They say travel broadens the mind. I’m not sure if I can endorse this particular nugget of conventional wisdom but what I can confirm is that travel changes perspective.
Mike and I found ourselves in a JD Wetherspoon’s drinking hall last night in down town Hemel Hempstead. Exhausted from a long session in XC’s sumptuous pool, and relaxed by the beers supped in the lounge of the Premiere Travel Inn whilst watching the rugby, we drunk in the heady atmosphere of this establishment. The cornucopia of humanity determined to have a good time, despite the dreary rain soaked mid February evening and the surrounding sterile corporate landscape of Hemel’s central business district, seemed almost exotic. The baroque style of this converted cinema complimented the mixture of fancy dressed partyer’s , goths, extensively tattooed young women, junkies and geezers. The shadows cast by the columns and recesses created hazy zones of flirtation, wit, subterfuge and negotiation Each conversational bubble touching and sometimes joining to the next. The exotic and attractive stood out as one would expect but the background figures interested me most. Every other booth and table were populated by geezers. Shaven heads pressed conspiratorially together they drank, cackled and swore in small groups. Dowdily dressed in creased shirts, saggy dark winter coats and loafers these men were in their natural environment No need for show, they were here to practice their art in conversation, bonhomie and story telling. A man in a grubby camel hair coat clapped his partner in pleasure on the shoulder after the long and detailed description of an unfortunate situation involving a large woman, a glass eye and the insertion of said prosthesis into an unsuited body cavity before launching into another description of the same story again and then again for good measure. He concluded ten minutes later with.
”You would n’t fackin believe it John”
I did n’t but that did not stop me eavesdropping on expressions of morality, tales of deals gone bad and the pervading sense of the good life sinking unreachably below the oh so near lucky horizon.
We returned for breakfast today and listened in on the six geezers drawing on their fluted pints of lager next to us. Buoyed by the glow of alcohol, the early morning chit chat was more up beat but hilarious and cynical in equal measure.
Long live the geezer! The glitzier youth cults shroud this middle aged way of life that continues to carry on it’s subterranean and suburban existence. My hunch is that they will still be drinking long after the hipster’s waist size has removed the possibility of drain pipes being the trouser de jour.
Back at XC we were joined by Dickie and Mark. Both fabulous pool skaters. The image of Dickie’s layback shown above does not begin to do justice to the the spine snapping , wheel juddering panache that this manouver is executed with.
I’m afraid our friend the staff photographer is now one of the more mournful of the geezers that can be found propping up the proverbial bar. He is going to need another perspective and employer.