“Where’s Mr P today?” Mr Gee asked as she slid onto the bar sool. I placed the large brandy in front of her with a shrug. The regulars exchanged a sideways beady-eyed glance and I wondered if Mr P’s absence was something I needed to worry about.
Mr P was a regular whose daily routine went as follows: Wake up, have a nicely, rounded, cholestoral seeped fry-up breakfast especially designed to clog the arteries, slowly toddle to the pub, settle into a well-worn stool for six to eight hours, wobble back home and climb into bed with the covers pulled up under his chin and falling into a blissful, alcohol induced sleep. Mr P was the embodiment of what I imagined Henry VIII would have looked like in the transition period after he was a strapping handsome prince but before he became the morbidly, obsese, wife killing king.
“Maybe he just has other plans today.” The pitch of my voice went up at the end of the sentence making it sound like a tentative question. The seasoned pub goers looked at me with a mix of distaste and pity; it was a look which said, ‘Don’t be so silly, girly.’
“He hasn’t missed a day in the pub for almost ten years,” Mr Gee told me kindly.
“And it’s not as if he will have gone away anywhere.” One old boy piped up, with a smirk.
“Can’t he drive?” My innocent question was met with a derisive snort and a few sniggers.
“He’s not allowed to drive.”
“He lost his license?”
“What for?” I was intrigued, I leaned forward resting my elbows on the bar.
I raised my eyebrows; it was hard for me to imagine Mr P, who I likened to a cross between Winnie the Pooh and Eeorye doing anything to break the law, even a teeny traffic infringement.
“This time he got confussed.” Fingers poked at the air as they formed quotations around confused, “And he drove into someone’s hedge – he’d been at the pub for one two many rums.”
“And the time before that?”
“He drove his lotus into the Thames.”
“He drove a car into a river?” I was incredulous.
“Well, he thought he was the real James bond and the wings which would turn it into a speed boat didn’t open.”
Sounded like Mr P had been indulging in more than just a few too many rums. But I couldn’t see it, Mr P was a kindly, sweet, timid man. A gentle giant. I felt the need to defend his honour.
“OK but at least he has some really interesting life stories to tell the grandkids.”
Mr Gee chuckled, “That he does. That he does.”
At that moment, the door creaked and opened and Mr P tottered in, floppy hat pulled down so it was almost covering his eyes. And with his tentative first step onto the carpeted floor, the balance within the pub was restored.