Sunday afternoon at the Grot is a bit of a rare escape for me these days. The saloon and restaurant are packed with people taking the easy way out when it comes to Sunday lunch. Ossie puts on a carvery on Sundays, and very good it usually is too.
Around in the bar a different crowd congregates. The divorced, singles, and fortunate to be allowed out, gather around the television for a bit of football, a pint of 2’s, and a chat about nothing much in particular. The weather has hogged the limelight for a while now, and as a blizzard rages on screen in Blackburn the chat is of global warming, extreme conditions and suchlike.
Every now and again, but usually weeks apart, a sudden exclamation by Adge breaks the monotony. He has the capacity to delight and frustrate in equal measure, does our Adge.
“I’m off to college tomorrow night. Decided to educate meself.”
There is a moment of stunned silence. Puzzled glances are exchanged. Inevitably somebody has to grasp the nettle and congratulate Adge, but the immediate shock is overwhelming. My old mucker, bless him, is not cerebrally overburdened, if you get my drift.
“That’s great, Adge. What are you going to be doing then?”
It is Ossie who has cracked first. The landlord is quick to praise, particularly one who spends over half of his disposable income in the Grot! There are no flies on Ossie.
Sniggers erupt from all sides, apart from Weasel who sprays a mouthful of delicious 2’s over a wide area of the bar, covering about a dozen people in the process. I maintain a dignified silence, but some will not let the moment pass, and ridicule poor Adge.
“Not exactly educating yourself, is it, you plum?”
The amused circle him like a school of sharks smelling blood. I sense the time has come to help him out, at the risk of drawing the barbed wit of the assembled throng.
“Six week course, is it Adge?”, I ask.
“Just five, Blazing. You know something about it?”
I explain that since getting my degree from the Open University nearly twenty years ago I have done only two courses. Well, to be more accurate, just the one, but twice!
“Got it in one, Adge” I confirm, much to his obvious relief.
The five week course, at eighty quid, represents decent value, I tell him. The one I repeated was even better. Six weeks for thirty-something quid, from memory. Where else could you get sozzled once a week for that? And learn a little something about wine at the same time.
It was on that course that I was treated to my first fondue, provided by a guest lecturer from the Swiss embassy. I discovered I actually have a pretty good palate. It turns out the difference between the course I did and the new one is that they have dropped the sixth week.
Not surprising really given that they would take you to the college bar for a spirits session. The lecturer would give you a brief blurb about the different spirits and then it was open house. You could help yourself to anything that you ‘hadn’t tried before’! What a great lesson that truly was.
“So is tomorrow night the first week then, Adge?”
Weasel, I suspect, will not be the only one to join Adge on the course. It may be a quiet night in the Grot tomorrow.