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#OutofOfficeQuotes 99: "There's hardly any pub folk left. I should open a halal burger bar, I'd be l

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

As he looks round the empty bar for Ulrike, Hook realises he hasn’t explained who he is. It seems easier sometimes just to talk. That’s the thing with journalism: some people expect him to pull out a card, a Dictaphone or a notepad, where others tend to shut up, lie, or turn nasty – often all three. It’s all about instinct, which always lets him down.

He takes another sip of the creamy cold liquid and closes his eyes. Why has he wasted so much time on sobriety? What’s it done for him lately? Hook wipes white foam off his lips before speaking.

“What do you mean, ‘the Muslims’?”

“They reckon there shouldn’t be any pubs round here no more. They want the council to close me down.”

“Who’s ‘they’ exactly?”

“The mosque committee.”


Hook’s story-sniffer closes down: the usual anti-Muslim rant. He’ll finish his pint and get to work. There’s a wine bar opposite the town hall. Maria, the owner, is in her forties, tall, Italian – during bleak points their flirtations keep him going. The barman turns those old sad eyes on him, reading his mind.

“You don’t believe me.”

“Sure I do. But I’ve heard it all before. They can’t shut down pubs just because some in the community don’t like them. There’d be uproar.”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” The barman scowls. “But who’s gonna care round here? There’s hardly any pub folk left. I should open a halal burger bar, I’d be laughing.”

Hook feels it would take more than halal burgers to make those eyes twinkle. He drains his creamy pint, feeling dizzy: still not twelve. His ears ring from all the drills and his bowels need unblocking but there’s no way he’s taking a dump in this place.

“Oh well, gotta go.”

Hook stands and puts on his jacket, damp with old sweat. As he goes to leave the barman reaches out, grabs his arm with a surprisingly strong grip. Unsure what expression to pull Hook tries a cool smile, scared. The old man leans over the bar and whispers, “I know who you are.”


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