Our first long british rail experience was ...
Trip Start Jul 16, 2002
32Trip End Jan 03, 2003
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Hay-on-Wye, or Way on High, as Caroline calls it, is a gulf islands kinda place without gulf, golf or islands. But there is an alternative feel here. Lots of eccentric/insane residents, from the self proclaimed King of Hay and Lord Protector of Books, Richard Booth, who started the first used bookstore here in the 60's, to Fag Ash Lil who can be found at the 3 Tuns, the smallest and filthiest pub in the UK. I haven't been there yet but it is on my list. I tried to peak in thru the window but was prevented by grime. Caroline says old Lucy the publican was briefly hospitalized for a week last month and her friends swooped in to clean it up. I guess a week is only time enough to get the LAST quarter century's worth of dirt off.. Oliver stuck his head in the 3 Tuns' door the other day and a voice sqwacked out of the gloom, "Gr'off ya thing." He did, surprisingly. I'll try that myself the next time he is jumping on my head.
On my first night out in Hay I asked Caroline for pub recommendations. The Blue Boar and Kilvert's are nice she said, but don't go to the Wheat Sheaf as they are a bunch of louts. As I wandered about looking for the Wheat Sheaf I passed the Blue Boar and it looked exactly that. Kilvert's was being patronized by a couple of advertising gents from Manchester with their pasty wives and kids. I asked an eccentric where the Wheat Sheaf was. Up that lane until you hear the noise she said. Wizard, I thot.
When I walked in to the tatty place the farmerish looking men at the bar turned in their stools like tractor men checking their mowers.
"Whatcha lookin' for ya bloke?"
"I, ah, a place to have a beer"
"Well this' thu place"
"We got summa that 'ere, har har."
"What's going on in there?" I pointed to the smoky room where the noise was coming from.
"Thas the darts, boot the bears cheaper 'ere."
And it was too. I'd entended on buying a half pint but, fearing ridicule, I ordered a pint and quickly turned away to find a table. Of the 8 tables only one was occupied and as I looked over the uninviting choices the florid old gent with the glass of wine grinned at me so pleadingly I joined him.
It turns out this was not the Wheat Sheaf after all, but the Conservative Club, a private club for the liberally sodden..
Poor Mac had sold the green grocer's (that explains the wine I thot) that had been in his family for 4 generations and his 2 sons had escaped Hay for less eccentric climes.
I told him a joke about a blind race horse and he roared and, unconvincingly, claimed he'd have to remember that one.
His muscley friend Bull lurched by on the way to the gents..
"Ahrya Bull" droned Mac.
"Ahrya Mac" mumbled Bull and rested his hand sympathetically on Mac's shoulder.
Is it me I thot?
When I told him I was from Canada he sighed and said his best friend moved to Vancouver when he was young. He was a doctor there and raised a few cattle on a little farm. He came home every 2 years and always wanted Mac to come and visit but he never did. Then one year they shook on it and the next thing his friend got Parkinsons.
"It was me own fault" he said sadly, "it was me own fault."
Bull went by and again touched Mac's shoulder.
Mac said he thot he had to go now and I slipped off to the other room where there was a sorry excuse for a fun darts night going on.
When I left a half hour later I saw him still standing at the bar with Bull.