Stepping out of the blustery wind and the early evening my eyes adjusted to the glow of electric lighting in the tavern. A rabble of late middle aged men clustered around the bar, the afternoons alcohol had raised their voices and lowered their inhibitions as they gave their opinions and set the world to right. I waited patiently behind them to attempt to unravel the mystery of the queue or if indeed anyone was ordering drinks at all. The barmaid glanced up and down the bar before looking to me for my order.
"Oi, I was first," barked a customer a few paces away, clearly annoyed at being overlooked despite his apparent lack of interest in ordering. I put my teeth back together as he glanced up and down the array of traditional ales before requesting a small glass to try the ale before swilling, considering and finally agreeing to order a pint. Once the barmaid had furnished him with his ale she returned to me to take my order. In the minute or so while she made my coffee, I looked around the patrons. The drinker who had stepped in before me to place his order was clearly annoyed by my presence. Hushed tones to his friend sitting beside him and sideways glances betrayed his feelings, others at the bar picked up on his mood and shifted uneasily as I waited.
I thanked the barmaid when she smiled and handed over my coffee and I retired to a table well away from the bar to sit in peace. I noticed the shoulders of the patrons sink slightly as they relaxed again and carried on their chatter. I overheard some of their conversations as I sat quietly, the conversations were of little consequence, but to them the setting, alcohol and ritual clearly was. This was their Sunday evening, their release from the working week and their time to drink uninterrupted and pass opinions to the like minded. They will talk and put right wrongs as they see them, the beer would fuel them and the revenue will gladly take their dues from the sales. They will work the week, make their money, drive the vehicles they are so proud of and again will pay their toll. When next weekend arrives again they will be back in the tavern and the cycle will repeat. As long as they continue to work they will be able to afford their lifestyle, but to what ends?
It was interesting to watch them, I could draw parallels to my own life and the cycles I drift into and the tolls I pay. The thought of a higher wage or status job and the stress it would cause me would leave me looking for a bar to spend Sunday afternoon in before emerging on Monday morning hungover and ready to take on the world. I will settle for my more modest existence, I will do what I enjoy and what is of benefit. If I am in need of expensive holidays, vehicles and the oblivion of days at the bar to numb the pain of my work, I will know I am doing something wrong.
After sketching and enjoying my coffee, I placed the cup on the collections bar and slid out unnoticed behind the patrons into the gloom of the evening.