by Aidan Chivers
As the heat of our idyllic nineteenth summer draws to its close, and gives out its final surge of warmth in a late September burst, it is inevitable that we should gather at the bar which featured so prominently in our last few years of school.
Full of excitable, childish memories and coated with hundreds of tiny snippets of youth, it presents itself to us from across the street as a huge and cumbersome, but overwhelmingly familiar silhouette.
Yet as we approach, the stained, beer-soaked outdoor tables are gone; the battered, worn-out sign has been replaced by new, sleek, shining letters which announce a change in ownership; the newly gleaming floor no longer tells stories of years of spilt pints and the former landlord’s notoriously stingy attitude towards running his pub.
Washed out of grime, stickiness, and all its warm, happy memories, the new establishment gleams from the light fittings, the beer pumps and the smiles of the newly-appointed staff behind the bar.
We manage to enjoy a final drink together without too much distress. As we leave, and head back off to our respective universities and our slowly diverging lives, a little group of four pass us on their way in.
They’re school-age, like we used to be. Two guys, two girls: a couple holding hands and another that will be by the end of the evening. They chat away excitedly about their plans for the night, delighted by their discovery of this smart new bar on the edge of town.
I watch them go in, and I smile as I recognise ourselves from not so long before. They’re on their first of a series of evenings from which they’ll attach great personal significance to the pub. They’ll make their own memories and stories, which they’ll tell and relive and exaggerate and make up.
They’ll drink and laugh and fall in love with the spot, and consider themselves part of it. And one day they’ll lament the tiniest changes to a place they don’t even really know.