Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, April 3, 2015

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Homework. I ought to remember it well, I did so much of it, but the task that really sticks in my mind is when I was in what would now be known as Year 8, and I was asked to write a poem.

It took me forever, and as far as I recall, it was the only time my parents had to help me complete an assignment. That put me off poetry for life, or at least until now.

As a result of Prof Brian Falconbridge’s Arts and Sciences lecture on the master of Haiku, Matsuo Bashō, I was inspired to have a go myself. So here is my first effort.

Beer in the pen, Words dance on the page, The glass half empty.

Here’s another: The boys of summer, Retelling ancient tales, Drinking winter ale.

Bashō’s most famous book is probably The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a title which has recently been recycled for a Booker prize winning novel by Richard Flanagan. We took our own narrow road northwards recently, but unfortunately it went via Mansfield. I have nothing against Mansfield as such, but it seems that every time we go there, some minor calamity unfolds, and we are forever tied up in Notts. Last year it was a rained off football match and a broken down car, and this year was little better. We were 10 minutes away, when a road closure added an extra hour to the trip. Finally finding our rendezvous, at the excellent Railway Inn, we met up with our friend who was bringing replacement tickets for the ones lost in the post (£40 down the drain). As we were heading on to York the next day, the Bar Wife had suggested staying somewhere nice where she could have a drink with dinner, so I chose a place next to a good-looking pub, but forgot to book. When I phoned there was nothing available until after 10, so we had a fruitless trip around nearby villages before I treated her to fish and chips by the A1.

Surely the Mansfield effect would end as we headed north, but no. Next day we were booked into a highly-recommended pub in York, and arrived at lunchtime. The lights were on but, as they say, there was no-one at home. To take her mind off it, I took the Bar Wife to a rugby league game, but when we returned, the doors were locked and even the lights were out. We ended up in a hotel that was twice the price.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining. The new hotel was five yards away from the York Tap, which had a selection of 20 beers on hand pump with another dozen keg craft ales. There is something strangely relaxing about sipping a leisurely pint whilst all around people are dashing for trains. Add in a couple of narrow wins in the football, the chance to see some of the glorious sights of York and meeting up with some old friends, and on balance I think the glass was definitely half full.