It was one of those hot summer afternoons, y'know the sort people say we don't have any more. Well, I'd popped in to see cook after lunch and give her a jolly rogering by way of thanks, she likes that don't y'know, and then I decide that rather than lounge about in the garden drinking home brew, during which time the Mem would come out from her siesta and find me something to do, I'd wander along to the Badger.
I s'ppose I'd been meditatin' out in the sunshine for half an hour or so, gradually workin' me way down a pint of Blenkinsop's Old Revoltin' - course that isn't what Blenkinsop and Sanders brewery call it, but then ... when a familiar voice hailed me.
"Ahoy, young Pecan, what brings you here this afternoon?"
Squiffy Sanders as he lives and breathes, to name just two of his less salubrious habits.
"I thought you'd be at home with a pint or two of your home brew after seeing to cook, blowed if I know how you can find the energy after her cooking."
Oh, come on now, her cooking's fine though I'll admit that stew and dumplings followed by spotted dick and custard isn't really the thing for a hot summers day.
"Oh hello Squiffy, what're you doin' here?"
"I own the place if you remember, yes I'm sure you do. You'll have another pint."
"Well, yes if you insist," I replied.
He returned a couple of minutes later with two pints of the aforementioned bitter, and plonked himself down.
"I've kept my home brew a secret," I said. "How did you know about it?"
"Ha!" he exclaimed. "You really are a fool, young Pecan. My family's been brewing for centuries and last week the wind was blowing from your place to mine when you were brewing. Going into business are you? Competition eh?"
"No, no, nothing like that. I just thought I'd have a go y'know."
Couldn't do any worse that Blenkinsop and Sanders I thought.
"I suppose your missus has found the offy bill again has she, cut back on your pleasures I wouldn't be surprised."
H'mm, don't get a lot of pleasure from the Mem-sahib nowadays, not since ... oh well we don't want to go into that...
"And was cook rarin' to go?"
"Now look, Squiffy," I said, "there's no call to go spreadin' that sort of nonsense about. If the Mem hears it the shit will really hit the fan."
Squiffy laughed long and loud.
"She told me." He exclaimed, "that she was absolutely delighted that the girl was daft enough to accommodate you. Said it stopped you bothering her!"
Oh, h'mm, yes well...
"Anyway, what brought you here this afternoon Squiffy? I don't s'pose for one minute that you knew I was here."
"No, that's true," Squiffy replied.
Well, it's nice there's something he doesn't know.
"No," he went on, "some cousin of the wife's visitin', and I just had to get away from her husband, pompous ass, expert on almost everythin', ex copper y'know, they're always the same."
Absolutely, oh yes, indeed I did know him, Chief Superintendent, and a Yorkshire man to boot. Well y'know what they say, you can always tell a Yorkshire man, you just can't tell him very much. And when he's a copper you can't tell him anything.
"Yes, I left him snoozin' after a big lunch, and plenty of Australian Cabernet Shiraz, followed by brandy, wake up with bad head I shouldn't wonder."
"Don't you believe it Squiffy," I said with feeling. "That brother-in-law of mine can drink me under the table and wake up clean as a whistle. And anyway, don't you drink that Froggy stuff you serve here?"
"Not likely," he replied, "I never touch that muck, although there was a time when I found the bottles handy." He chuckled. "Don't s'pose I've ever told you about that have I? Caused a bit of an incident between us and the French, that was before the first war o'course, we had the boat then."
"Yes," I replied, " a Silvers wasn't she?"
"Yes, she was. 100A1, 80 feet with twin Gardners, yes..." And he stared into his beer for a moment or two.
"Hello you chaps, it's a fine afternoon the Good Lord has provided for us."
Squiffy looked up. "Hello vicar, in for a quick one before evensong?" He asked, and he signalled to the barman with a raised finger, which became two as he spotted young Pook arriving.
"Good afternoon gentlemen," said Pook as he took a seat, "and cheers Colonel, thankyou," he continued as the barman set a pint in front of him.
"Yes, indeed," said the vicar, as he drank deeply into his pint.
"Squiffy was just about to tell me a tale about bottles, and their assorted uses," I said.
"Glass ones I hope," said Pook. "I've had enough of those damned silly boxes they put milk and stuff in. Y'know there are times when I think that the Swedes are a bad influence on the world. I don't mean they encourage us in bad habits, there's no drinking and, umm ... well no need to mention that sort of thing when there's children about but ... No, I mean it's things like this safety nonsense, cars that are more like tanks and have to be lit up so you can avoid them, then there is furniture that is beautifully proportioned but so plain you fall asleep walking around the store from sheer boredom - trust me on this, I am a designer - and people like Albert Nobel, who invented dynamite and gives peace prizes - amazing how a peaceful country is so big in armaments; there's Ruben Rausing and Erik Wallenberg, Ingrid Bergman, and the idea that you lie naked in a hot steamy log cabin, beat yourself with birch twigs and then roll around in the snow. Or is it the other way round?"
He paused to take a swig of beer. Clearly something had pissed him off.
"Who?" Said Squiffy.
"Sorry, yes, those two," continued Pook. "Well, you may not know the names, but I'll bet every last one of you has soundly cursed them at one time or another. I certainly did the other evening when I got fruit juice all over the kitchen floor. You've all done it, you've picked up a cardboard box of liquid, and, no matter how careful you are, as you break the seal it all comes out like a spouting whale, made worse by the death grip that you have on the box in case you drop it, the box then collapsing and ... Yes, they are the inventors of the Tetra-Pak. And I have to tell them (using a medium of course, since neither are with us any longer, sorry vicar) that liquids belong in bottles, not boxes. Glass not cardboard."
And he fell silent.
"Yes," I know exactly what you mean," said Squiffy. "Wanted us to put beer in them. I told them not to be damned silly. Might be all right for that gnats piss they drink on the other side of the pond, but Blenkinsops would be out of there in a trice."
"Didn't they sell off that big brewery when they were short of money in '08?" asked Pook. "Whatsit called? Anheuser Bush wasn't it? I suppose dubbya had a share in it."
"Yes that's right," said Squiffy. "Although I don't think he did, stuff was bad enough without him tryin' his hand at brewin'. Ha! No, sold it off to the Belgies, Hercule Poirot's lot don'tcher know," he laughed. "Mind you, they do make some excellent beer so may be some good'll come of it."
"I'm afraid I interrupted you," said Pook. "Something about bottles, wasn't it?"
"That's right, said Squiffy. "Better have another round, first though."
"I'll get them," said Pook, and he signalled to the barman.
I always did like the lad, knows his place. And when to pay.