Laying in bed, I could smell the joint of beef cooking in the oven; potatoes boiling on the stove; it was Sunday, not my favourite day of the week, with school coming up the next day, but I did love my roast dinner. Mum was a great cook, spending most of the day preparing Sunday Lunch, while Dad and I went to the pub with Nan and Grandad, when Grandad was on shore leave that is; he was in the Merchant Navy and away quite a lot. At home, he always liked a drink or two in ‘The Club,’ a short distance walk from their house. ‘The Club,’ was a C.I.U working men’s club; It looked like a tired, warn industrial unit, perched on the side of an Edwardian house; a meeting place, where membership was a must. Drinks were cheap, conversation in abundance; a welcome break from the drudgery of life.
I could barely see in front of me, the air was thick with smoke; the smell of stale beer, cheese and onion crisps, Old Spice and cheap perfume punctuated the air as we walked in. Music was playing from the stage; voices chattering, laughter, children running around the tables. Holding Nan’s hand, we approached the table between the bar and the hall, separated by a plastic screen, facing a long wooden bar. People were sitting on stools, pint in hand, talking about football, politics and the state of 1970s Britain. As a child I hated being there, holding my nose, trying to avoid the smoke, being blown from every direction. Dad and Grandad stood at the bar, talking to people as they waited to be served, waving at others who walked past, shaking hands with this person or that. Hill park was a small place, everyone knew each another, even if they didn’t always get on. Like most small towns and villages, it had its fair share of drama!
Nan was talking to Aunty Pam; she wasn’t a real Aunty, but we always referred to her in that term. Pam had a large booming laugh, that echoed throughout the bar; the more she drank, the more she laughed, the funnier she was. I had a lot of Aunties and Uncles at ‘The Club,’ Aunty Jean, Uncle John, Aunty Vera, the list is endless. All of them would come over, kissing, wet saliva all over my cheeks, the smell of alcohol on their breath, rubbing my hair, throwing me up in the air, bouncing me on their knee. It was a brave new World for a young boy - faces everywhere, the clinking of glasses and those foul-smelling ashtrays in front of my face. It was a place so different from the security of home; smells, tastes and sounds all merged into one, in this mayhem of Sunday life.
I sat at the wobbly table, playing with beer mats, flicking them up in the air, bored waiting for my bottle of coke and crisps to arrive. Looking left occasionally, Nan made sure I was OK, as she continued talking to Pam and Uncle John. Dad and Grandad returned with a tray of drinks, poised to put them down. Nan lent over, taking a beer mat from my hand, folding it into quarters, placing it under the offending unsteady table leg, before the drinks were handed out. Finally, the table stopped moving, and the tray was emptied. I always had a fizzy drink and packet of salt and vinegar Rock ‘n’ Rollers, my favourite crisps of the time. Nan would have a packet of ‘Big D’ peanuts and probably a gin and tonic, although I can’t quite remember what her tipple was. Dad had a pint of Skol or cider and occasionally a cigar, the smell of which I loved; Grandad a very large whisky!
Wearing a lime green turtle-neck, short orange skirt and fur coat; Nan would dance the afternoon away; her perfect back combed hair standing tall, Windsor style, just like The Queen. Her manicured nails and high heel shoes gleaming, under the lights of the hall; laughing, joking; a social butterfly. This was my Nan, not sat at home knitting or reading a book, but part of the fabric of ‘The Club.’ A place full of fond memories, spent with people long since gone; happy times celebrating, family milestones, Weddings and coming home parties; ‘The Club,’ where their laughter lives on!
47 year old Author, Columnist and Blogger.