New Street was a corridor of wonders. I walked slowly, first time witness of this tumultuous spectacle. Preachers were screaming louder than normal, spittles of passion flying, trying to make all of us sinners aware of God’s words. They brandished the Bible dramatically, standing on wobbly-legged plastic chairs, telling us all to “Rejoice as it is the birth of Christ and Christ is our savior”!

It was nearly Christmas. There was no snow but it was crisp and wet. The rain went through my clothes as any other regular day in England. I was cold but not yet cold enough to quicken my pace. I made my way through the Christmas market stalls. I loved the hustle and bustle of New Street but also hated it. As I elbowed my way through the shoppers, I noticed a kiosk holding dozens of cakes. All looked sweeter than the next, rich and comforting. I smiled at a family enjoying pastries and fresh smelling coffee. When I caught a whiff of German sausage clearly being roasted to perfection, I stopped and treated myself to the aromas. On this specific spot where perfumes of spices and grilled meats fought for my attention, I watched the constant movement of the crowd around me. Buyers were choosing gifts with concentration, bending down to look at potential ideas. Others walked through the throng of people as if on a mission, making few stops and only where they bought something. These were practical shoppers. I saw a few of my regulars from the pub pushing their way through the crowd like a gray patch on a colorful quilt. I headed off again and went passed colored toys and tacky jewelry. Many stalls offered fragile yet fine Christmas baubles that were so delicate they could break from a simple stare. This was my first taste of a German Market.

On this specific spot where perfumes of spices and grilled meats were battling for my attention, I watched the crowd in constant movement around me.

I walked into work. The pub was a grubby place, a bit dark and shabby-looking. The light never really reached the shadows. It was a typical pub with burgundy vintage-styled wallpaper and a dark wooden bar. The seats were mismatched and columns came down at awkward places. The space used to be a fire station, which explained the bit of stained glass window that now adorned the ceiling in a circular pattern. The whole place had a unique smell of grease and food and brass cleaner, of cleaning chemicals on top of stale beer. I watched my manager behind the bar. He was a friendly guy with my favorite accent. He was cleaning off some shelves and knocked a glass on the floor. It rolled to one side but didn’t shatter. He casually picked it up and put it back on the shelf, looking up at me. It was this type of place. The type of place where all the food was kept in transparent plastic wraps with microwave instructions printed on, where the glasses often exploded in a shower of crystals when coming out of a too hot dishwasher, where our regulars were often racist or sexist yet good people.

He looked like an old sailor who had dried out at sea. Barry looked like a tired and beaten Santa Claus.

‘’H’’ was standing at the bar with his usual half pint. No one knew his real name but we often saw him in town making the rounds of the pubs. Everyone knew him. He called himself a wrestler. We entertained him. He was a short man who smelled of musk and snuff. He stood in a long, dark chocolate faux fur coat with a ragged woolen sweater and a light brown, rimmed hat. He had a gray goatee long enough that if you put your fingers in it they would disappear. He wore bay-window sized spectacles and had a laughing face. He spoke in a crackling voice as if there were always bubbles stuck in his throat.

Glenny and Barry were sitting at the other end of the bar. When the bar got really packed, Glenny would often collect glasses for us in his hands twisted by arthritis. At one point he must have been a lanky fellow, but now he was stooped and bent. He looked like an old sailor who had dried out at sea. Barry looked like a tired and beaten Santa Claus. His laugh sounded like sandpaper and he would stutter undecipherable gibberish so that your best bet when listening to him was to nod and smile. He would often roll cutlery for us while drinking his tenth pint of lager. They were lovely people. They were of the hard working class and they showed it.

I took it all in, hugged Rupert behind the bar and got to work.

             

The Writer

I write stuff for fun, if it was for a living I would be homeless.

Find out more about me, Stefanie, here.

Quotes

You want to know what it’s like to be on a plane for 22 hours? Sit in a chair, squeeze your head as hard as you can, don’t stop, then take a paper bag and put it over your mouth and nose and breath your own air over and over and over. Lewis Black