He stomps up to the bar and mutters a greeting. This is unusual. Charles is an invariably polite and sunny chap, possibly the most well-spoken haulage contractor in Norfolk. He orders a pint of Stella abruptly.
“Are you OK, Charles?” asks Short Tony.
“I’ve had a shit day,” he replies. “Been up since five… problems… had to go here… had to go there…” We listen politely as he gets it off his chest. He is genuinely pissed off. There is tension in the air.
“Have you got a ciggie?” he demands. Nobody has. He wanders around the pub attempting to find a cigarette. There is no luck; he swears a bit.
“I’ll nip out the back,” offers the Chipper Barman. “Chef will do you a roll-up.” The Village Pub has a flexible menu. He soon reappears with a roll-up, which Charles disappears outside to consume after a cursory thank-you.
Minutes later he reappears at the door. His face expresses a cocktail of both thunder and incomprehension, as if he were Duncan Ferguson being beckoned off before half-time by his manager, only to discover that he was being substituted for a very small left-side specialist penguin.
He strides back up to the bar and downs his pint.
“There’s a smell of… burning hair?” I ask, obliviously. At this point I have no idea that his roll-up had contained not tobacco, but the heads from a dozen live matches, neatly and diligently snipped off by an under-employed kitchen hand with a sense of humour. He stares at me, steaming slightly.
Charles leaves the Village Pub.