Mark Reeves stands at about 5’10” with closely cropped fair hair and something in latin tattooed in blue ink on his left fore arm. If you ask him nicely he might tell you what it means. He might not. Business is good for Reeves these days, but he earns his money. Sixteen others from Burridge sat down with him to eat at La Cantina on Friday night. Most of them slugging house red out of little glass buckets in-between downing San Miguel, poured into pint glasses from litre bottles. All chattering about the season just gone, about finishing in fourth place, about Kristian Hewitt’s goal against Netley on a warm August evening, about the barmaid at the Bugle who pulled their pints come quarter to five on a Saturday afternoon after a game, about her cleavage. But mostly they were drinking. Drinking to get drunk. Not Reeves. He had work tomorrow. He always worked Saturdays, so he took it easy with a Coruna while he waited for his Fajitas to be bought out by the waitress, who looked just like Pocahuntas. If you go down to Margherita’s on Town Quay you’ll see his work. That’s where we all went later.
Reeves exchanged a nod with the doorman, walked through the French windows at Margherita’s, turned to me and said with a shrug, “They still haven’t paid me.” People smoked cigarettes outside on the waterfront under an enormous marquee roof that covered a long rectangular plinth of decking. Its perimeter partitioned by glass panels, held up by vertical stainless steel frames screwed into the wooden floor at eight foot intervals, with a hollow steel rail as shiny as marble sitting neatly welded on top. A two man job that Reeves had done. The seven grand invoice still awaiting payment. I was sipping a Margarita out of a champagne coupe that Sam Schwodler had given to me. “Nah, you ’ave it,” he said shaking his head. “It’s fucking ’orrible, mate.” His brother Bryn hadn’t arrived yet. He’d spent most of the meal smiling through gritted teeth as Sam kept trying to fill his glass with wine. He couldn’t drink, not tonight. His girlfriend was due to give birth any day now. He couldn’t risk it. She’d kill him.
Justin Newman had organised the whole thing. Dressed in a light pink angora sweater, he stood talking to one of the doorman. He didn’t know where Bryn was either. They’d been delayed. Burridge manager Pete Lyons had taken the front passenger seat of Bryn’s Mazda six estate. His elder brother Jay, Burridge captain Kristian Hewitt and Lee Fielder sat in the back. Sixteen year old Rob Kelly joined the golf clubs, a jerry can and a pair of Nike Football boots, earth still clinging to the rubber studs, in the trunk. Bryn pulled out the of multi-story knowing that Margheritas’ was only a mile away. A long way with a car load of drunks. Waterloo road is a short one way street that leads to the multi-story car park that Bryn drove up the wrong way and attracting blue lights of a near by police car.
As Bryn pulled over and wound down his window, while Fielder and Hewitt banged their fists on the back seat, telling Rob to shut the fuck up. The policeman leant in the vehicle asking Bryn if he knew he was going the wrong way up a one way street and had he been drinking and making him to take a breathalyser test. Questions to which he answered calmly, all the time hoping to God they didn’t decide to open the boot of the car. Pete Lyons, 52, married to Bryn’s mum, got out the car, trying to explain that Bryn hadn’t been drinking, but his best intentions were lost in translation and blurred by drink. Within another ten minutes they’d joined the rest of us in Margherita’s, which doesn’t close ‘til three in the morning, but with reserves flagging and the hour past midnight many of the squad began to disappear to kebab houses and taxi ranks.
Thanks to Justin Newman. Not just for wearing a pink sweater, but for organising a night out which not only managed to keep all seventeen people together in two venues, but one that everyone seemed to enjoy.