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Friday, November 05, 2010

Watching a Chapel Market funeral

Round the corner from the office in Chapel Market is a pub called the Alma. Britain is full of pubs called the Alma. This one's for hard drinkers, many with market connections. Customers are usually hoisting pints of lager at nine o'clock in the morning. It's been like this long before the licensing laws were reformed. The smoking ban meant the pub's patrons, all of whom are smokers, were suddenly extruded into the daylight as if in a sock that had been turned inside out. People who had spent their days in the darkest corners were forced to drink and smoke outside. None of these people look healthy, which is not surprising if they're drinking and smoking all day. Quite a few of them seemed to have lost limbs, presumably not at the Battle of the Alma.

Every now and then you'll see a small poster run off a home printer and placed in the window. This will bear a picture of a man who looks 75 but was probably in his early 60s and announce that Patrick or Jim or Michael has died and that his funeral party will be either departing from or terminating at the Alma. When we went out for something to eat yesterday lunchtime one of these parties was taking place. Through the window we could see and hear a musician singing "The Fields Of Athenry" through a portable P.A. while the regulars lifted pint after pint and the horse-racing flickered silently on the TV above the bar.

A knot of mourners watched the proceedings from outside so that they could smoke. We sat down in the chip shop opposite. One of the mourners, a 12-year-old boy, wearing a buttoned-up suit and sporting a huge star-shaped stud earring, came in, bought a saveloy and then went back across the road to re-join the mourners and eat it.