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Cornish Antiques
by Kit Chapman

I wasn't particularly looking for Janner when I wandered into the Trevelyan Arms for a pint of Geoffrey's old and filthy. I was actually having a hard time with the Telegraph crossword, not an unusual occurrence. In fact three or four of us would gather early doors in the 'Trev', ostensibly for a symposium on clues but in reality an excuse to swallow a few 'heart starters' and get out of the house quickly before our respective wives or bosses found us something to do.

'Morning Janner', I said, spying him propping up the bar, half perched on his favourite bar stool.

'Mornin' my bird,' he replied, swinging round and getting his size twelve sea boots caught under the brass foot rail. ''T'is a bit quiet 'ere this mornin'' he spluttered through a bushy black beard compacted in beer froth.

'Well it's only half ten', I said, 'in half an hour you wont be able to move'.

I knew what Janner was up to. He was short of money again. The tourist season was just starting down here in West Cornwall and tourists were the lifeblood of the community, in more ways than one.

'Morning Kit' panted the Landlord, wheezing with exertion as he appeared head first out of the cellar, blue veins bursting out of his forehead like a map of London's underground. '…Wont be a minute, just changed the barrels over'.

'Don't worry Geoffrey', I said, 'just escaped from Laura, she thinks I'm gardening.'

''scaped have ee', mumbled Janner 'I got my Elsie down Brent's farm sortin' bulbs. Keeps 'er out o' harms way',
I knew what he meant. He could stay in the pub all day, spinning tales of Cornish folklore to any tourist that would buy him a drink while his long suffering Elsie provided the wherewithal to live. Janner was a local institution, a kinder soul you couldn't wish to meet; he'd do anything for you, especially if it involved the price of a pint or two. You could hire Janner for a days odd jobbing or to make up the crew on a fishing boat for the promise of a nights supping.

'Usual Kit?' asked Geoffrey, his face returning to a more normal, all over red ochre posture.

'Thanks, and put one in for Janner.'

Janner raised his glass in recognition. It was normal to buy him a drink…well why not? He'd provided us with years of entertainment. Perched up there on his stool, resplendent in a pair of tatty jeans, an old fishing smock covered in paint and yesterday's breakfast, he was a tourists dream of a Penzance Pirate, which is what he is… a latter day one anyway.

'Not a bad year for the daffs Janner' I said, thinking of the tons of daffodils that Cornwall exported every year. 'You done any pickin' lately?'
'Getting' too old for that game my bird,' he took a huge swig of ale,' plays 'avoc with me 'artheritits''

'Only thing what plays havoc with your arthritis is when you 'ave to put your 'and in your pocket for a pint,' quipped Geoffrey. This was true enough. Rumour had it that Janner did buy a round of drinks on his stag night, but that was twenty five years ago and lost in the mists of time.

The door opened and Janner looked round, sensing a victim. His hawk like nose ravaged by wind and sun, not to mention beer and rum, sniffed the air. It stuck out of a froth-encrusted beard that could have housed a flock of seagulls. The black Celtic eyes twinkled with anticipation.

Two girls in their early twenties gingerly walked in. They were obviously cyclists, mini lycra shorts and plastic head guards gave the game away. Un- hooking two enormous back packs they both showed a remarkable amount of tanned thigh.

'Can we 'ave two cokes please?' asked the taller and blonder of the two, in what was obviously a Germanic accent.

'Of course my pretty,' said Geoffrey, a normal Cornish greeting for anything on two legs… and sometimes four. 'Would you like ice?'
'Sank you' said the other.

'Now where is it?' said Geoffrey after opening two bottles of Coke and pretending to look for the ice bucket. He knew there wasn't any. There never was. 'I'll just get some from the kitchen . Won't keep you waiting my lovers.' …another old Cornish cordiality.

'I'll get it' exploded Janner jumping of his stool, sensing an opening, 'I'm going for a slash anyway.'

'Don't bother, I'm on me way.' said Godfrey, walking through to the kitchen to look for the non existent ice.

 

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