I was seventeen,
my friend’s passport in my sweaty hands,
queuing outside for the promise of £1 beer.
It was in my lager days-
when Foster’s brought on burps
that I suppressed to make it look like I was enjoying it.
I would wear cut-off tights and plimsolls
before Primark started selling them,
and blazers when they were only meant for school.
I’d get in thinking
I got in, I got in, I got in,
waving goodbye through the window to those who’d been ID’d
and wishing they were with me.
I would stand,
with a Reef
(remember them? They were awful),
Kara was mental. They said she
drank Aftershock for breakfast
and she wanted us to be mental too.
We scrawled on toilet doors and
shoved empty glass bottles in comedy places;
pool table pockets, pot plants, holes in the wall.
We would hold back her blue streaked mullet
as she vomited in the loos,
before running for the last bus home.
Now, ten years on,
Sue Sylvester above the bar,
I look around at the squashy sofas
and vintage TVs
with a fondness,
like this is where I grew up, but with new people living here now.
I tell people this is the only pub in Southend that serves Irn Bru,
and for that reason alone it deserves your love.
It is Scream burgers and cups of tea,
home to Sundown;
a pub that loves poetry, pear cider, and pool.
Yoda lives upstairs,
downstairs: my sticky Converse memories.
I’ve got different tastes now;
lager has given way to Brother’s,
and the rituals start anew.
I hope it remains in ten years’ time,
when I will look at it with the fondness
of people now in their forties who
still call it ‘the Top Alex’.
I will watch with nostalgia at the
and I will chuckle at their lager love.