I walked into a pub and saw a lady in her late fifties/early sixties, propped against the bar, swaying slightly under the influence of a few gin and tonics. I stood next to her to order a drink and she turned to me and smiled and said how much she loved tall men and that it’s always nice to be arm in arm with a man and look up to him; to have someone to look after you, to protect you.
I turned to her and asked her where abouts in Wales she came from, her thick, warm accent had given it all away and she said North Wales, Betys-y-Coed and I told her that I walked through there when I was doing The Big Adventure and we discussed the merits of Bangor and the beauty of Snowdon and glacial valleys and how weird Cerrigydruidion is during lambing season.
She offered to buy me a drink and she refused to accept my protestations, as we waited she explained that she used to work in London and that she comes back occasionally to reminisce and get drunk. I asked her name and she said Rita, I shook her hand and gave her a kiss on the cheek. When my pint arrived she waved me off to go and sit with my friends, in reality I wanted to stay and talk to her for as long as she wanted but she reckoned she’d had enough drink and wanted to window shop.
I watched her as she stayed at the bar for a few moments, as alone as she was before I came, the bar staff giving her weird looks and as she walked out I tried to catch her eye to say goodbye and thanks but she just motored past.
As a young man I remember reading Chuck Bukowski and thinking there was something noble and romantic in being a lone drunk, propping up bars and making conversation like some passing ship. Some days I think that’s bullshit and some days I think Rita and Chuck are onto something…