Colchester 1999 – a snapshot

First – an apology. The story I’m about to tell is not one of whimsy and sparkle. It is one of decay and addiction, of moral turpitude and depravity. Frankly, lovely reader, you deserve better. Yet I am going to tell it none the less. And why? Because my husband has insisted, that’s why. For reasons best known only to himself, this is a tale he believes you need to hear1. Hoist your britches, people.

About 17 years ago, I lived in a house share. There were at least 6 of us in that house, possibly more although I struggle to remember now which people were permanents and which were passers through. I know for sure that one of the permanents was a five foot tall ex-monk turned rugby coach named Father Dave who sometimes drank beer through a sock for fun. This story is not about him though, I just wanted to give him a shout out.

On the very last day of the tenancy before we all went our separate ways, we had the customary Day of Cleaning. Our letting agency was particularly fastidious about cleanliness when it came to deciding if you would ever see your deposit money again and if you rented a house in Colchester in the 90s then you probably know exactly which agents I’m referring to. The intention was to cleanse everything, removing every last trace of our presence. We were going to Winston Wolf the crap out of it. Now at the age of 38 I understand that housework is a dull but necessary part of life as an adult. At 21, however, I was of the opinion that if someone else was already doing the housework, then surely to get stuck in oneself would just be overkill? With this in mind, I bunked off to the pub for a restorative lunchtime pint.

I was not alone though. One of my housemates, who I shall refer to as Ian, because that is his name2, decided that I had the right idea and he came too. In fact, I think he might have suggested it. Yes, that’s definitely what happened. We skipped off merrily (or guiltily perhaps) to a pub on Colchester high street which at the time was some kind of Firkin type place. It was pretty early, no later than midday but there were already a fair few well lubricated gentlemen slouching at the bar. The pub itself was quite lovely. Two floors, very historic, with a mezzanine overlooking the bar. Directly in front of the bar was a large circular carpeted area with wooden barrels around the outside to act as tables. You know the kind. We ordered our pints then sat on the edge of this circle watching the world go by and resolutely not talking about the others we’d left behind cleaning.

After a bit, we became aware of a ruckus at the bar. It’s a bit early in the day for that kind of thing, don’t you reckon? A man, one of the slouchy ones who had almost certainly been outside waiting for the pub to open at 10.30 or whenever, was getting a little bit upset. The bar staff were informing slouchy man that they wouldn’t be serving him any more alcohol today due to, in their opinion (and everyone else’s in the pub) his levels of intoxication. It would be fair to say that this chap was absolutely laminated. Impressively so for the time of day.

He staggered around, waving his hands in the air in protest, almost losing his footing several times. He leaned on the bar and raved incoherently at the poor bar staff who were in all likelihood students dealing with their own hangovers. The bar manager was called and explained, again, that they couldn’t serve the man any more alcohol and that he would need to leave. By this time, the manager had a pretty attentive audience of lunchtime drinkers (and shirkers) and was becoming rather irate himself at the man’s refusal to leave and his own apparent lack of control of the situation. There was a brief standoff, with each party glaring across the bar at the other before the bar manager decided to take a more hands on approach.

With the help of a couple of other bartenders, the manager came around the bar and started to manhandle the inebriate towards the doors. Considering how plastered he was, he put up an impressive fight. There was a tremendous amount of struggling as the group inched nearer and nearer to the doors. The onlookers were rapt by this point, curious to see how this situation would pan out. What would happen when they reached the doors? Would the drunkard admit defeat and leave peacefully? Who would be the first to sustain a black eye? Ian and I watched with a level of excitement generally reserved for the snooker May bank holiday world final.

Then it happened. An invisible signal seemed to pass from the barfly to the bar staff, some miniscule tick or twitch and they stopped struggling. They stood, in a huddle, the bar staff still holding onto the man’s sleeves but no longer wrestling him, just waiting for whatever was coming next. The man strained and grunted, his face twisted into a strenuous gurn. After a few long seconds, he stood up straight and delicately shook his leg. From out of the bottom of his jeans rolled a small, perfectly spherical turd.

At this point in the story, at least in my head, there was a rapturous round of applause from the audience. I don’t think that really happened though. In reality, I think there was a collective disgusted sigh and the sound of several diners putting down their forks. The bar staff swiftly moved away from the man who, having completed his dirty protest, left the pub without the slightest hesitation or misgiving. As the door swung shut behind the unsavoury lush, the bar manager briefly disappeared behind the bar then reappeared with a large dustpan and brush which he handed to an unenthusiastic member of staff who definitely didn’t sign up for this when he applied for the job.

There are unanswered questions about this tale, I know. Like “how is it possible to shit so precisely down the leg of a pair of jeans?” and “did you get your deposit back Lisa?” but they will have to remain unanswered. All I know is that it really happened and Ian and I were lucky enough to be there to see it. I wonder if the current staff at the (no longer a) Firkin have any idea at the events that took place on that fateful day? Maybe I’ll take my husband there one day just to reminisce and better set the scene for him.

There’s probably a moral to this story, I’m just not sure what it is. Perhaps I can shoehorn it in as an analogy for current political events but I’ve not got time to figure out how at the moment and I’ve got a meeting in 10 miutes3. Next time I’ll write about the general election, I promise.


  1. I was going to write something about the general election which has just been announced but this seems like an easier sell.
  2. Or he might not have been called Ian, I might have misremembered. I certainly never saw him again after the day in question.
  3. I’m not writing this at work. Nope, definitely not.



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