Friday, 29 March 2013

Point of Reference

There is no mistaking the smell of an English Pub at opening time. Stale beer and ageing cigarette smoke are a potent mix. Not a-typically music was playing quietly in the background. I could be sure the volume would hike as soon as the landlord eyed some people trying to have a conversation.

Cigarette smoke. Interesting, I must have arrived before 2007.

I walked over to the bar, "Hi, who's this playing on the radio?"

"Kayleigh? Can't stand it. At least it didn't make number one."

1985. I turned to leave.

"Aren't you going to buy a drink?"

"Er, no, not today, I don't think."

"What do you think this is - a free information service?"

"No, do you have a lavatory?" Under my breath I added, "I've been busting for a pee since 1615."

"It's in the corner, over there."

I turned and walked towards it.

"Patrons only," the barmaid announced.

Now that was just unreasonable. Surely this wasn't Berlin in 1942. "I am a patron. I just haven't bought a drink yet."

I left. Trips through time require careful plotting and the use of Temporal Navigation System is nearly essential. Think of it as sat-nav for time machines. "You have passed December 1976, please do a U-turn when possible."

Unfortunately, on a whim, I had changed the Temporal Navigation System to speak Swedish and my laughter at it sounding like the chef from the Muppets quickly turned to panic when I realised I couldn't reset it. So I had resolved to get home by taking little steps through time, stopping, investigating & moving on a little bit more. I've been using my local pub, The Fox and Armpit, as my point of reference. Thankfully, 1985 was a pretty good hit and I only needed a little bit of luck to get close enough to "home".

I walked through the door of The Fox and Armpit and sat at the bar. I looked around. There was no smoke in the air, most of the patrons were nursing the one drink they could afford and using their phones to communicate with friends thousands of miles away, whilst ignoring those in the room. Yes, indeed I was "home".

The barmaid wandered over. "Hi," she said.

"Hello. Can I trouble you for a pint of Witches Broomstick please?"

"That'll be £2.75."

I fished around in my pocket for the money. Damn, it was good to be home.

"If you don't mind me asking, but don't you normally drink with a really tall gentleman?"

"I often do. Hopefully he'll be along later. I expect he's been taken in by the furniture shop's buy two armchairs, get a pizza free offer."

"I saw that. I didn't think most people would be swayed by the offer of a pizza."

"Mr Indigo Roth is quite definitely not most people. You don't get offers like that where he's from."

"Why, where is he from?" Hooked.

"Did you not notice the accent?"

"No, he sounds pretty Home Counties to me."

"He disguises it really well, but he is originally Norwegian. He took loads of lessons to learn how to drop the accent when he went to RADA. Just get him to say gravlaks - you'll see him salivating slightly and his accent will slip."

"He went to acting school?"

"I'm told his characterisation of Calamity Jane was absolutely unforgettable."


"Oh, yes. It was terrible that he got thrown out. Such a waste of raw talent. If it wasn't for his terrible addiction, we'd see him on the West End stage now. He might even have made it to Hollywood."

"Addiction? How awful."

"Lots of Norwegians suffer that way. I think it may be genetic. Hid jars of it all over his dormitory. Turned up on stage reeking of it."

"Booze. My auntie suffered like that. I hope he got help."

"Alcohol, no, no. Goodness no. Much worse than that. Pickled herring."

"But did he get help after he was thrown out of RADA?"

"Yes, they put him on a pickled herring substitute and I think it's a bit more manageable for him now. We just slip him one of these and he is, as they say, a happy badger." I held up a frozen packet and passed it over.

"What do you do with them?"

"Use your imagination."

Roth arrived. "Hi, can I have my usual please?"

The barmaid pulled him a Guinness, and he took a long pull before speaking again.

"Did you see the offer that furniture shop is doing? Awesome. I bought sixteen armchairs." He paused, had another sip, "How has your day been?"

"1615? It was a bit dull to be honest. I left a SIM card in one of the excavated pits at Stonehenge. Might brighten things up for the archeologists in the future."

"Yes, it would." He laughed, took a good chug of stout, then turned a looked at me, "Why is there a frozen fish-finger in my beer?"


  1. Max! A delight to see you as ever, Herr Doktor. I'm glad you could put the fish finger into context for me; I thought I was home in the Fjords. Talking of hom, I have to move; I have nowhere to put these damned armchairs. Not yesterdays sixteen, I mean today's. Roth

  2. That was a great Friday evening chuckle.

  3. "Why is there a frozen fish finger in my beer?"


    Welcome back.

  4. i do think there is a twangy country song in there somewhere....

    and how dare you drink coffee without me!

  5. No, no, my characterisation of Calamity Jane was unforGIVEable. A cracking tale this, pings my neurons to remember it.

    1. that's not your neurons what's pinging Roth.


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