After a short walk from the car park along Queen Street in Seaton in Devon we found a pub called The Eyre Court. There were the usual blackboards outside advertising meals, music and beers. I was carefully studying the menu on the wall when I heard Heather say “We can’t go in there”.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Look” Heather said as she pointed to a blackboard.
On it were the words “Topless bar service”. Further down “Free beer”. Even further down in very small print “We practice false advertising”.
We went in and through to the lounge bar which was laid out like a dining room with a couple of sofas near a fire in the far corner. Each one was occupied by an elderly man. One reading a newspaper and the other man hunched over speaking quietly into a mobile phone. In the opposite corner was an elderly couple. The man looked up from his lunch, smiled and greeted our entrance with an irrepressible nasal orgasm that rocked the light fittings. These nasal events never travel alone and a couple of more followed in quick succession but just far enough apart to lull everyone into a false sense of security that there were no more to come, including the perpetrator.
We sat down and again Heather said “We can’t stay here”.
“Look at that on the menu……it’s steak and otter pie”.
I looked closely and the menu read “Steak and Otter bitter pie”.
Otter bitter is a locally brewed beer. I know we are out in the wilds of Devon where things can be a bit different but that difference does not include eating otters.
While we were waiting for lunch the sofa man on the mobile phone in the far corner gradually got louder and louder so that no one could avoid hearing what he was saying in his Glaswegian accent. Everyone knew he was speaking to British Telecom about getting his phone connected. We all heard his name at least eight times before our meal was served. We all knew his address as well.
“Where are yu phoning from laddie?” Sofa Man One asked in an accent that thickened to the Glaswegian clack of a dank winter’s night at closing time as he got more frustrated.
Obviously we could not hear the answer but we had to assume it was a call centre on the Asian sub-continent.
“Let me tell yu this” Sofa Man One continued, “I speak perfect English laddie and yu, yu are the sixth, the sixth person I have spoken to and I am not gettin anywhere…….”.
By now I had an image of his cranium jutting forward sharply and jabbing the air every time he said “yu”.
At this point we could hardly understand him with English as our natural language so goodness knows how someone with English as a second language was going to manage.
“Option eight…..if I press eight I’ll get through will I laddie?” Sofa Man One continued.
I heard him apologise to Sofa Man Two for disturbing him.
“Don’t worry, you just do what you have to do” Sofa Man Two replied with a slight accent of sarcasm.
“Hello……..my name is Mr Howie……that’s H-O-W-I-E and my address is number ONE, ALLINGTON CLOSE, S-E-A-T-O-N in DEVON!…………What do you mean BT don’t have any record of that address…….you sent me a letter yesterday ……yes…..direct to that address………….look laddie I speak perfectly good English.. I don’t know what your problem is?”
Lunch arrived. I had an industrial sized portion of fresh baked pie, mashed potatoes, carrots and roast parsnips. Lots of flavours, a nice rich gravy and a genuine home cooked feel good plate of lunch Heather had warm goats cheese served on a bed of rocket, apple and drizzled with a dressing of honey and mustard. It looked very attractive and apparently had lots of flavour as well.
The bar maid came through and looked at Sofa Man One; turned to us and raised her eyebrows. We smiled back and ate our lunch.
The waitress who served us came through and talked to the couple comprising Nasal Orgasm Man and his wife. There was talk about science fiction and horror movies. The waitress preferred these to East Enders and Coronation Street. The couple said they preferred soaps.
“Give me a good horror movie any day” the waitress said as she finished her shift.
“Look here laddie……you’re the ninth person I have spoken to today……Howie, that’s H-O-W-I-E, Howie…..ONE! Allington Close, Seaton in Devon………… yes you do have that address………..you sent me a letter yesterday….. no it came direct to my address…..One, Allington Close…..that’s S-E-A-T-O-N in Devon. No, I haven’t got the letter with me….I am in a pub having a quiet beer….. Jesus… what a shambles… you can’t do anything until I give a reference from the letter…….. why didn’t you say so earlier?”
“Feckin BT, feckin BT” at least that was my hearing of what he was saying and as we couldn’t see him we couldn’t tell if he was speaking to someone on the Asian sub-continent or the other customers in the bar in Devon.
Silence descended on the room apart from the rustle of newspaper from Sofa Man Two. Nasal Orgasm Man and his wife paid their bills, apologized for disturbing us and left saying they hoped to see us soon.
We went to pay our bill and the lady behind the bar asked if we were OK about Sofa Man One and his telephone.
“Honestly, he’s a right pain in the hindquarters…………..if anyone else uses their phone he’s the first to ask them to leave the bar”.
We said we had enjoyed listening in and just couldn’t help smirking at the full irony from when he said he spoke perfect English in a Glaswegian clack. The lady behind the bar sniggered, gave us our change and hoped she would see us again.