‘It was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk tank...’
The jukebox could hardly be heard over the murk in the Magna Charta pub. Another Christmas Eve dodging drunks on the dockside, all full of hooch and ammunition and a year’s worth of pent-up pot-luck. The factory had closed at lunchtime and the team had spilled up the streets into the pub.
Now, glancing out on the debris of a late night badly in need of a refit, Jaynie wondered which of the wannabe Shane MacGowans she’d be fighting off later. None of them knew the words, but they’d got the impression down-pat, she thought. Cocksure, toothless, swaying their way towards closing time with a soundtrack of Slade and The Rubettes.
Every Christmas had been the same for as long as Jaynie could remember. Since the ferry stopped. It was the 80s, but could have been last week. “I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true,” he’d said on the pier, off to art college.
She had been 14 then, waving on the shoreline as the ferry made its last voyage to the city of vinegar and chips, now just a dim collection of lights best viewed half-cut at the edge of the timber yard. She waited a while for him to return, but the land crossing was inconvenient, he’d said, and involved three changes. He still loved her, but it was the train company’s fault. Thatcher’s fault. So she was stuck at the Magna Charta with the lads who couldn’t afford to be anywhere else. They were neither handsome, nor pretty. She could be the queen of
City, or ,
or New Holland as much as they cared. As long as she pulled the pints and made sandwiches
for the pool team. Sheba
The singing reached an inebriated crescendo. Men were bellowing Kirsty Macoll’s part as if being an old slut on junk had never been so alluring. Scumbags, maggots and cheap lousy faggots hugged each other in the stale lounge bar.
“I could have been someone,” Jaynie thought, “And not just anyone,” as one of the fabricators made an ill-calculated move and knocked himself out on the slops tray.
Teeth dislodged, he hauled himself up by the rope of the last orders bell, while singing Galway Bay. He grinned and said something unintelligible. Jaynie took a second look and released it was him. Older, bleaker, drunker, merrier. But him.
And the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day.
‘Fairytale of New Holland’ was first published in Article Magazine in December 2008 and featured in the 2010 Fathom Press Anthology. Loz Harvey lives in Sheffield and writes the blog Articulated: Laurie.