I just had to share this little story with you all. With my hand on my heart, every word I’m about to tell you is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Last Friday night, I had a country music band booked for a dance. I'm aware that a lot of people reading this are living across the pond in good old US of A. I want you to put from your minds any thoughts of, Brad Paisley, or Rascal Flats; rocking stadiums full of ecstatic twenty something’s. Country music here tends to attract a more mature audience. Older couples lazily circling the floor in a shuffling three step and last Friday night was shaping up to be no different.
As I got the back bar ready for opening, the band were setting up. Bursts of drum- machine blared out occasionally. Guitars were coaxed into some form of tune. The band was called, Country Kings, but their gear had seen better days. Everything supported a myriad of chips and scratches. No two pieces matched. Cables were held together with miles of Duct-tape.
However bad the equipment was, the two boys using it were in far worse condition. They wheezed as they dragged flight cases out of the back of a battered transit. I was sure that one of them would expire long before the first song played. Their massive beer guts suggested the only exercise either of these guys got started and finished at the elbow.
Like Noah's ark, the customers came in, two by two. Aging couples taking up their regular tables around the small dance floor. Cups of tea, a few soft drinks, and the odd pint was all I could hope to sell to this crowd.
At quarter to ten, the musicians waddled toward the stage with pints filling every available hand. I was glad they had gone from their perch near the bar. One of them had constantly farted, not caring about the nostrils of those around him. I would have said something but I couldn’t figure out which one of them was doing it. With a burst of feedback, they launched into the first song of the night.
As the evening progressed, I saw an older couple who looked at home in this crowd in the company of a younger couple, which I took to be son and daughter, sitting at a table away from the dance floor. What made them stand out was that they were very well dressed for a night at a pub dance. Eventually, the older man came to the bar for a round of drinks.
"Grand evening," I said as I poured his order.
"Sure it is, thank God. Mind you, we could do with a bit of rain soon." Right away I knew he was a farmer. Only a farmer would look for rain during the only sunny day we've had for years. He tone was harsh; you could tell this man was his own boss.
"True enough," I agreed. Being a bar man, I would agree with just about anyone, at least until the cash hit the till.
"Are you on a family night out?" I asked, nodding towards the three still sitting at the table.
"In a way," he said, not looking at all pleased with the fact. "That's our daughter. The lad is her…friend."
The hesitation was hard to miss. I took a look at the uncomfortable looking young lad, he seemed alright to me.
"He seems alright to me," I offered, calling a spade a spade. The old man leaned closer over the bar in a conspiratorial way.
"They meet on the internet. His name is Simon."
"That's nothing strange these days. I hear a lot of people are doing this internet dating. I was nearly going to give it a go myself," I say, trying to make the old man feel a little better about things. "How long have they been together?" I asked.
"They only just meet."
"No, tonight," he said, without a hint of a humour.
I was stunned. I put his pint on the counter and had to check. "So they are on a date, here, tonight? Their first date?"
"Yea," the man said, taking a sip from his pint and throwing the young lad a sideways glance. "Me and the missus like to know who is taking our Sharon out. Anyway, this Internet thing is full of weirdo’s," he mused walking away with his four drinks.
I couldn't take my eyes off them for the rest of the night. The hard way the older couple were watching the young man across the table. The young girl somehow seemed less young. She acted like a shy teenager, but her eyes looked downtrodden. She seemed dwarfed by the looming personalities of her parents. The young man looked okay, I'm fairly good at spotting a wrong one. He sat ramrod straight in his chair, you could feel the stress radiating off him. In the end, the young man took the girl for a dance. Her parents never let them out of their sight. At one stage the father actually stood up to watch.
I saw the shame in the girl’s face, but also the resignation that comes with years of dominance. I wouldn't have bet even a bent penny that Simon would brave a second date. Deep down I hoped he would, for the girl’s sake. The romantic in me wanted him to whisk her away to some type of freedom.
Like I said, I wouldn't bet a bent penny.