Les was very important in my youth because he was the first person I really loved. We were together for a year and it was the first time I was able to imagine spending my life with another person. In the old days we bickered continuously about literature (we were both doing English A’ level) but also about anything else we could think of. We also had a hell of a lot of fun.
We lost touch after a noisy and acrimonious (on my part) separation but when we got back in touch and exchanged emails and texts, I realised that I had no idea why we had broken up. I could remember storming out of his house and being annoyed when the glass in the door I had slammed so violently didn’t break, but I had no idea why I would have chosen to leave this clever, funny man.
As I have a car, we arranged that I would pick Les up at his flat and then drive into the Vale of Glamorgan. I arrived, texted him and was surprised when he didn’t reply. I phoned him but his phone wasn’t receiving calls. After consulting my brother, who knows the flats where Les lives, I rang the intercom outside his building – nothing. I had been stood up.
Eventually I decided to cut my losses and invited my brother to lunch instead. We bumped into a couple of old friends and actually had a very pleasant afternoon in a country pub deep in the Vale. I noticed that there was no phone signal and so wasn’t surprised to get a voice mail when we got back to civilization: “Hiya Trace, just wondering what time you want to have lunch…” in Les’s relaxed, laconic voice. I phoned him, got through this time but was told that his phone was unreliable and that his doorbell doesn’t work. I tried to keep the exasperation out of my voice but asked if he didn’t think making someone drive 50 miles to miss lunch was reasonable. Les pointed out that I had had a very pleasant afternoon without him. That’s when I remembered why I wanted to break that glass door so much.
Les’s choice was The Plough and Harrow in Monknash which is a beautiful old country pub with a real fire and an impressive range of real ales and ciders. Not for the first time I regretted driving – given a ride home I could have spent a very happy day and a ridiculous amount of money in there.
Les is a vegetarian, so we chose the only veggie option on the menu – Glamorgan sausages. I looked wistfully at the magnificent roast dinners being hefted onto the other tables, but where possible I like to follow my co-consumer’s lead and I must admit that I enjoyed my lunch. I was glad later not to have stuffed myself with saturated fats and protein when we went for a postprandial walk on Barry Island beach.
15 March 2015
The Plough and Harrow, Monknash, Vale of Glamorgan
Despite the thirty odd years that have passed, it turns out that neither of us has changed much. We still bickered continuously but we still managed to argue with especial vehemence about English. In one conversation, ironically about how much we each speak, the adjectives loquacious, verbose, articulate, taciturn, eloquent, voluble, sullen and expansive were all employed. Les is still the most physically relaxed person I’ve ever met. His response when I walked into his local pub, where we had decided to meet after the fiasco of our first attempt, says it all. The first thing he said when he caught sight of me for the first time in years was “uh, I’ve just sat down”. Mentally however, it’s a different story. Les’s mind is as fine as ever and I left lunch with a smile at the thought of the very pleasant afternoon I had spent.