Alan doesn’t go to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese or to The Old Bell; he likes to visit The Black Swan or The Compositors’ Arms.
Lots of little courts and lanes run off Fleet Street. Down one of these was my favourite watering hole, The Compositors’ Arms. Every newspaper in the street had its preferred pub with which it was associated and which its journos treated as their personal club. The Globe’s workers all used The Black Swan but if I wanted to be alone or take some woman for a quiet drink without being talked about by the people I worked with I’d always go to The Compositors. It was full of cosy, intimate little bars and the patrons were mainly tourists and print workers from The Evening News, The Mail and The Express.
Even though it was early the place was quite full. I ordered a pint of draught Guinness and a plate of ham sandwiches and when this banquet arrived I carried it over to a table by the window.
I tried to concentrate on my newspaper but I was still smarting from my humiliating dressing down by that bastard Dressler. I couldn’t stop rehearsing it over and over in my mind and recalling the pitiful looks of my fellow hacks who’d been wincing from the embarrassment of it all. The worst thing was, I was starting to think that Dressler might be in the right.
By the time I was on my final sandwich The Compositors was heaving. I checked my watch and saw that it was ten to one. Dressler would be going apeshit waiting for his Backstage stuff. Fuck him. Let him wait. Maybe I wouldn’t go back at all. Why should I after the way he’d treated me?
As I took a big gulp of Guinness, a bloke squeezed into the empty seat across from me.
He was in his early thirties and had the usual phoney South American gigolo look of the time: wide flares, platform shoes, long hair, sideburns and a Viva Zapata moustache. Rather like me, in fact. Only, he was dark. I’m blonde, so the look never suited me so well. He was carrying a Boxing magazine under his arm. He set the magazine down on the table next to his pint. The magazine had a black boxer on the cover raising huge, gloved fists. The man obviously had a thirst because he drank his pint quickly, almost all of it in one go, and then got up and returned to the bar. He came back with another pint, sat down and lit up a cigarette. In those days it was still socially acceptable for people in pubs and restaurants to blow smoke all over your food as you ate it.
From the looks this geezer kept casting in my direction I could sense he was gearing himself up for some conversation. I concentrated on staring at my pint. The last thing I needed was pub small talk with a complete stranger who, for all I knew, might be a punchy boxer. But it didn’t put him off. He reached into his pocket, fumbled around and finally produced a screwed up piece of paper. He opened it and scrutinised it for a few moments, then waved it under my nose.
‘Any idea where this place is?’
Julia’s Room by Michael Murray http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008WDL6XW