I had parked myself on the end of a long wooden table, coloured the burnished brown of a well-varnished chestnut and seemingly carved out of a single tree. It was a comfortable table that I wouldn’t have had in my house, but it was the sort of pub table at which I have always felt secure. It was one of about two dozen that had been laid out barrack-square tidy in the main bar of this beery institution where beer had been brewed — it is said, I had been told, I had read — since the late Middle Ages. What do you feel when someone or something makes the claim that they are the oldest, wisest, hippest? I have a newspaper cutting a decade before I was born with the obituary of a great grandmother — ‘she was one of the oldest families in Llandudno’. What did that mean?
The room I sat in, within the company of a smattering of drinkers, tourists perhaps, probably?, was seemingly a Teutonic-like shrine (or was this the effect of my meditative thoughts that had turned to the Austro-Hungarian Empire?) to dark wood though evening sunlight softened the hardness as it reached in and stroked the stained glass windows. I noted the large metal chandeliers that swooped from the ceiling, cold, cruel-eyed predators dressed up as a nice interior design feature whose creator perhaps hoped for a touch of the Nibelungenlied. Sadly they really looked like they’d emerged from a job lot in an out-of-town DIY store whose wares were bedded down on an industrial estate.
As I waited to be served by waiters who rushed about, their trays held high, money bags hanging like sporrans on their aprons, I continued to look about: the floors were tiled, easy to wash I briefly thought, then remembering all the myths and stories of drinking of the so-called six-o-clock swill in 1960s Australia. Meanwhile, more genteel, more European than the brash Aussies that briefly held onto one corner of my brain, waiters, imperious and the very opposite of idle in the rush with which they scurried about, held trays studded with glasses of the rich dark lager brewed somewhere else within the building. I tried to catch one’s eye, knowing that my time was limited and that I had to be somewhere else soon.
A chap of medium height in the next row of tables, looking about, CCTV on two legs, short stubby hair, cropped almost to the scalp — I finally caught his eye. He reached the end of the row, turned left and approached me. At last I was going to try a beer that had haunted me ever since reading about it within the pages of Michael Jackson’s books on beer. This was my fourth time in the city and with a bit of time and being on my own for once, I was not to be denied.