Vincent McDervish emerges from the Anchor’s cellar, counting his upward progress in silent superstition. There are twelve stone steps, each deeply indented towards its centre where hundreds before him have laboured between barrel and bar.
“Try it now,” he says to Lizzy who is waiting with half-filled glass of foam in one hand, her other curled loosely around the wooden shaft of the pump. She stands, slumped onto one leg like a bored teenager.
Lizzy tips the froth into the sink, places the glass back beneath the nozzle, tightens her grip and pulls slowly on the pump’s handle. Her bottom juts out pleasingly in Vincent’s direction though he knows the view from the other side of the bar is equally satisfying. She’s what might once have been termed a homely lass – all curves and softness. It’s why he hired her.
The beer splutters and spurts in foamy strands. Vincent is waiting until the handle is halfway down, at which point Lizzy – who’s quite short and finds this particular pump difficult – will be almost bent double in her efforts to draw the liquid. It’s the narrowest section of bar and if he gets the timing just right he can squeeze past at that moment and press against her delicious round buttocks with the usual jocular and disingenuous apology. It’s the small things that make a day perfect.
“Bloody useless,” Lizzy says, breaking off the pull before the job’s finished. She stands upright and turns to show him another glass of foam, deliciously framed by two mounds of perfect pale breast. “You’ll have to flush out the pipe.”
The Anchor is seven hundred years old and has doubtless seen its fair share of groping on both sides of the bar. It has remained a locals’ pub in a town where most have inevitably deferred to the tourist trade. Along with a small hotel, a restaurant and a half-share in the funeral parlour, it’s owned by Vincent. Were he a gambling man he’d be the sort to place his faith in the each way stake. More hungry dog than fox, he doesn’t take undue risks and this spread of interests prevents him from being completely at the mercy of the season’s tides. This, he finds, is a truth to calm the muse that sometimes whispers of less caution.
Vincent inherited three of his businesses from his mother. She opened the hotel in the early 1950s. A high risk move for an unmarried woman with a child, though society was perhaps stunned into silence by her furious will. She ran a quality establishment. Took no nonsense from anyone. Later, when she started the restaurant – seafood, of varying culinary skill – anyone of any importance had long since forgotten the promiscuity of her youth. Towards the end of her life (though none realised this at the time) and without consulting her now-grown son and heir, she invested in the funeral parlour. An almost fated shrewdness for a woman who’d always been in control. The only business not to have been a hand-me-down was the pub. A good enough reason for Vincent to spend most of his time there, leaving the others in the daily care of managers whose methods resounded like the spectre of his mother, quite spoiling any pleasure he’d anticipated from this long-awaited inheritance.
But his main excuse for favouring The Anchor as a base is Lizzy. She fascinates and lures him like a modern-day siren. He hired her – she was his choice – and he did so without even checking references. A rare occasion when he heeded the voice of his niggling muse. His mother must have spun in her grave. He laughs quietly to himself because this is an image which never fails to lighten his step. Yes, it’s the small things that make a day perfect.