Sometimes you observe something, just a small thing, and for some reason it sticks in your mind, even though it was quite trivial. When the children were much younger we didn’t have many opportunities to go out just the two of us without the kids. We didn’t have many baby-sitters, and we didn’t have the wherewithal to go out often either! Then there came a time when both children were at different activities, one was a karate, and one was at sea cadets – we had a magic 90 child-free minutes!
Being out is different from being at home, there are no distractions like chores, school work (yes teachers have plenty of that to do at home), we could just sit down and chat and gossip and catch-up with ourselves. Where to do that? The answer is obvious really – where is warm, comfortable, pleasant, with seating and refreshments… pub! We had to go to places which were near enough to get to, have a drink, and get back to pick up the karate kid and the sea cadet.
Over the couple of years that we had this magic 90 minutes, we went to quite a few places we wouldn’t normally go to, the bar at the station which is called Off The Rails, other pubs in Weston, and pubs in the nearby villages of St Georges, Wick St Lawrence and Kewstoke. The one we ended up going to most regularly was the New Inn in Kewstoke – friendly staff, friendly customers, good beer, comfortable. The landlady and her Austrian husband keep a good place and we always enjoyed our brief hour there.
We got to know the regulars by sight, including an old chap who had a catch-phrase ‘You buy one – and you get one free – I said, you buy one, and you get one free!’ The other people would set him off, asking what he bought, what he got, what had he said, and he’d repeat his mantra. I’m sure he knew they were gently teasing, there was a lot of laughter – not unkind – and he was always being bought pints.
It became one of our catchphrases ‘I said, you buy one, and you get one free!’ In my latest novel, Saltpans, the old fellow makes an appearance! Thomas and Kylie now have five children, plus a sister-in-law who helps look after them, but they need to move to a house which can accommodate them better. They have come across the eponymous Saltpans, a beautiful big house, right by the beach.
Kylie’s first reaction was the same as mine, hardly any point in even looking at the details of Saltpans as never in a million years, even with Marcus’s contribution, could we afford it. However, I couldn’t imagine Dawn who actually has a very prosaic side to her, showing us unless she thought it possible. She knew what we should get for our house, she knew our budget, she really wouldn’t have said anything…
“Look at the kitchen, Thomas, look at the size of the table… we could all sit round it for meals…” she knew that was a dream of mine – we all squashed round our table now, the twins still in their high chairs, but it wouldn’t be long before they were grown up and with normal sized plates and then it would indeed be a squash!
We were sitting in the Lark, the two of us; we try to come out once a week on our own. I guess because from the first time we were a couple we had Kenneil, so we’ve never had the normal together time most people have in their relationship. Cassie arrived and then less than a year later the twins followed, so I try to insist when possible we have an evening out. Mostly we go to the pub for the last hour, in the summer last year when the evenings were warm we went for walks, usually ending up on the beach, sitting and chatting and maybe having a cuddle…
Now we sat looking at the details and despite ourselves we slipped into planning, should we have this as our bedroom, or that? Would this be a good room for Kenneil, and this for Terri, or this? How would we arrange a room for Marcus, this one and this as his lounge/study, and this his bathroom – or for Gabriela until he returns?
Would I want office at home? No, I thought, after having a client knocking on the door last year and coming into my family’s home, a client who subsequently proved to be very dangerous, I realise home and work should be kept separate… but maybe Kyle needed a work space at home and if I had stuff to do I could work there too… so maybe this room?
“Are we getting carried away here?” I said, for once the realistic one.
To my surprise, Kylie’s eyes filled with tears, and for a moment I glimpsed the desperate and desperately poor young girl I had first known. I have never ever known her ask for anything or want anything for herself, always putting the family first, and although she likes the little gifts and treats I give her she never expects anything. Even when she herself had nothing she would give to others. Now, looking at the details of this beautiful house I realised that she’d fallen in love with it… she wouldn’t say that, she wouldn’t admit it
… and now she was making some joke about one of the old regulars at the bar a nice old bloke but simple, his catchphrase was “I said, you buy one, and you get one free!” which he‘d repeat over and over again – people were forever asking him about buying one, just to set him off. Now someone had got him going and were pretending they couldn’t understand him… harmless fun and I think he realised it’s a joke and people are always buying him pints so I don’t think he minds…
Kylie wanted to live in Saltpans…and at that moment I knew that whatever it cost, whatever I had to do, we would get Saltpans, it would be our home and we would live there all our lives until we were old and our children were older than we are now and we had grandchildren… whatever it took, we would have Saltpans…
“We can dream Kylie, and sometimes dreams come true!” I spoke light-heartedly but I know dreams come true, look at me now with my beautiful wife and my beautiful family!
© Lois Elsden 2018
Here is a link to Saltpans: