Musings From The Padded Cell

Normal Service Is Resumed

“Normal is an ideal. But it’s not reality. Reality is brutal, it’s beautiful, it’s every shade between black and white, and it’s magical. Yes, magical. Because every now and then, it turns nothing into something.”
Tara Kelly

Tales From The Scruffy


As we all crawled back this week to our various forms of “normal”, spewing forth hopeful new year’s resolutions faster than a Tesco turkey, it was hard not to reflect how fast time flies by.

A new year can be daunting for many after two weeks in party mode. However, the inimitable flow of life eventually returns and no better evidenced by local wildlife reclaiming favoured feeding spots.

In a threat to the local ecosystem, The Scruffy’s iconic ‘Nob ‘Ed Korna had seen its usual inhabitants evicted like squatters on Christmas Eve, replaced by rare happy looking strangers.

Only at this time of year are events such as this witnessed. One day Sir David Attenborough will surely arrive to film; he could call it Beer Planet.

Our host, Il Padrino, having been expelled from Slimmers’ World for the third year running, was behind the bar pulling not drinking pints. Around him his faithful flock had been dispersed to all corners.

TV & Young Mick look wistfully as ‘Nob ‘Ed Korna is filled with happy, smiley people.

The imposing, law abiding figures of Guvnor and Young Mick – Regan and Carter (retired) – sat menacingly at the other end of the bar, staring at the interlopers as if observing local villains from a past life.

“How dare they?” spat Guvnor lacking any seasonal good cheer, his seventies pigskin leather jacket glistening “We sit there 364 days a year and then this! Nick ’em Mick!””

Young Mick was wearing his Christmas sweater and, were it not for being six foot plus and sixteen stone, could have passed for borderline angelic. Guvnor muttered away about taking a few out the back like the “good old days“.

Padrino fought hard to suppress a smile as the till jingled merrily on high. The locals could suffer one night of unchecked capitalism and a bit of exercise for him was no bad thing.

Fat Lad was looking very glum, his trademark grin absent, ruddy cheeks flamed not by Christmas cheer and a gallon of Carling but a confusion from his upheaval. Ten feet from his favourite spot he may as well have been sat in Lapland.

Nickname supplied anonymously!

“I sit in that corner every day!” he wailed almost on the edge of tears.

Happy Days was less than happy too noting someone leaning against his favourite radiator underneath the shrine to The Scruffy’s golf team.

“I hope he burns his fat arse!” he said without a hint of irony.

“It’s mine…all mine!” cried Happy Days before being led off to a secure unit.

Driven to desperation he attempted a coup d’etat of sorts only to be escorted from behind the bar and down the cellar to await Our Jackie.

Not even Magic Joe could make the newbies vanish in a seasonal puff of smoke; the clown tears were real.

Meanwhile, Greenfingers was wandering around puffing on his magic fag, looking more dazed than usual, longing for Spring and the refuge of the local allotments where a man can smoke what he likes.

Numerous other inmates had been displaced to various parts of The Scruffy clutching beers as if a form of life raft. The bar was like an old fashioned football terrace as men sought Our Jackie’s beer soaked forearms and the pleasures they promised.

The Scruffy’s equivalent of a safe seat.

The not so young newlyweds – Young Bet and Giant Geordie – were also in attendance and glowing, though that was the Giant’s head. Strangely nobody had stolen his favoured perch as Young Bet flashed her sparklers.

Soon both the interlopers and displaced locals had retired to get ready for the big day as peace broke out. The locals placed their towels on selected benches ready for the morning and we left reassured all had returned to “normal”.

One Hundred Years Ago

More from this excellent archive as a New Year dawned one hundred years ago – see here. You might argue a few things appear very similar.

The dawning of a New Year saw the hardships at home increase. Food shortages had become acute…people queuing in the hope of buying the basics of life became commonplace.

The government were taking increasing control of the supply of commodities like butter, margarine and sugar through the local Food Control Committees.

Some believed that while they were being told to tighten their already tight belts…others were able to carry on their privileged lives…there was growing anger that a few businessmen were cashing in on the war while others were struggling to cope.

A New Year’s Tale

Gradually, the inhabitants of the notorious ‘Nob ‘Ed Korna appear to have allowed my increasing intrusions like gorillas in the jungle.

Initially they looked puzzled, scratched their heads and, whilst they continued to drink and paw their nuts, one eye was always cast my way.

I decided to enjoy a couple of early evening beers and their bonhomie. Having watched three back to back episodes of Outback Truckers I was in danger of becoming fused to my sofa and remote control whilst talking Aussie.

A smart elderly gent sat close by and soon engaged me although nothing to do with the Outback. The power of places like The Scruffy is never more in evidence than at Christmas; he just wanted to chat.

His two regular drinking pals were “not so good” these days and his wife had sadly passed away a few years ago.

He proudly told me how he had courted her over fifty years ago, how he had tried night after night to “bump into her” as she walked home from work. Eventually he wooed his girl and she became the love of his life.

Unashamedly and with a moist glint in his eyes, he told me he still says goodnight to her every night. He warned me how fast life flies by and how useless regrets are.

A family man steeped in unshakeable, time-worn values, he reluctantly downed the last drops from his glass and made his way home to an empty house full of memories.

I called in a few nights later and sat alongside him again – same spot, same stories – but told as warmly as before. A life well lived is worth telling again.

He prompted me to think of the greed of the invisible corporate vultures that has closed thousands of old locals over the last decade and more, robbing people like him of somewhere local to be seen and heard, however “normal” they may be.

Where richly told stories of love, life and laughter can be heard as often as repeats of Only Fools And Horses and no less appreciated. The beauty of places like The Scruffy never fades.

Happy New Year

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