IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT, it’s written in the ‘rules’ that man must go out and ‘socialise’. Is it also in the rulebook that it rains every single Friday evening? It appears that way to me at times and this night was showing no distinction from that as the wet stuff absolutely lashed down in some show of heavy weekend irony.
Catching a bus from the heavenly suburb of Redhill into the city, I decided on a visit to the outdoor ice rink in the Market Square, and more importantly the German beer stall, purveyors of some quite excellen
t al fresco pilsner. I didn’t have my skates with me but set myself to watch those who had the misfortune of trying to use the plastic dustbins they call ‘rental skates’. English ice rinks in all their forms are comical places.
That’s if you have a cruel sense of humour.
I guess I’m used to seeing people of all ages flying around the ice on Canadian rinks and I still find the somewhat petrified displays on rinks here slightly surprising. Keep hanging on to those boards folks – you may be in danger of skating if you let go.
After a long walk via the alpine fest in the Market Square and an aborted trip to The Orange Tree student dome, we surfaced in Yates Wine Lodge – the dear old ‘Talbot’ of my youth and another lifetime. Anybody over 25 years or IQ points stands a reasonable chance of finding this a disappointing experience. We were searching for friends – no, our friends, (we do have some already). The noise (aka the music) was pretty much insisting that no one would be talking in Yates that night however. It was time for Starship Alpha to return to base – The Bell Inn, courtesy of a convenient sidestep past the street ‘entertainer’ outside on Long Row.A walk up to the Nottingham Playhouse bar then, or whatever it’s called this week. ‘Civilised’ I guess you’d call it (translation – £3.20 a pint or over). Meeting a friend there, a pint of Czech bier for me whilst she dined.
In my humble opinion, The Bell Inn remains a fine example of a ‘proper’ pub. I just wish they issued season tickets for the place. One of the things I enjoy about The Bell is the diversity of the people that enter along the crooked stone flags into the various bars. Tonight was to offer a prime example of that fact. ‘The Bell Cowboy’ is chap that dresses in full western regalia. He’s a particular favourite of mine, and I mean that most sincerely. I enjoy the fact that people can still be different, do whatever they choose to do and dress how they want to within the bounds of decency and not upsetting others. As a psychologist I’m always interested in observing others’ reactions to the sort of people who are often called ‘oddballs’ or worse. I often think that their sometimes unkind reactions tend to speak much more about themselves but that’s maybe another story.
The first time I spoke to the Bell Cowboy he wasn’t a cowboy at all. There was nothing remotely cowboy-ish about him in fact. He was wearing a smart suit and was in one of the little bars at the front of the Bell. His suit hid one big difference though – a belt buckle measuring some six inches across and displaying pre-coded scrolling text! Genius. I asked him if he might consider renting the space out on there for advertising purposes and did seem interested in this notion. Tonight however he was ‘The Man With No Name’. Proudly sporting his spaghetti western poncho and Viva Zapata moustache his swagger and swirl around the back bar was mightily impressive. It was difficult indeed to take one’s eyes away from him long enough to talk the usual nonsense over a pint or two. My friend had an urge to record the scene on her mobile for the folks back home, ‘they would never believe this’, she said. Indeed.
The Bell Cowboy posed and strutted. He came to chat to us but extremely graciously took the hint along with a warm handshake that we were enjoying a private conversation. I like that man and I respect him, very eccentric though he may be. Viva la difference.
Leith’s ‘Cowboy Joe’ – a spiritual cousin of the Bell Inn Cowboy?
Time to move on and over in hot pursuit of our friends to Cucamara – a student cocktail bar. Are those words enough to strike fear into the very heart of you? They do me. Now, I’m getting older and sure enough I feel it some mornings. I still feel there are signs of life in the old socialising muscles though. A student cocktail bar however could quickly see me in need of a jacket that buckles up tightly at the back. As we trawled the various bars full of faces showing signs of ‘Sex on the Beach’ wear and tear, my friend commented that she felt like a pair of parents who come to collect their errant offspring. I knew that feeling too. We left.
The elements were not yet finished with the Friday night revellers however and it was a quick dash for cover into what used to be called The Spread Eagle on Goldsmith Street. (No, I don’t care what it’s called now – it’s the Spread Eagle – okay?) There were signs of life though the other bar which confused. Finally they came.. It was Cee Threepio, followed by Darth Vadar and other indeterminate figures. They tripped past us and lumbered down the front steps onto the wet Goldsmith Street pavement. So began the pub closing time war to end all wars – Cee Threepio versus Darth Vadar! Darth got an early (rather slow-motion I thought), blow in with his light sabre as Cee Threepio was clearly not at his best after a few pints of Stella. Help was at hand for his wooden posturings however, as he certainly was taking a bit of a pasting from Darth. Suddenly a late night drinker came past and grabbed Darth in a headlock from behind. Game over.
I’ll leave you with the thought of Darth and Cee catching a cab home and waving to passing motorists. that’s how I fondly like to think of them now.
May the force be with you.