I dropped out of high-school halfway through the eleventh grade to fly to England and work exercise riding horses and mucking stalls, living on-site in an apartment that was a part of the stable block. Going down to the pub is probably the national past-time in the United Kingdom, and in Epsom, they were prolific. The White Horse, with an out of tune piano and a grubby stretch of bar, one of my favorites. The Queen’s Head, where the only memory I have is being extremely, extremely drunk, playing pool with a group of locals and having to return shamefaced the next day to retrieve a top I’d left behind in the fray. The Albion, Irish Paul’s old haunt and where we met a group of perpetually drunk WWII vets who drag us over hedges and bridlepaths to see Victoria Day fireworks. I used to carry a little stuffed zebra as a purse. “Oi, Freddy!” the bleary eyed man sitting next to me exclaims to the bar keep. “Did you know Canadians skin zebras and use them as wee purses?” The Amato, my favorite for Sunday roasts and weird pull-chain toilets. And, just a hop and a skip over in Walton-on-The-Hill, The Chequers.
I still had a sense of decorum at sixteen. “Oh no, going out to drink with my boss is simply not appropriate,” I must have thought at one point. Hahaha. My sweet summer child. I’m invited out multiple times and elect, instead, to sit in front of the tellie watching BBC 4, hours old horse-races and episodes of Holly Oaks (which sucks you right fucking in, no matter how highbrow you like to imagine yourself) until eventually, I am issued the ultimatum, of “Come down tae the pub, or else you’re fired,” and I go, and a beast is unleashed.
A few pub visits later, we find ourselves at quiz night at The Chequers, still in our riding boots and chaffy half chaps and dirt stained hands, guzzling cheap rose wine and badly answering trivia questions. “What has recently increased from £5,25 to £5,75?” Excitedly, we bump heads, writing down our answer. “Cigarettes! A pack of cigarettes!” The answer is ‘minimum wage’, something we should probably be aware of, since that is what we are earning during our 10 hour a day, six days a week of shovelling horse shit and galloping horses out over Epsom Downs. A new employee shows up, a Prince William look alike with a larger than life personality, and more rose is consumed. The big boss invites us back over to her house for spaghetti bolognese and I head up to the bar to get one more drink before we go. Unfortunately, there’s a minimum for debit, so I end up purchasing two half liters of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and pounding them in quick succession before departing the gorgeous garden at Chequers.
Sixteen, drunk, full of rose, stout and with a mouthful of spaghetti bolognese, seated beside my new coworker who I am just meeting for the first time, I projectile vomit across my boss’s bougie living room and dash for the bathroom, where I spend maybe the next hour with my head in the toilet, moaning.
“Canadians do everything so politely!” she exclaims, coming in to check on me, leaving a glass of water on the side of the tub. “They even vomit politely!” Later it becomes apparent that my hi jinx are not the epitome of what she has seen; one of my senior coworkers is spotted at a party a few weeks later pissing in the garden and passed out face down in the rose bushes, a high-heeled foot with her thong around her ankles hanging out into the garden where the night continues on around her.
The morning after the unfortunate rose/stout/bolognese incident, we wake up at the yard and head out to work, heads pounding, stale breath, bleary eyed, to participate in a jumping clinic with a relatively famous clinician, a former Household Calvary instructor and rider and prevalent name within the British show jumping world. We sit clad in our jods and half chaps along the side of the menage, heads in hands, and each ride our individual clinic with great success, piloting around 1000 pound flight animals over courses of fences with pounding headaches. As he rides out, the William look-alike says confidentially, “I think I’m still drunk.” I leg-up onto a blue-eyed pony and think I may be, as well.