An easygoing, nostalgic collection of tales inspired by the author’s past in rural Wales.
Fred Howells is a part-time gravedigger and retired coal miner for whom the only thing better than a pint of beer is two pints of beer. Typically, he bets on the horses and jokes with his fellow patrons while he downs one pint after another—for free whenever he can manage it. He’s “always trying to get something for nothing,” yet he still owes plenty. When the debt gets so delinquent that his wife, Annie, can’t even buy groceries, she leaves him in disgust, even taking the electric stove. So he heads to the next valley and hangs out at the Plough Inn, where owner Trefor Plough and others know him well and there’s plenty of draught beer and lively banter. Fred fits in well, as he knows “everything about everybody and nothing about anything at all,” and Trefor sometimes thinks “Fred was worth every drop of free beer he gave him.” There isn’t much plot to the yarn, but Fred and the others are likable fellows who enjoy playing practical jokes. The narrator describes scenes where much hilarity ensues, but most is of the you-had-to-be-there variety. For example, Fred accidentally knocks over a carefully arranged store display of chocolates, the angry store owner boots him and his pals out, and the chapter ends with “peals of laughter.” In a restaurant, he embarrasses a woman and her daughter and eats their dinners when they leave their table. “He can make food disappear like magic,” his son explains. The humor lies a bit flat on the page, but of course that’s in the eye of the beholder, so your smileage may vary. There are some good lines, as when Fred’s friend “could talk a glass eye to sleep.”
This is a pleasant story perhaps best read aloud, with the book in one hand and a pint of beer in the other.