7 pm Friday night and the Neptune public house was almost deserted. Des, a local character if ever there was one and an eloquent testament to the perils of in-breeding, stood by the bar watching the few early evening drinkers intensely. As always, he was ready to pounce as soon as they’d finished their drinks, Watney’s Red Barrel in the main for the men and vodka and lime for the only woman present, Bess, a raddled lush of indeterminate age and already half-cut. He was biding his time, poised to pick up the empty glasses and take them back to the bar. He undertook this ritual whether the drinkers liked it or not in the hope, usually vain, that the Landlord Jeb Gibbs, would think he was being helpful and maybe stand him a free drink.
Marco arrived, all six foot four of him. His face was dominated and defined by a nose of character, a nose that conveyed a message, don’t mess with me I can take it, this nose means business. He made his way to the bar where he rested his huge hands and ordered a pint of Lager. He gave a half smile to Des who immediately scuttled away to pick up an empty glass, Bess’ but she hadn’t quite finished the dregs. She stared balefully over the remains of her chicken, though most said it was feral pigeon, in a basket, and told him to bring the glass back and then piss off. He sidled away, stood by the gent’s toilet glowering at no one in particular, muttering under his breath. The door opened and Marco’s younger brother Adam entered, he scanned the scene with his deep- set eyes and joined his brother at the bar. The Trent brothers were in residence and they were in a drinking mood, then again, they always were.
It was high summer, freakishly hot and humid. The sun had been hidden behind a thin layer of grey cloud for days bringing all the heat and discomfort but none of the rays. Oppressive was the word mostly being used, hot humid and oppressive, with no rain and seemingly no end to the high pressure system that was making this year a record breaker. Tempers were frayed too much heat was bad for the British psyche. People were even starting to sit outside after dark and an embryonic café society was emerging, pie and chips alamode. Some Bohemian types, people who had been to Europe, were even experimenting with wine, sporting exotic names such as, Mateus Rose, Blue Nun and Black Tower and of course Liebfraumilch. The heat was certainly bringing out some strange behavioural manifestations along with swarms of ladybirds and shoals of stinging jellyfish that plagued the south coast beaches.
Later as the evening wore on, things could get interesting. Adam would almost certainly have some more samples from his new job, what a job, what a great fucking job. Marco also had an interesting job, delivery man for Anne Summers. He was always talking about the merchandise, sex aids, dildo’s, erotic underwear all boxed and delivered to bored housewives hosting risqué sample evenings for their friends who had grown tired of Tupperwear and Avon. After all this was 1976 things were changing fast. They drank Pina Coladas and Tequila Sunrise, nibbled fondue, talked about their men and how to coax some life and romance back into the fat lazy bastards. Get their minds off football, the Ford Capri and back onto them in their new edible underwear.
A man with a centre parting in his collar length mullet, wearing platform sole shoes and white flairs put a record on the jukebox, “Sugar Baby Love” by the Rubettes. No one laughed.
The door opened and Jay entered. He strode purposefully to the bar and punched Marco in the small of the back. Marco spun wildly; ‘Jay you bastard, that hurt.’
‘Buy us a drink Marco.’
‘Piss off I’m skint.’
‘Oh go on mate.’
‘How come you’ve never got any fucking money?’
‘Don’t know, spent it all I suppose. What we gonna do tonight then?’
’The Railway Tavern maybe, Adam’s got a bag of goodies. I’ve had some already.
I walk in.
‘Hey Marco get us a pint.’
‘Nah, get your own.’
‘Tight bastard, go on I’ll get you one later, promise.’
‘’OK but you’d better get me one.’
‘Of course, so where we gonna go then, the Railway, we could score something.’
’Yeah good idea, though Adam’s got some samples anyway.
‘Wonderful, same as before?’
‘Yep, two-tone Smarties.’
‘What a job, what a great fucking job.’
The phone rings in the study where I’m sitting in my tan leather armchair and my recollections of the past are interrupted. I use the remote to mute the sound of the television. It’s just the news and the on-going commentary about the drought, the latest hosepipe bans and the effects it may all have on reservoir levels and surely yet another sign of global warming. Though I am in the camp that says it’s Summer and that’s the way Summer should be. Strange how history repeats itself, maybe forty years on, this will be another exceptionally hot dry summer like seventy six. Though that reinforces the fact of just how crap British weather really is if people still keep talking about one hot, dry Summer forty years ago. Then again, it’ll probably just piss down as usual and there’ll be floods instead. Strangely, the advert just shown in the break is for a car called, I think, a Ford Space Star, a fairly dull looking, non-descript people carrier. The advert shows a guy diving off a high board, through the open side of the vehicle into a pool. The interesting bit though, the music used is Hawkwind, “A Space Ritual” I used to love that band back in the day, saw them live loads of times. The track must have been rediscovered by some brat advertising hack in his old man’s vinyl collection. The fat old guy now slumped on a sofa watching Richard Osman’s House of games, maybe wasn’t always that way and perhaps, despite the gut and always moaning, isn’t quite what he now seems.
From out of the blue I had received an e mail this morning from Aiden, a real blast from the past and no mistake. It had been years, decades actually since I last heard from him, any of them. That email was why I was now recalling those days back in the seventies, strange days indeed when I was another person, unrecognisable from the man I am now. To be honest I’m not that sure I want to be reminded of those days. I think it’s probably best to keep that particular genie locked firmly in the bottle where it belongs. I stare at the ringing phone I should pick up, seven on the dot it will almost certainly be him.
‘Hello, Lawrence Bastin speaking.’
’Bastin, you old bastard how are you mate?
