Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Rats, traps and two smoking barrels.

I dream a lot. I love dreams. Especially nightmares. A free and exclusive, personalised horror film, what's not to like?

Last night wasn't a nightmare night. Last night I dreamt I was young again. I visited places from my formative years in a weird, psychedelic way, flying on the back of a giant, pink moth. It was a good dream and a small section of it reminded me of a man I've not seen in well over a decade, a job I loved and a Tuesday morning in the pub.

I've changed the name of the man to protect the innocent. Or to prevent him from being charged. You'll see.

One of the many jobs that I have had throughout my pointless, meandering journey from cradle to grave was as a postman. When I look back on it, it was the perfect job for me. Early starts, early finishes, a good deal of eye-hand coordination when sorting, a friendly environment, a little bit of heavy lifting, chatting to people on my round and riding a push bike. I loved it. The only thing that prevents it being the "good" job that it always was is the management that came along after part-privatisation. No longer run by postmen that have worked their way up but now almost exclusively people that have been to university to learn how to juggle figures, blue sky think and wear cheap shoes. (A postman never wears cheap shoes, check it out.) These are the people that decided to rebrand the Royal Mail as "Consignia". I bet most of you didn't know that. It was Consignia for a good while, then they changed their minds and spent double the initial outlay changing it all back again. The Royal Mail made obscene amounts of money for the Crown. Then the Government took over (part privatisation, they were the only shareholder), put a load of post-graduates in management positions and wondered why overnight it began making ridiculously huge losses. It's not rocket-science.

But back to the story. Hopefully that mini-rant will be my only digression.

One particular morning I had to deliver to a back street pub on the border of Salford and Manchester. The area between our two great cities is akin to a no-man's land, a mile or so wide strip of derelict mills, unused car parks, a canal and some prostitutes. The pub in question belonged to Manny, a chap I'd known well since childhood, and I left his post until last so I could enjoy the pint he always offered me.

It was about nine a.m. when I arrived so officially the pub was still "closed", but business being so scarce in those days of pre-regeneration Manny ran a twenty four-seven operation. Thick, heavy black-out curtains covered the windows and were actually stapled shut so that no one could accidentally allow a chink of light to spill on to the street at three a.m. as there weren't even any street lights in the area back then, so the local constabulary (at least the ones that weren't in the pub getting pissed for free) would be able to spot it a mile off. Everyone knew to go around the back of the pub and come in through the kitchen, so in I went.

The pub was gloomy, dust motes dancing in the light from the open kitchen door, musty scented and deathly quite. Unusually, Manny wasn't behind the bar as he usually was, still in his slippers, cigarette in hand, perched on a wobbly bar stool and coughing into the sports section of the Daily Mirror while studying the form of the nags running that day. Slightly unnerved at this, I don't like change, I put my bag on the floor and crept through, up to the counter.

There, squatting on the floor and aiming a shotgun (unnecessarily since it had had the barrel sawed off) at a box of crisps on the bottom shelf was Manny, wearing one slipper, a bandage on the other foot and with trademark cigarette tucked behind his ear.


I shhhhhed.

"I've got a rat somewhere in the pub, and he's been nicking the crisps." Manny was lying in wait to ambush the rodent.

Manny's pub had always had rats. They would stream across the car park whenever the dray wagon arrived with his casks and kegs, and he didn't mind that. But now they were stealing from him. Manny didn't like that at all.

"Where'd you get THAT?" I whispered.

"Get what?" Manny remained staring at the crisp box.

"The fucking shotgun." Stupidly, I'd thought he'd know to what I was referring.

"Oh, some lads left it in the pool room." Manny was so "matter of fact" about it that I let it drop.

"Serve yourself, mate, if I move I just m..." There was a rustle from the box.


The shotgun went off and Manny leapt to his feet. I shat myself.

"YESSS! Dirty little bastards." He walked toward the bar, completely unconcerned that his specially adapted firearm had just destroyed the crisps, a good eighty percent of the glasses on the shelves, the shelves themselves and his glass washer.

I shook my head and began to fill my glass.

"Awww fuck." Manny exclaimed eloquently.

Blood, fur, teeth and skull fragments, together with perforated crisp packets, cardboard and what looked like a little, blue collar, created a macabre Murial on the back of the bar. (That's right, "Murial", not "mural". There was an eye in the middle.)

Now as it transpired, Manny had been hunting this rat for a week or two. First he tried baited poison traps. The poison had been eaten but no dead rats had been found. Then he tried vicious rat traps, of the over-sized mouse trap variety, but had elected to remove these after treading on one while wearing his slippers.

Next, before resorting to heavy artillery, he had borrowed a Jack Russell Terrier from a customer which he had allowed free run of the pub for a few days. Still no dead rat, the crisps were now disappearing at an alarming rate.

It turned out that the very misleadingly named Jack Russell, "Lucky", like the prey on which he failed to prey, had a liking for crisps. He'd spent his nights eating Manny's stock and then sleeping with a full tummy behind the boxes of crisps on the bottom shelf

I wanted to recount this tale for no particular reason, and thought I might be able to tie it in with some deep, meaningful ending. Something clever, you know. A moral. I'm struggling, but I've tried my best. If you take one piece of advice from this entry, let it be this;

Never lend Manny your dog.


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