Before he even approached the newly laid driveway of The Poacher’s Rest, Nick could hear the inviting sound of Ace’s only hit coming from the bar room. ‘How long, has this been going on,’ his head sang as he reached for the handle of the door but before he managed to push it open, an exiting punter, pulled it away from his grasp, which just left Nick reaching for fresh air. The refrain of:
“Hi Nick, bye Nick,” could be heard, as Bob Alhorn departed the premises and made his unsteady way home.
“Hi Bob, bye Bob,” Nick called after him and smiling, watched him trip over the single step which led up to the road.
“Fucking step, who put that there?” He heard Bob chunner, as he wandered off.
As Nick stepped inside the pub lounge, the old Ace favourite had been replaced by something a little more contemporary that simply washed over him, as he made his way to the bar. At this time of night, there were only about ten souls in the place and Evan, the landlord, was just waiting for the rush to begin. By 9.30, the establishment would be packed, well that is if fifty people warrant being called a crowd. Many of The Poacher’s regular cliental had their own favoured tankards hanging behind the counter, on special hooks, with their names printed on stickers above them. This privilege was only granted to a select few, those who Evan invited onto his ‘Roll of Honour.’ Nick had been invited to join ‘The Hoppers,’ as they were known, at the beginning of this last summer and he hadn’t needed to be asked twice. The Poacher’s Rest was the oldest public house in the area and had been a coachhouse during the reign of Henry the Eighth. As Prince of Wales, he had taken something of an interest in the welfare of the country and had piled money into the coffers of The Principality. This had been mainly used for establishing a number of wind and water mills, alongside several Coach and Ale Houses created in their shadow, to keep the workers well-watered.
His portly regality was the motivating reason behind Evan instigating the roll of honour, more as a bit of a laugh than anything else. He had discovered an ancient parchment in the cellar, bricked in behind a wall. It had been unearthed during an archaeological investigation by the Welsh Heritage bods, prior to modernisation of The Poacher’s. At first, they had written off the document as a fake but when it was closely examined, it was found to be an original copy of the deeds, complete with King Henry’s Seal, dating from around 1575. So, the Society raised money to purchase and refurbish The Poachers, as authentically as possible.
The records suggested that the establishment was originally named, “The Three Graces Coachouse” but after the reformation that name was considered too Papist and it was changed to, ‘The Huntsman’s Rest,’ a name which it bore until 1807. Then, by popular consent, it took on the epithet of its famously heroic son, Winston Davies, who was nicknamed ‘The Poacher’ for his uncanny ability to trap enemy ships in his net, without them realising their peril, until it was far too late to respond. Everybody in the area knew about the exploits of ‘The Temeraire’ at Trafalgar, so substituting ‘The Poacher’ in place of ‘The Huntsman,’ went through without opposition. Above the door, it now read, Established 1575 by King Henry XIII and Rededicated 1807 to honour Gunnery Sergeant Winston ‘Poacher’ Davies.
“A pint of heavy,” please, called Nick and slapped the correct money down on the hard, wooden counter.
“Right you are,” responded Evan, picking up the cash from off the polished oak and placing it carefully in the till. “Just give me a tick,” he said as he tried to find Nick’s tankard on the rack. “Ah, there you are,” he mumbled and brought it down towards the taps. “Pint of heavy, wasn’t it?” Nick, just nodded and watched as Evan slowly began pouring the dark liquid into his rather tacky, ‘Welcome to Anglesey’ pewter Stein. He watched spellbound, as the millions of tiny bubbles settled within its creamy pot.
“Thanks, Ev,” chimed Nick as he picked up his drink and headed off towards his favourite perch, over in the corner by the jukebox.
There was always a feeling of calm and warmth in The Poacher’s Rest at this time of year, when the visitors had all gone home and the nights were drawing in. Nick, took a sip of his ‘heavy’ and checked the time on his watch, before sitting back in his seat and looking aimlessly out of the squared window at The Skerries lighthouse, some three miles out to sea. He watched as the now deserted beam, flashed its warning of a hazard out towards the horizon. In the not too distant past, the light from this station had warned many vessels about the existence of ‘The Rip,’ a savage current, that if it got hold of them would drag their vessel onto its teeth and rip the bottom out of their hulls. These days, all they needed was a Satellite Navigation system and a computer to keep them safe. So, it was deemed that the light was to be unmanned for eleven months of the year, only reopening for its annual service in April, ready for the next influx of tourists at Easter.
The Seals, which used the rocks around the tower for breeding purposes, greatly outnumbered the humans for much of the year. Recently, a few of the locals had arranged daily visits to see the seal pups, which for a while, had made a fairly profitable side line to fishing but the last economic recession had greatly dented trade. Nowadays, only two boats ran such trips in high summer. When the mists descended, every minute or so, the automated siren gave an emasculated, sonic ‘beep,’ which had replaced the once mighty deep and mournful booming sound, of the original horn.
Occasionally, when it was very quiet inside the old Pub and the spaces between the tracks and the beeps coincided, it’s weak signal could be heard on the wind like a banshee seeking solace after the storm had passed. Nick sighed, he missed the old comforting booming sound of the great sentinel and looked towards the door, as the sound of someone entering the Pub, caught his attention.
“Hi Wendy, didn’t think you’d be in tonight,” called Evan from behind the bar, “what can I get you?” Nick, didn’t recall hearing that name too often before and he turned his head to try and get a better look but a pillar obscured his view.
“A cold pint of L and G, please Ev,” came the reply. Wendy, was one of those names that regularly came in and out of fashion but these days, it was mostly out. The curious rarity of that moniker in the present day and age, tweaked his interest. From his friendly greeting, Evan obviously knew her. So, Nick just sat at his table and tried to look fashionably disinterested, while he idly waited until the landlord served her the drink and Wendy emerged from behind the column.
“There you go,” chirped Evan as he pushed a pint of Lager over the bar and a tall blond woman, in a pair of faded dungarees emerged from behind the pillar.
“Thanks man, I needed this,” she enthused and turning in Nick’s general direction, took a long, deep swig of the liquid in her glass relieving it of a full half of its contents. Nick smiled at the sight of someone really enjoying a drink and raised his stein to her, in recognition of another alternate soul.
“Hi, my name’s Wendy, Wendy Finch,” she said sitting down opposite him and placing her drink on the dimpled copper surface of the table. “You must be Nick Swann,” she postulated, “Evan, says you’re a computer geek, or something like that.”