Of course I couldn’t just go and see the people that Chris had found because, as usually happens with these things, I heard about the big breakthrough at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. There’s no way that I can pass as a mild mannered Government Employee if I go doing actual work over the weekend.
But theres work and theres work. I got a text from Ishmael (my little brother) on Saturday afternoon inviting me to the pub. He’d tracked down someone I should meet.
First I ought to tell you about the pub. Following Department protocol I shall call it the Quayside (not it’s real name). The ‘Deen is a port city. A real one. The harbour is a literal stone’s throw from the city centre. I know this because Ishmael is a cricketer and he once got a ball into the harbour from Union Street to win a bet.
Like most port cities we have many bars by the harbour. The sort of places where a weary sailor can wet his whistle. All of them are reputed to be as rough as fuck. One, not the Quayside, even made an appearance in a TV programme on Britain’s Hardest Pubs.
I can’t speak for the others but the rough reputation of the Quayside is at most a useful fiction. It is absolutely a safe place to drink. Unless you are an arsehole. Then your best bet is just to throw yourself in the harbour now and get it over with.
During the day it’s an oasis of calm where you might get a quiet drink with a friend. Except on Sunday when they show classic movies on the big screen that most pubs use only for sport. In the evenings it’s pretty busy and quite loud with music from a juke box that only does heavy metal. On weekend night it’s packed. Particularly when there’s a band, or cabaret, or a comedian.
The regulars are an incredibly diverse group. Many of them only found the place because they were on a pub crawl or because someone dared them to go in. Some of them are strangers to our shores who staggered from a ship moored in the harbour to the first pub they saw, looked at the huge selection of bottled beers, spotted one from their home town and had to be carried back to the ship by the bouncers. There’s no under-age drinking there because it’s not ‘cool’ and they only serve real booze but the drinkers range in age from late teens to late dotage.
It’s a hard place to sum up but it’s important so you’ll understand the context. Not just the context of the conversation but the entire context of my brother’s friendship. In short it’s a pub where you get a discount on booze if you’re dressed as a pirate, you can hear bluegrass or poetry or alternative karaoke, you can have a stranger buy you drink just cause you look like you need one or tell you when you’ve had too many and help you home but if you’re not careful you can get into a knock down drag out fight about philosophy, or science or mysticism or which was Hitchcock’s greatest film.
I’d love to drink there more often but I can’t. I have secrets to keep and loose lips sink ships.