’Shagger White, Aiden, my god man how long has it been?
‘Twenty-five years at least, no, more than that even, thirty, thirty-five?’
‘I thought you’d be dead by now I thought I would be too but here we both are alive kicking and talking on the phone. How did you get my email address?’
‘I looked you up in the phone book I knew roughly where you lived, luckily you’re not X- directory or anything, spoke to your son who said you were out and gave me your email address.’
‘Daniel, he didn’t mention it, though I don’t see much of him, normally out with his mates or his girlfriend, a Goth, got a tattoo of that freak Marilyn Manson on her neck. Jeez what a state but we’re hoping she’ll grow out of it, though it’ll take a skin graft. So, what are you up to these days, still screwing everything that moves?’
‘Seeing as how I’m now sixty-two, on my third and final wife and fitted with a pacemaker, the answer to that is no. Though I do still look of course and some of my daughter’s friends, well you know how it is.’
‘Yeah I know how it is. Three wives eh, that’s going some,’
‘The first two died.’
‘Died, both of them? Sorry to hear that, it’s very— unfortunate and— unlucky.’
‘Especially for them, but c’est la vie just one, well actually two of those things. I’ve got three kids as well, all independent now though. I’ve heard you’ve done well, some big wheel in a bank or something?’
’Guess who I spoke to recently?
‘Lawrence, Lawry dinner.’
‘Hold on Ade, it’s the missus calling, my dinners ready; hang on Pen I’m on the phone, give me five minutes.’
‘Marco, I spoke to him the other day, on the phone.’
‘Marco, man how is he, still working for Anne Summers?’
‘No, he’s an electrician, his own company and doing OK. Adam died though.’
’Aah no, poor old Adam, how, what happened?
‘Car crash, about eight years ago, left a widow two kids.’
‘I’m so sorry to hear that. I was just thinking about Adam, the job all the pills he used to nick and hand out down the Neptune.’
‘Yeah, not good, the crash it wasn’t his fault, but he was stoned when it happened. He had a problem, was registered at a clinic and everything, Methadone. Anyway, he was out of it when he got wiped out by a lorry the driver had fallen asleep and smacked into him, pardon the pun, in some road works. But because he was stoned and even though it wasn’t his fault, the insurance wouldn’t pay out so left his wife and kids with fuck all in terms of money.’
‘Shit, that’s not right, poor old Adam.’
‘I’ve spoken to Jay as well, all settled down and married now.’
‘Jesus, some poor cow taken him on, what did he do, buy a Thai or Russian or something?’
‘Well, she is Russian, but he didn’t buy her. He met her while he was working on a cruise ship. He was doing some waiting and she was in the band. Some sort of seventies revival outfit playing Abba, Bay City Rollers, Slade and that kind of crap.’
‘You couldn’t make it up.’
‘Kola, I spoke to him too.’
‘Oh yes!’ The very name of Albie Kola sends a strange shiver through my system. I fucking hated that bloke with a vengeance, still do even now and if I’d never heard his name again it would have been too soon. ‘How is he then?’
‘Pretty much the same, a bit hyper, strange manic high pitched laugh, you know that psychotic giggle he had. He’s been inside, Brixton, three years, he didn’t say what for but must have been serious to go away for that long.’
‘So anyway, the purpose of my call, we’re all meeting up at the Neptune, though it’s called The “Golden Thai” these days, for a bit of a reunion. All the guys I just mentioned and Kola seemed especially keen, says he’s really looking forward to seeing you again I think he must have been following your career. Alan and Pete, who I see quite a lot of anyway will both be coming and we’re hoping you will be too, you’re the last of the old crew I’ve contacted. It’s next month the tenth do you think you could make it?’ Just a few drinks maybe a meal bit of a laugh, trip down memory lane.’
‘So Kola will be there then?’
‘Yes, he says he will definitely be able to make it, especially now the electronic tag has been removed.’
‘Er, not too sure I will need to check my diary, put me down as a maybe at this stage. I will try though.’
‘Come on mate, make the effort we’d all love to see you, it’ll be a right laugh. The pub has changed hands a few times, it’s more of a restaurant as the name suggests now. We’ll maybe just have a meal there and perhaps go on somewhere after.’
‘Let me check a few things and I’ll get back to you, either by phone or email, maybe I can make the meal and leave after that. I mean I live on the south coast these days. It would be great to see some of the lads again, but my work schedule is pretty manic I’ll see what I can do.’
‘You can stay over at mine if you like, save you a long drive home and you can get pissed then as well.’
‘No, that’s OK I’ll just drive home I won’t be drinking much anyway.’
‘Up to you, but I hope you’ll be there any way, seven at the Neptune, Golden Thai, whatever, on the tenth.’
‘See what I can do.’
‘Dinner, it’s getting cold.’
‘Got to go, maybe see you on the tenth, but I’ll email to confirm one way or the other. Cheers mate, great hearing from you, look after yourself, and your surviving wife, don’t want to make it a trilogy now do you.’
‘No I guess not.’
I doubt I’ll go to this reunion, though a mixture of nostalgia and too be honest downright nosiness makes me think I just might. What would they be like now, how would they look? Poor old Adam, it’s sad though not that much of a shock as he was a reckless bastard at the best of times. Besides take any group of twenty something’s give it thirty-five years and some at least must have died, especially that particular group. Maybe I will go after all I mean what harm can it do, one evening? But then the manic psychotic giggle of that poisonous dangerous little fucker Albie Kolar replays in my head. Albie Kola the ex-con, who is particularly looking forward to meeting up with me again, why? I mean we weren’t even that close. Warning bells start clanging in my head.