The main bar of the ‘Cavalier’ pub hasn’t changed much since the old former coaching inn was built over two hundred years ago. It’s a long room with a low ceiling, stained brown from all the years of smoke from customers’ fags, before that law was brought out banning it. Several long black beams run across the ceiling, and the uneven flagstones of the floor are covered with a stained – but clean – carpet. The highly polished bar runs the length of the room, and the brass beer pumps and various other bits and pieces glow in the light of the small wall lamps that add to the atmosphere.
A real log fire crackles in the large grate at one end, and very welcoming it is too, as the weather has turned quite autumnal these past few days, even though its only mid-September. Debbie and Graham, ‘mine hosts’, have been here about fifteen years, but I see there is a new barmaid, a young blonde girl, who is obviously very popular, judging by the little group of young men gathered against the bar where she is wiping some glasses. There’s not a bad crowd in for a Thursday night, most of whom are strangers to me, but that’s not surprising, as it’s my first visit for a year. There’s a party of ramblers over near the fire, I can tell because a couple of them have their maps in plastic bags still round their necks, and they are all wearing thick jumpers and corduroy trousers.
Lovely weather for a ramble, and great countryside round here. They’re getting ready to go actually, I daresay they are well oiled if they’ve been here since the light faded. I expect they are regulars, and don’t blame them, because they serve a lovely pint of bitter, and their ham sandwiches on homemade bread are legendary round here. I can see Kenny and Leo in the shadows over by the door, and Gordon is sitting on the bench near the Gents, as usual. Poor old Gordon always likes to keep quite close to the Gents, he’s suffered with prostrate trouble for quite a while. They’ve just rung the bell for ‘Time’ so it won’t be long before the place is cleared. Debbie is picking up empties and wiping the tables down as they become vacant, and the barmaid is putting her coat on. Graham is stacking the dirty glasses in the dishwasher and shouting goodnight to the customers as they leave.
The last to go are the youngsters, jostling and laughing as they go out into the night, and at last the place is empty. Graham goes over to the fireplace and puts the cards , dice and dominoes onto the games table beside the hearth. He looks all round, then goes over and turns out the lights. He and Debbie disappear through the door, and we
hear their footsteps as they climb the stairs to their living quarters.
Gordon, Kenny, Leo and I go over to the games table by the fire and seat ourselves
round it, as we did every Thursday night for years, for a few games of dominoes. Every Thursday that is, until that day when the brakes failed on the coach taking us to work , and it overturned at Bells Corner, smashing into that big drystone wall. Since then it’s been once a year, on a Thursday near the date of the crash, and Debbie and Graham will again be telling everyone tomorrow that they found the dominoes tipped out of the box overnight by some ghostly hand.