Now, I’ve been working at the Legion for almost nine years. Those nine years represent one terrible haircut, one bad breakup, and several hundred pints of Guinness. Don’t get me wrong. A lot of it has been good, too. It’s just that the awkward and embarrassing stuff is easier to remember.
A couple of years ago, we had a new barman. A student, he started working on Saturday nights.
The Saturday night crowd has gone unchanged in all the years I can remember. You might think a Saturday night, in the closest approximation we have to a pub in the locale, the place would be heaving. Not so. We have the same five people every week. Occasionally supplemented by a lost tourist or two. The point is, these five people have known each other for years. Longer than I’ve been alive, in any case. They know each other’s stories back to front and sideways. Anyone new will be taken into the fold quite quickly, and appreciated for their newness. However, it’s important to recognise that in a room (not exactly) full of farmers and grafters, anything a little bit floaty and imprecise will be viewed with some suspicion.
Back to the new fella: the Saturday nighters asked him what he did when he wasn’t pulling pints. A very usual question in the circumstances. He told them he was a novelist.
Understandably, they asked how many novels he had published.
They asked if he was looking for a publisher.
They asked him… if he’d finished any novels.
What then, you might well ask, made him call himself a novelist?
He had hopes. Nothing wrong with that.
I once had a cousin who wanted to be a seamstress. She’d never sewn a button on a blouse before, but she fancied it was her life’s calling. Sometimes, it’s just better not to argue.
Anywho, having called himself a novelist, and explained in some detail that he’d had ideas for short stories (which are, in many ways, harder to write) but hadn’t actually written anything from start to finish, and wasn’t thinking about publication until some time in his retirement, he piqued the interest of a local goat farmer.
Mervyn has lived a terribly exciting life, scattered with incident and many twists and turns, but he doesn’t have access to a typewriter, or the sort of time it takes to collect his thoughts and put them into an order. When the new barman explained himself, Mervyn thought it might be just as well to engage him as typist/narrator for his own life story and get a book out there, in the world.
There was some talk about it, and quite quickly, the barman left the Legion and went on to start teaching overseas. And good for him. However, Mervyn was left somewhat crestfallen, with no one taking down his thoughts on the world, or anecdotes of his childhood, his wild teenage years, nor the accident that nearly killed him.
I brought my paperback into the Legion on Monday evening, just to show people it was real. Mervyn only saw the cover. He read my name. My name on a book. His eyes lit up.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be working on Mervyn’s book.