Any panic on the streets of Carlisle was down to the ridiculous parking metres in town, which had many of us baffled – they wouldn’t take coins and the card system was frankly ludicrous. Otherwise I found a relaxing and peaceful day, with fish and chips and a couple of pints of Titanic – which always goes down well – at the King’s Head.
I do love pubs, but don’t think I’m only here for the beer. I had a good five mile walk around the town and district, from English Street to the Square to take pics of the statues of past mayors Richardson and Steele, the castle and a good look at the museum to read up on the history. But that’s not really the point of this exercise; I want to know about people now and the best way of knowing people now is in the pub. That’s my philosophy and I’m sticking to it.
I read in the paper that the John Smith’s chain is banning swearing. It’s just over ten years since the smoking ban, which in my opinion was the death-knell to some pubs. Ban swearing and you remove even more atmosphere. What next? Fun? Well in essence they already have; they seem to want to turn pubs into Wacky Warehouses, with kids running about everywhere and garden peas trampled into the carpet. How is it right that you can’t smoke (partly because it’s unhygenic near food, which I quite agree with by the way) yet you can bring dogs in, scratching and sneezing all over your dinner? And some dog owners, who think EVERYONE likes dogs, are ignorant. Jumping up, yapping and wiping their arse on the carpet is unacceptable. And the dogs’ behaviour is even worse!
Talking of carpets, there’s a shop on Market Street called Fred Bear Carpets. It made me chuckle, like Lytham St Tanz did a fortnight ago. Searching for wit in the King’s Head, however, proved difficult at first. The barman had barely a word and the barmaid grunted and chewed gum in that couldn’t-give-a-shit attitude. I tried to chat but nothing doing, so I sat in a corner and connected to wifi to write this shit.
Did some reading too. I’ve been loving reacquainting with my George Orwell collection. In Down and Out in Paris and London his brilliant essays on poverty are as pertinent today as they were in the 30s. Likewise his address of the tramp and his sex-life, or lack of. I’ve recounted in previous posts how I’ve come to look rather feral. It’s certainly true, and what’s also true is that living a certain life makes you dress in a certain way. In the office I was always (I like to think) well turned-out, respectable, but here I’m to be found far less so. Is it because it’s expected, or practical, or because you lack the motivation and even the effort to run a comb through your hair? It’s I suppose tantamount to living rough and, while I’ll always maintain some standards and keep on with the baby wipes etc., I can’t see myself waking up and donning a collar and tie. Because what’s the point? Am I to meet a woman and ask her out to dinner? I don’t think so. Or that’s how it feels, anyway. It’s about expectations, or lack of.
I do have collar, tie and decent shoes in my little wardrobe, but gradually I’ve come to realise they’re excess baggage and weight. Space is at a premium too in a cramped campervan, and sartorial choice could’ve stayed behind in storage with my furniture, making way for more practical things… like food and wine. You live and learn.
But where was I? The King’s Head in Carlisle. I perused the menu and opted for fish and chips, of which it said “some people think are the best in town.” On eating them, I say, regrettably, that Cumbrians don’t know their onions.
If attempts of getting anything out of the staff proved fruitless, I did have an enlightening conversation with a local guy called Merv – a handsome, biker-jacket wearing thirty-something who played guitar. Merv had very strong views on Brexit, the Tories and Scottish Independence. I agreed with few, except those about the Tories, and found his argument about Scottish Independence compulsive, and one I’d heard before, about the Scots being unable to blame the English for everything if they were to be independent. I told him I was headed there and he said, rather incongruously, it’s a beautiful country and I’d love it.
As is often with men at the bar, we exchanged life-stories and it turned out he’d just been fired from his job as painter for the council. Nothing he’d done wrong, just austerity measures, hence his hatred of the Tories. His view of his employers though, was more than hatred: “Ten years of blood, sweat and tears and they turn round and give me the push. Fucking bastards, fucking horrible, disloyal cunts.” etc etc…. “You should try working in TV,” I thought, but never said.
Anyway we had quite a few laughs and I admired Merv’s indomitable, Hadrian’s Wall hardiness as he insisted he’d find work in another place. I didn’t doubt it. He not only painted buildings, he was a talented and University-trained artist (some of his works were amazing). “Be just and fear not”, as the town’s mantra goes. He was also a muso and like me a fan of Morrissey (he liked my anecdote about the panic on the streets of Carlisle). We talked for a long time about guitars, he a champion of the Gretsch, me of the Gibson, and he wanted to keep on drinking but alas I was driving.
So we parted company and after a quick siesta I drove to Rockcliffe Cross near the River Eden. Tried the TV but there was no signal, which I was kind of glad about. Merv had entertained me, made me laugh, and more importantly inspired me. So I busked a few numbers, did some writing, began reading T2 Trainspotting, then fell asleep, contentedly knowing that tomorrow I would roll out of bed and into not only another place, but another country.