Community Spirit – Episode 03

WHEN Nate and Cally went back into the pub, they found Rita cleaning the ancient kitchen. The stainless steel work-bench, ancient cooker, fridges and chest freezer all looked at least 30 years old.

Nate introduced himself and Cally, and complimented Rita on how spotless the pub was.

“Not much else to do round here except clean,” she replied, smoothing down her blue overall.

They left her to it and unloaded their things from the car.

The manager’s accommodation was above the bar area: a small double bedroom, two single rooms, a tiny kitchen, lounge/dining-room, and a shower room.

Cally settled herself into the bigger of the single rooms at the back with a view over the beer garden and the farmer’s fields beyond.

Nate unpacked his clothes into the wardrobe in the double room and placed a picture of Cally and his alarm clock on the bedside table.

It was about five o’clock and Nate saw the bowls game coming to an end on the green. He hurried down to the bar, but by the time he got to the front door they had gone.

Rita appeared without her overall, her handbag and sunglasses in her hands. She told him to give her a call when he needed her back.

Cally came down, raised an eyebrow at the empty bar, and complained of being hungry. Nate sent her out to get some bits for tea and some milk and bread for the morning.

Six o’clock ticked round, then seven. Cally brought him down some cheese on toast and a mug of tea.

At half-past seven Nate heard a couple of voices outside before Arthur Regis came in, followed by a small, cheery-looking man wearing a dog collar.

“Here he is,” Arthur said to the other man. “Nate, I’d like you to meet Reverend Frank Jarvis.”

They shook hands over the bar and Nate took orders for two halves of bitter. Reverend Jarvis was the vicar at the church at the bottom of the green and lived in the vicarage next door.

“Call me Frank. Welcome to Much Mucklebury,” he said as he and Arthur settled on to bar stools. “You’ll find us a friendly lot. If you need anything, let us know.”

Nate waved a hand at the empty pub.

“The only thing I need at the moment is a few more customers.”

Arthur and Frank exchanged a look.

“It’s a tough one,” Arthur said. “No-one wants to see this place close up, but people aren’t keen on coming here.”

“Why’s that?” Nate asked, leaning on the bar.

“It’s run down, for a start,” Arthur commented.

“My wife says she can never get the door open,” Frank added. “I think that puts the ladies off.”

“There’s not much choice on the beer front,” Arthur went on, looking at the closed pumps. “And the Goose attracts all the townies looking for a village pub to drink in at weekends.”

“Sorry, old chap,” Reverend Jarvis said.

“I did ask,” Nate replied with a rueful smile.

Alison Cook