125. The girl in the car park

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Working behind the bar at the golf club was eye-opening and sometimes great fun. I struck up relationships with several guys who didn’t want to go home to their wives. Mickey Gough was one such, a factory owner who would imbibe copious double Famous Grouse whiskies, tell me his many views, enquire about mine, and then, near midnight, somehow drive home.

Another was a plain clothes policeman who worked out of Romford nick. Let’s call him Charlie. He would often arrive with his police partner, and work out his shift with a few beers and a game of cards. One night he insisted I stay open way past the licenced hour, and then take a ride down to the station. I slept in the car while he checked in. On the way back he recommended being a copper.

One Saturday night he turned up at the bar with two women. One looking younger, and one older than he. I felt that the younger female might be his mistress, and the more elderly his mum. It was some kind of a disco. His potential mistress started chatting to me over the noise. Charlie looked happy. So, having quaffed a beer or two, I asked if she fancied a dance. To see how spontaneous she could be, I suggested we use the car park. It was a hot summer night.

She assented. So we shuffled a slow smooch in the captain’s space. And she told me she was Charlie’s daughter. That rang a proper alarm bell, as he was well built, and not immune to talking about the violence occasionally used in the job. The other woman was her mum, Charlie’s wife, she said, enjoying my consternation.

Anyway the evening went on, and we chatted across the bar. Charlie and my dad put their heads together, and it was suggested that I should drive the girl back to her house, somewhere over in Collier Row. The eye said yes. She had nice looks, but the brain was raising objections. Not too much in common, it said, and already too much talk about money. Above all, a dad to be highly wary of.

At her gaff, she put some music on. Smoked, offered me drinks. Then her parents returned. They disappeared swiftly upstairs. It was so hot that she took off her top, revealing some kind of under-singlet. My thoughts were mega-mixed. But eventually dominated by the uncomfortable vision of Charlie laying awake, listening. Maybe deciding to come down if new sounds reached his ear. Also, looking ahead, the equilibrium that characterised my evenings as a barman was worth preserving. Charlie wasn’t someone to antagonise. So we carried on talking.

Can’t remember her name. She turned up at the bar again the following evening, with her sister. And that was the last I saw of her. Hope her life turned out well. I will always remember her as the girl in the car park.

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