A wicked sense of humour.
Luckily for me, I’d bought a run-down ex-sweet shop of a house with no heating and spectacular views across the valley at the top of the village two years before the boom. Locals had become close friends and the pub next door my salvation. Fed up with watching me nurse a pint all night in front of the open fire in order to stay warm the owners had offered me a job behind the bar. The initial week was a disaster. Interpreting drink orders issued in broad midlands accents (sounds like someone trying to talk with a mouth stuffed with a sock) peppered with colloquialisms was, to say the least, challenging. But these Northerners were a good humoured crowd and stood patiently and waited for their turn whilst I grappled with the language barrier. Sometimes someone would slip behind the bar and help me out translating along the way. I grew to love the job and the pub’s local characters, especially the old men that frequented the bar at early doors. Often it was just me and Martin for the first hour. Seventy five years old, widowed, still spritely and good company he would while away time reminiscing about his life and playing songs on his harmonica that once charmed his girlfriend into becoming his wife.
One night one of my friends, Steve, a regular drinker at the pub came in for last orders. He had a black eye and a nasty cut down the side of his bruised swollen face. “What have you been up to?” I asked as I put a pint down in front of him. He wouldn’t say. I badgered him until it was drinking up time. Finally he caved and promised to tell me when the bar had emptied.
At that time the village’s hanging plant pot population had been on the move. House owners would go to bed with their own basket and wake up in the morning to find it replaced with someone else’s. In streets where most houses possessed one it was causing chaos. The culprit was still at large and enforced relocations had been going on for weeks. The local population were enjoying the joke as it was being played on the outsiders and the village drums were alight with speculation and suspicion.
When everyone left and Steve and I were alone he came clean. Some weeks back, on his way home from a late night drinking session, he’d walked down one of the over-decorated streets. The pavement, being on the narrow side, meant that passing under the baskets was a given. Steve was local and had watched as house prices escalated beyond his means. As he weaved his way through trailing creepers and vines he had an idea. It started off with a few swaps as a joke but had grown to a full on protest against hanging baskets and all that they represented. The night before he’d started his attack in the early hours as usual and had tripped over one of the wire baskets he was trying to move. Falling heavily he hit his head on the kerb, passed out and woke a few minutes later concussed and entangled in the object of his ire.
Much to the disappointment of the local population, the night of the confession was the last night that ornamental dangling plant population went walk about. But it was excellent fun while it lasted. I am so blessed with friends that have a wicked sense of humour.