One stormy afternoon in Reading

It was a Thursday afternoon, about 2-30pm. I had finished work early & I was out on the Brompton for a bimble. Weaving my way through the crowded shopping centre, the wind started to pick up which was accompanied by the sound of raindrops, pitter-pattering around me. ‘Oh bother’ thought I. Through the monsoon like deluge that followed, I could vaguely make out a series of letters above a glass fronted doorway. W-e-a-t-h-e-r-s-p-o-o-n-s. The storm, now of almost biblical proportions, was gaining momentum fast & like a fisherman making for the safety of the harbour, I sought refuge within.

Once inside, I was greeted with knowing nods & winks from other hardy souls, who like me gained respite from what was now, collectively considered to be a typhoon, raging outside. As the rain trickled, sorry, I mean, lashed against the glass frontage, I needed something to steady my nerves. This was no job for tea or coffee. I needed a beer & a proper one at that, none of your fizzy, mass-produced flavoured water, for me. Carefully surveying the offerings on the bar, I decided to chose a safe option. For the unwise, or just plain stupid, real ale selection, can be like playing Russian roulette – chose the wrong beer & your internal digestive tract could be left in tatters for days. I stood tall, looked the barmaid in the eye & ordered a pint of Mr Chubbs Lunchtime Bitter – a quality refreshment, perfect for surviving an afternoon Armageddon. With a deft pull on the pump, she gave me a creamy head & I made my way over to a free table, pint in one hand, folded Brompton, in the other.

The caramel tones of that first sip filled my mouth & as I placed the glass onto the table, the curtain swished next to me, blown by the draft as more kindred spirits, wet & bedraggled, made their way, through to safety. I too joined my newly acquired comrades in nodding acknowledgement for the forlorn arrivals. The storm was now raging so hard that I was unsure whether I would ever make it home again, so I took another sip. My mind started remembering dear friends & loved ones, who were trapped in the confines of work, amid this harrowing meteorological onslaught. With all good spirit, I just had to see if they were okay, so I sent them multiple selfies of myself, my beer & my Brompton. I am sad to report that they were under so much emotional duress at this time, that their replies cannot be published on this page.

And so the storm raged on into afternoon, well beyond 3 o’clock. For a split-second, the thought of braving the elements crossed my mind, but this soon dissipated as I made my way back to the barmaid & her taut forearms. As I stood patiently waiting, it dawned on me that I could be trapped here for some time. I had some tough choices to make – salt & vinegar or beef? Stick with Mr Chubbs or try something new?

Back at the table, I supped the foam from my second pint & split open the packet of crisps. A curious dilemma then befell me. The first pint had worked through my system rapidly & I now possessed a bladder like a Zeppelin. Should I risk leaving my Brompton under the table, or do I carry it up the three flights of stairs to the gents? I decided to leave my treasured vehicle under the table & proceeded to sprint upstairs, leaping three steps at a time.

Returning to my seat, at a pace more befitting a man of my age, I checked my phone. It was now 3.30. I checked my phone again & then the window. The drizzle, I mean, the storm had almost stopped & sunlight reflected off the puddles on the ground. I had survived. Swilling the final remnants of my beer around the glass, I knocked it back in one go & picking up my Brompton, I silently thanked Weatherspoons for keeping me safe & headed for the door, ready for a jovial cycle home.

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