In its early afternoon solitude, the pub can be a peaceful home to come and have a pint and say a prayer to those missing. But you never know who might shatter that solitude, bring wildlife through that door.
Meanwhile you should know this about me. I’m thirty-three years of age and I have always been in fear of ghosts. I truly believe they exist. Especially when wide-awake in the dark. And I have seen one. I was six-years-old and bore witness to something that scared the living shit out of me. A misty figure I saw while walking the short distance home alone from Martin Holmes house. It was early evening, April, and it had rained all day and the night was darkening. I saw this misty figure across the road and the thing turned its head my way, black eyes fixed on me – and yes it had eyes, black eyes – and those eyes planted in a body of foggy greyness had my breath escaping, my feet frozen to the spot. It then began to hover towards me and I was there in waiting, stuck, rooted, petrified, and he passed through me. I died for a second. The cold of him made me die. And then when I came back round, he had gone; I somehow got my breath back, I had survived.
I gave him a name, that ghost. I called him Dave. Dave the Roman soldier. I think he passed on that information when he walked through me. What his name was and his line of duty when he was alive. I remember how I told mum that’s what he was. A Roman soldier. She had her fist stuffed up a chicken’s arse at the time and she smiled warmly and remarked how she believed me. That what I saw must have been what I had seen. For all her sweetness and smiles, I knew damned well right there and then that she didn’t believe me; yet another bond of trust, abused.
Because of that experience with the Roman ghost – that was real to my eyes and my sensation of being – I still to this day do truly believe they exist. I wish that I had matured over the years to appreciate that in ghosts there was nothing to be afraid of. That they were after all, ex-life. But that wasn’t to be the case. As is the trademark in all of my life experiences, I remained forever spooked. So it didn’t help that on my first shift in the pub, I was told how the cellar was haunted.
There had even been a TV crew of experts in here too. Three years ago. Some cable channel confirming that there was most definitely bad vibes at work within theses grim walls. And I don’t care what anyone else might tell you, I know what I heard when there was the sound of a barrel being dragged across the cellar floor when there was only me in the pub. I definitely know what I heard.
Today was Friday. The afternoon. I was here one till six. Employed on three weekday afternoon shifts. And had been for a few weeks now. I had been signed off of work with depression for the best part of a year, but because of a misguided decision by the Secretary of State, I was now deemed fit for employment.
…Mr Moore stated that he has anxiety, depression and menieres disease, that he has problems walking, going up stairs, going down stairs, standing and sitting, bending and kneeling, hearing, a difficulty in coping with change, coping with social situations and propriety of behaviour. However, during assessment Mr Moore was able to sit for thirty minutes and did not make any rocking movements and rose with no assistance. He stood for one minute independently without difficulty. He was able to bend to the floor and his gait was normal. He carried a normal size bag into the examination and had no trouble handling medication with both hands. Therefore he is quite able to queue and carry light goods. The Healthcare Professional summarised that Mr Moore’s anxiety and depression is mild and the tribunal confirms that Mr Moore is not entitled to Employment & Support Allowance…
This was my first giant step back into society, albeit I was still signing on even if claiming benefit had been temporarily denied. The pub job was much needed cash-in-hand. And the current licensee – not to be confused with landlord – was an old school mate of my dad’s, so it seemed a natural enough life development when the vacancy was brought to my attention.
You would think that with daylight – surely an enemy of ghosts – that this job was all a decent enough affair, a safe bet. For all intents and purposes, an afternoon was an easy shift. That’s how the job was sold to me. I mean, what ghosts and pub-fights statistically make the news in a weekday afternoon environment? Surely, not many if any. Which was good. Because I’m not good with violence either, never have been. My legs go first and then I just crumble into a heap. Quite literally before the first fist or boot has connected. And this is just me talking from a spectator’s viewpoint.
I can’t help the way I am. And even though statistically fights rarely occur midweek on an afternoon shift, the fear of a sudden outbreak of alcohol-fuelled violence is never too far from my thoughts at all times while I’m stationed helplessly in a confined space behind the narrow length of the bar. Me, Colin Moore, still single and eating into my thirties and regularly out of sorts; I have always been low in spirits. But what I would give, would love to be able to save enough cash to move out of mum and dads. The pub work had to be viewed as a positive. A starter point. I had to remember that.
Because the job was mine as long as I wanted it – that was the spoken contract – maybe I really could save enough to buy a VW Campervan. Just like the one Leonard has. Ride around the countryside all day behind the wheel, set up camp for the evening by the sea, beneath the stars; claim my independence once and for all. I guess I wouldn’t be depressed then.
But for now the fact prevails. Ghosts and alcohol-fuelled violence are never too far from my thoughts at all times, what with me being the acting man in charge and with all the responsibilities that came with it. About the biggest drama to report so far I suppose was last week. Last week when those two young Goth girls tried to purchase WKD’s – they still had their school blazers on for crying out loud – and they resolutely stood their ground.
“We are fucking eighteen you stinkin’ creep!” they both screamed.
As they had failed to show the necessary proof of age, I showed them the door. They then began swearing and making disrespectful comments about me and even my family – surely, they didn’t really know my mum and dad? – and then when they eventually ran out of profanity, they stood resolute, arms folded, trying to imply that they were going nowhere until served. But I stood my ground too, but with a far firmer footing. I may have my many regrets in life, but on this occasion, no one was going to take the piss out of me.
My father, nor I, suck cocks and I let it be known what I thought of such gutter-born accusations and they soon got the message. Take your foul evil tongues and gothic make-up out of my – out of Anton Berkovic’s house – and go outside and drown in the daylight. Prick-teaser bitches. I’d done well. Kick up the backside job done. It was just a shame however, that on that particular occasion there was no one else in the pub at the time. No one else to witness how contrary to popular conception, I am not a walkover.
The opening to a new book, 'A Man Lost His Eye' available to freeview from Joe England Books from tomorrow.