Clarifications and explanations, which might prove to be of assistance to some readers.
Until recent times most Traditional British Public Houses usually had multiple bars. These ranged from the 'Public Bar' where the beverages were the cheapest, through 'Saloon', 'Lounge', and numerous other spurious names, up to 'Private Bar' where the tariff was the most expensive. One chose your company (and which ambiance one preferred) by which bar you drank it. Nowadays most (but not all) public houses in the UK have been converted into one large bar, where all the prices are the same. The modern emphasis now being on quantity, not quality!
British Colloquial: Yonks = a very long time; Doing-time = in prison; Tasty = Attractive/good looking (female); Tosser = Contemptible person; Earwig/ging = eavesdrop/ing; Shirty = ill-tempered or annoyed; Dole (dole money) = state unemployment benefit; The readies = cash; Bevvy/bevvies = an alcoholic drink; Boozer= Public-house/bar; A nine-bob-note = something that can't possibly be correct or legal (in America a three-dollar-bill); The Bill (or Old Bill) = Police; Suss = (in this instance) suspicious; Narked = annoyed/angry.
My appreciation and thanks go to Angelina, for her assistance with preparing this tale of woe for posting.
I shouldn't have been there, and if I had any sense I wouldn't have been there. Well, not in that particular pub anyway. But beggars can't be choosers as they say.
Actually, several things had conspired to get me drinking in 'The Apprentice' that evening. Firstly, I fancied a good pint; it had been yonks since I enjoyed a decent brew. Secondly, Chalky (Bob White, universally called Chalky for as long as I'd known the bugger anyway) had invited me to have a drink with him to celebrate his birthday. And thirdly, when I told him that I couldn't afford to drink, Chalky had insisted that the evening was "on him!" Hence my presence in 'The Apprentice', a pub not known for it's high-brow clientele. To be precise, a pub usually described as a 'den of thieves' that was, without fail, surrounded by a posse of the local police at closing time each evening.
I'd unexpectedly run into Chalky at the Job-Centre that day. The company I'd been employed by for donkeys' years had been taken-over by a much larger multinational concern some eight months previous and, like many of my colleagues, I'd been... 'rationalised!' Our town being not very large, and with the financial climate being as it was, I – and most of my ex colleagues – were ... yeah well, we were being harangued every week -- when signed-on for our dole money -- to pursue all those non-existent job vacancies that weren't advertised on the Job-Centre's notice boards.
Whatever, I'd just signed that day, so that they'd send me my meagre allowance, and I was in the process of leaving the building, when suddenly Chalky appeared out of thin air and accosted me. I hadn't laid eyes on the bugger since he'd been expelled from school, and to be honest, I was almost as surprised that he recognised me, as I was to see him in town. I really thought he'd ... er well ... the word was, that Chalky was either doing-time, or living in Spain somewhere. Keeping his head down where the British authorities were concerned, if you get my drift?
Anyway, Chalky started chatting to me, like we'd been bosom buddies at school – which we hadn't been, Chalky was just one of the other kids in my year-group -- then he informed me that it was his birthday and invited me to share a few bevvies with him that evening.
I apologised to Chalky, and informed him that I was somewhat embarrassingly overextended financially, so there was no way that I could contemplate an evening out down at the boozer. But Chalky – flashing a wad of the readies -- insisted that the whole evening was going to be on him. The bugger even said that he'd send a cab to pick me up, and arrange for one to take me home after, as well.
Okay it was dumb; I'll admit it! Chalky was of very questionable character at the best of times, but I hadn't been out for a good old booze-up since well before I lost my job. The idea that Chalky appeared happy to finance the whole night was a bit too much for my little mind to take.
So, promptly at eight o'clock that evening I'd climbed into the taxi outside the block of flats I then lived in.
On the drive to The Apprentice, Chalky was full of talk about the other kids from our schooldays and enquired if I knew what had happened to them in the intervening years. It did register that he never once asked about me personally, or my somewhat disastrous marriage. I'm afraid that I took it as read, that Chalky knew all about it -- and the sordid details -- and that he was being uncharacteristically diplomatic.
