter, another few were at the bar, and we ordered our beer and sat by the window. Two of the friends had a new dog (the Dolphin is very dog friendly) and we said hello to nervous Jax, a sheepdog afraid of sheep. They departed and we chatted to various others, including the landlord who always has interesting tales to tell.

Time was called, and having enjoyed sufficient beautiful Otter we said cheerio to all and set off home. We’d talked about total eclipses, food, beer, shepherds, people’s mum’s birthdays, food, beer, stuff… we’d had a wonderful time, so home!


What you learn in the pub quiz…

I was a big fan of Bananarama… and yet tonight in the pub quiz, I forgot all I knew and it was only thanks that team ice-cream remembered that we got the answer right!!!

It was written by Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield, William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Edward Holland, Jr. in 1964 and it was previously a hit for the Velvelettes. If you like Bananarama, you might recognise Fun Boy Three doing the bgv – background vocals!


St Patrick and a local legend

St Patrick’s Day – and since learning I have a significant percentage of Irish DNA I feel justified in celebrating as someone with green blood in their veins! I am wearing my ‘Tóg go bog é‘ t-shirt, and no doubt later I will sample some Guinness and maybe a  uisce beatha or two too!

As I now live in Somerset it is even better that St Patrick himself was born not far from here, in Banwell a little further along the Mendip chain from our little village of Uphill, at the mouth of the River Axe which follows the course of the hills. Of course, plenty of other places in England, Wales and further north lay claim to being Patrick’s birthplace, but I’m sure this was the place the pirates who kidnapped him came up the river to snatch him and others to sell into slavery.

Henry Jelley wrote this “It is my view that Patrick was in fact born in south-western England, in Somerset, at or near the village of Banwell, five miles east of Weston-super-Mare. A settlement of late Roman date is known in the area. The archaeology of the region, which was highly Romanised, suggests Somerset was a plausible location for Patrick’s family estate – unlike some of the remoter locations suggested – while placename evidence supports a Somerset location directly.”

Here is an article about it – and you can buy Henry’s book:


Oh and ‘tóg go bog é’ means ‘take it easy‘!


The mystery of Great-Aunt Caroline

My husband had always been told by his father, the story that his great-great-aunt had run a pub in Gosport in Hampshire. His father, he doesn’t think had ever been to the pub, but he knew the name of it and the fact that Caroline had been the landlady.

So last weekend, we visited Gosport, found the pub, took pictures and went inside and had a pleasant couple of hours chatting with the friendly people there. We weren’t exactly sure when Caroline had been in residence, and whether she was here when the present building was in existence (probably built about a hundred years ago) or whether she had been landlady of the previous pub of the same name which had had a thatched roof and had burned down.

We were very pleased with our adventure but it was only when we were back at our hotel and I tried to pin down Caroline and the pub when I found a difficulty. I could find no trace of her listed as landlady, and what is more I could only find details of her life in Portsmouth where she and her husband had a shop not far from where Charles Dickens was born. Maybe it was her daughter, also Caroline, maybe young Caroline had the pub with her husband George… but no, I couldn’t find any connection between her and the pub.

So what had gone wrong with the story my husband’s father had told him? He was so sure of the name, so sure of the pub’s name and location… where had the error arisen? I ferreted about a bit more in the details I already had, to see if there was another Caroline somewhere in the family tree… and yes… I came across an even more distant woman, a great-great-great-aunt of my husband, a Caroline but not with his surname, his great-great-great paternal grandfather’s sister. Could she be the woman who had the pub? back then it would have been the one with the thatched roof… I must investigate further!

I have not given surnames but I will when the story is complete – even if I don’t find the answer!

I have written several novels, the Radwinter series about a  character who solves fictional genealogical mysteries… If you haven’t read them yet, here is a link to them and my other e-books: