The English pub is a great leveller. There's a sense in which it doesn't matter one hoot what you do or have done outside those pub doors. Inside the pub, as you sup your chosen tipple and exchange banter, everybody is different but equal.
I must confess that for twenty years I have been a "regular" at my local. You will see me in there four nights a week drinking beer and colluding with the other regulars - by and large men. Who are they?
Well let's start with Big Dave - otherwise known as Uncle Festa. Nobody quite knows what he does for a living. He keeps his cards close to his chest but digs and fishes for titbits of information about other people's lives. Big Dave is obsessed with money and financial matters. When jawing with him, it isn't long before the conversation switches to pensions, acquisitions and investments. He lives alone in a suburban semi with his designer Italian leather suite and his forty two inch flatscreen TV. To my knowledge,this bloke never hurt anybody in his life.
Next there's Gibby - most regular of all regulars and thin as a lat. He's fifty and lives with his old arthritic mother. Two years ago he completed a degree course, achieving a BA in Modern History but he is one of the perpetually unemployed, beavering away at his "Guardian" crossword, supping his "Carling" lager and rocking home to toke on "reefers". To my knowledge this guy never consciously hurt anybody in his life.
Irish Joe came to England in 1961 where he has worked as a builder ever since. He has four children and a wife he fears. Once he confided in me that the reason he keeps working as a construction foreman is because he is afraid of a life at home with the "missus" in the kitchen day after day. "Twould kill me" he said in his County Dublin brogue - unchanged after forty eight years. Strong as an ox, this man has helped me in numerous ways but when he was younger I know that he did hurt a few other men with his JCB fists.
Leeds Mick is about forty and a talented chef but with a fury inside him that would make Gordon Ramsay look like a tame pussy cat. His name suggests he might be from the city of Leeds but he isn't - it was his father who was born there. He is an ardent Leeds United fan and just say the names "Manchester United", "Newcastle United" or "Liverpool" to him and he goes off alarming, spraying his listeners with saliva as the expletives and bitter memories burst out of him. Leeds Mick has hurt a lot of people with his brutal personal rebukes.
Bert is about seventy and hails from Northampton but he worked in concrete for forty five years. He has two sons but divorced his wife after thirty years of marriage. He sometimes smells of armpit odour and stale cigarette smoke but he is one of the sweetest guys I have ever met. He thinks well of everyone and has a cheerful disposition. When Old Alan leaves on a Friday night at 10.55pm prompt, it's always Bert who is up helping Alan to access the sleeves of his coat.
Then there's fifty something Yorkshire Pudding. He arrives late in the tap room, except on Saturday evenings when he's in the lounge with the wife. A generally miserable sod - he used to be a teacher but now he's taking time out. He drinks Tetley's bitter and supports Hull City. When there are factual issues to confirm or pass judgement on, all eyes turn to him. He has probably hurt a few people in his life but at least he's sorry about it.
There are twenty others for whom I could provide similar pen portraits.
"Regulars" - sounds like the title of a new sitcom and what I've written above could simply be the list of characters. Failing that they could be actors in a new episode of the hospital drama "Casualty". Time gentlemen please!