Chalky took me by surprise a little, when we entered The Apprentice's Lounge Bar -- for one horrible moment I had thought he might have be intending to drink in the Public Bar, a course of action that could possible be interpreted as attempted suicide by a non-regular – however Chalky led the way straight through the Lounge into the Private Bar; which was tucked away behind it. I have to admit, that I had been in The Apprentice before, but only in the Lounge Bar; never in the Private, or the Public bar
The Private was pretty quiet and our entrance brought some surprised glances from the few patrons. Chalky led the way to a table tucked away in a corner where we seated ourselves. I'll admit that I was somewhat taken aback when a tasty looking barmaid arrived at our table and asked our pleasure. No, damn-it, what we wanted to drink!
Very efficiently, the young woman took our order, and she promptly returned with our drinks. Then Chalky chatted on again about old school friends and acquaintances again; most of whom, I could hardly remember and I doubted Chalky could either. Somehow I got the feeling that Chalky didn't know what to talk to me about. But I suspected at the time, that he was purposefully trying to avoid the obvious again. It made for some very ... boring and inconsequential conversation.
I learnt very quickly that Chalky quite definitely did not wish to discuss what he'd been getting-up-to since he'd been unceremoniously kicked-out of our school. The exact reason Chalky had been expelled from our bastion of education had never become public knowledge, and it appeared that -- even after all the time that had past -- Chalky wanted to keep things that way.
To be honest, free booze or not, our somewhat stilted conversation – and lack of appealing scenery, excepting for that one barmaid -- was leading me to wish that I had not accepted Chalky's invitation. But then the evening took a sudden and somewhat unexpected turn. As far as I was concerned -- at first sight -- not for the better, either!
We'd been sitting in the Apprentice for about an hour. I think I was on my second – or maybe my third – pint, when 'The Man' slipped into the seat opposite Chalky and me.
The man in question was one Rodney Pilstock, usually known – when talked about by others, and always in hushed voices – as RP and Mr Pilstock to his face.
Rodney Pilstock was "the big man" in our neck of the woods. He referred to himself as an entrepreneur, but it was rumoured that he had his fingers in every lucrative business in town that might not be one hundred percent kosher. It was also rumoured that he was behind everything big, that definitely wasn't, as well. But obviously, he kept his own hands clean, i.e. the authorities – and everyone else – might suspect that Pilstock was as bent as a nine-bob-note, but actually proving any connection with illegal or underworld activities appeared to be impossible.
About the only visual proof that Pilstock was probably bent, was the little posse of bodyguards who accompanied him everywhere. It was rumoured that all of whom had, at one time or another, enjoyed extensive holidays 'At Her Majesty's Pleasure!'
No sooner had Pilstock taken his seat, than one of his entourage placed a drink in front of him and replaced my own almost empty glass with a full one. At the same instant Pilstock dismissed Chalky with the words: "Well done, now get lost, Chalky!"
In an instant Chalky was up and gone. Self-preservation caused me to attempt to follow suit, but a rather large presence had appeared beside my chair, kinda convincing me that it would be an action that Rodney Pilstock did not desire.
I looked from the mountain standing beside me, to Pilstock and then back at the mountain again, and wondered what I'd done to transgress. It was rumoured -- as everything is rumoured where Rodney Pilstock is concerned -- that upsetting the man in some minor way would usually be a precursor to an extended stay in hospital!
"No, please stay, Peter. I'd like a word with you, if I may?" Pilstock said, in a very quiet, calm, but maybe a little intimidating voice.
"Er, is there a problem, Mr Pilstock?" I stuttered out.
I was racking my brains to come up with anything that I might have done to upset the man. The only possible connection with him that I could come up with, was that maybe my ex-wife, Mona (and her new man) might be members of one of the town's less reputable nightclubs. And Rodney Pilstock was reputed – a rumour once again – to be the money behind all of those establishments.
"No, not really, Peter ... well, not for you anyway." Pilstock replied with that disconcerting smile of his, "Although I have heard that you're in a little bit of a financial bind at present. That ex-wife of yours has got you by the balls, as I understand it!"
.... There is more of this story ...