We were interrupted by the clatter of a woman coming in through the door, a teacher delivering posters for the local primary school Summer Fayre, accompanied by a handsome Labrador. To accept these was beyond the delegated responsibility of the barman. The landlord, Bill Hardisty, was summoned from his private quarters with the shout that Lucy wanted to see him. Recently made a widower by a wife who’d drunk most of the profits, and with his only child living in Australia, Bill is the traditionally cantankerous landlord that’s sadly gone out of fashion. But out he came from his back parlour with a smile as broad as his stomach was round. Lucy was obviously an attraction that he didn’t want to miss.
He quickly agreed to take three posters from her, as she flirted with him shamelessly in the interest of her worthy cause. Probably just into her forties but looking younger, she was wearing a short, tight skirt and a revealing blouse. She spoke at nineteen to the dozen in what I detected as a gentle Prestonian burr, ill-suited to her pace of delivery. Above the compelling delights of her body, I could see a cheerful yet determined face that looked as if it would be slow to anger and very swift to bless. Her deep brown eyes, as big as her dog’s, sparkled under chaotically long auburn hair that was swinging in disharmony with all her other moving parts. She was noisy. She’s not a beauty but, hey, she’s alright, I thought. If Springsteen’s character had ever taken her on that putative trip down Thunder Road, I doubt it would have ended in anti-climax back in the porch.
She didn’t fit into any stereotype of a primary school mistress I could imagine, past or present. Nowadays, the older ones bristle with confidence and competence; the younger ones dress modestly and speak in educational jargonese. This latter group fortunately transmutes into the former well before they’ve reached forty. Back when I was at school, they were all older and very proper. Maybe, for one brief moment in the late sixties, a schoolteacher could look as Lucy did. And she’d captured that moment, despite not having been born by then.
I whispered to Paul: “It’s a shame we didn’t have teachers like that in our day.”
“I don’t think she’d have been my type,” he replied. “Her grammar is all over the place and the poster’s a mess. She’s misspelt doughnuts.”
But he did have a broad, almost lecherous grin on his face as he said this. I could see that Lucy’s attributes had stirred him as much as they had woken Bill from his curmudgeonly slumbers. Bill offered her a free drink, which she accepted, brazenly opting for a whisky mac. Bill pulled himself a pint. They settled down at the table next to ours. I’d recognised that the primary school was the one Ruth’s third child, Rachel, had just left and where fourth child, Ben, was ensconced; indeed, it’s the one I attended a lifetime ago