Saturday, 24 March 2012


It was all down to George really.

He suggested it, otherwise no doubt we would have all buried ourselves in iPhone isolation-land waiting for a train back to London. Instead we wandered over to the nearest pub, a sort of lesser of two evils establishment next to another one which was even more downtrodden. Fresh Sunday roasts, £5.95. That kind of place.

On the door was an even better offer, ale for £1.95 provided you signed up for a month's worth. One can only wonder what a month's worth is in these parts.

This is Nuneaton, east of Coventry and Birmingham, where we had just been to see a client en masse. Los Tres Amigos, or more like the Three Stooges really: Mo, Larry and Curly. George, a young and affable Kiwi bachelor; Rafa, a very bright Brazilian young father, and me.

All in suits. The only suits we would see except for the undertaker. But more about that later.

Nuneaton is one of those mostly non-descript places. The highlight of the brief pass-through was the local college, a 60s style architectural lump enlivened by its name: Etone College. Yep, that's right. Etone. At least someone has a sense of humour here. No Bullingdon Club, I bet though.

We sidled up to the bar, where there ensconced were two regulars. Baz, who we never met but whose name was emblazoned across the back of his football shirt..Man City, I believe, or maybe Coventry (I couldn't see the front, but sky blue in any case), and Friendly Guy.

Friendly Guy was sampling the ale offer. George asked for beer and chips (I had a feeling that nothing healthy was going to cross my lips this night). Friendly Guy helpfully offered up that there was no hot food, except for Sunday perhaps. There was, however, a fish and chips shop across the way.

Instead we plumped for beer and nuts.

Brazil's Nuts, as it happens.

No, not Brazil Nuts...peanuts made (or at least endorsed) by Alan Brazil. He, you will no doubt recall, was a Scottish footballer for Ipswich who once his career hit the rocks, ended up playing in Woolongong, Australia, (believe or not I spent 10 days there, sort of a Nuneaton of Australia with beaches) and Baden, before being arrested for DUI and then starting up a nuts business. But it says none of that on the packet. Wikipedia, after the fact.

He was also a broadcaster on Talk Radio before he got sacked, with a flair for the malapropism and inappropriate comment. To wit:
Our talking point this morning is George Best, his liver transplant and the booze culture in football. Don’t forget, the best caller wins a crate of John Smith’s.'[12]
He also authored two books, one entitled: Both Barrels from Brazil – My War against the Numpties.

In short, a man's man. Never give in, Mr. Brazil.

His nuts are the equal of any bag of peanuts, I am here to tell you.

So, his product was worth a photo with Rafa, who topped up his protein snack with some crisps.

Anyway, what could have been a relative uneventful twenty minutes killing time was altered by George, who is still at the age where he will literally talk to anybody. Anybody. I used to be like that, but now I have been tempered by age and electronics.

But not George. Within a minute he had all but proffered his front door key and bank account details. But Friendly Guy was just that. He just wanted to talk.

Friendly Guy first asked us where we were all from, and somehow from that piece of information launched into a monologue about the Second World War, his father in Argentina (pronouncing Buenos Aires to rhyme with View and Air, as in Biew-Nos Ere-es) and how his father witnessed the sinking of the Graf Spee (though he didn't actually say Graf Spee, just that it was a sea battle on the River Plate where the Germans scuttled a ship  (the River Plate, incidentally, was thought by Magellan to be the passage to the Spice Islands, but I digress,in addition to adding parentheses)). He and George had a lot in common, namely fathers who were pilots in the war and ended up in Canada being trained. He said things like. My father went out to Biew-nos Eres, they were quite well off back then you know, well they would be wouldn't they? boats weren't cheap back then. He also digressed on the Ale offer, which involved having to come in 12 times a month , I believe, and draining the casks. This would not pose too much of a problem for him, I shouldn't think.  Friendly Guy was a ...friendly guy...balding, slight paunch (see ale consumption). George and Rafa and I were taking it all in when all of a sudden an elderly gent in a slightly shabby suit entered. He stopped in front of us, obviously struck by three men in suits.

Are you here for the Scottish Free Masons meeting? he inquired.

Pardon me? I said.

Oh.....Are you Mormons then?

Worse, I replied. We're bankers.


That too.

He laughed and sat down next to us. Unusual, people in suits (though he wore one, of a fashion). He was tall, grey, slightly the worse for the wear and tear, and had a gash in the middle of his forehead which he ignored completely.

You staying here? (this was, I neglected to mention, an inn of some sort).

No, we are waiting for the train back to London.

Friendly Guy interjected that this was an international contingent, with a Kiwi, a Brazilian, and an American. Rafa held up his Brazil's Nuts bag.

I see, said the gent.

What is it you do? I asked him, mindful of another suit.

I am an undertaker.

Well actually I am retired, but I am on call Mondays and Tuesdays. Have to stay off the smoosh (??I believe he said smoosh...can't be sure). Can't be going over to the Joneses smelling with Auntie Mildred up the stairs having to cart her down myself. Wouldn't do at all.


I asked him, I hope you don't mind me asking, but have you ever watched the television show Six Feet Under?

He brightened up. Yes, it was a while ago.

Was is.....accurate?

Oh't that the one with the gay guy?

That's right. My wife and I are hooked on it now.

As he talked I looked around. Baz ,he of the spiked hair, unkempt beard, grey chipped teeth, and sky blue t-shirt, tried to get involved. Mr Undertaker rambled on about how heavy the bodies were, and how....blah blah blah I can't remember what.... The more I took in the scene, I was reminded of a Spanish friend of mine, who listened to a presentation I made on derivatives, and responded at the end with a quizzical look and the following comment which for me summed up Nuneaton.

Muy curioso.

Time flew, and suddenly we had to leave. We interrupted Mr. Undertaker in full flow, and slid out of the table. He gave us each a hand shake which involved covering up the clasped hands with his other hand.

Mustn't let everyone see the Scottish Free Mason handshake, he winked at me.

And boosh. We were gone.

You couldn't make it up.

And to think, tomorrow I am going to Istanbul. Crusaders. Ataturk. The Aghia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. Topkapi. Just one quick hop and a step away from Nuneaton and Brazil's Nuts on this crazy planet we live on.