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An excerpt from'Beer Trip to Llandudno'

It was a pig of a day, as hot as we’d had, and we were down to our T-shirts taking off from Lime Street. This was a sight to behold – we were all of us biggish lads. It was Real Ale Club’s July outing, a Saturday, and we’d had word of several good houses to be found in Llandudno. I was double-jobbing for Ale Club that year. I was in charge of publications and outings both. Which was controversial.

“Rhyl … We’ll pass Rhyl, won’t we?”

This was Mo.

“We’d have come over to Rhyl as kids,” said Mo. “Ferry and coach. I

remember the rollercoasters.”

“Never past Prestatyn, me,” said Tom Neresford.

Tom N – so-called; there were three Toms in Ale Club – rubbed at his belly in a worried way. There was sympathy for that. We all knew stomach trouble for a bugger.

“Down on its luck’d be my guess,” said Everett Bell. “All these old North Wales resorts have suffered dreadfully, haven’t they? Whole mob’s gone off to

bloody Laos on packages. Bloody Cambodia, bucket and spade.”

Everett wasn’t inclined to take the happy view of things. Billy Stroud, the ex- Marxist, had nothing to offer about Llandudno. Billy was involved with his timetables.

“Two minutes and fifty seconds late taking off,” he said, as the train skirted the

Toxteth estates. “This thing hits Llandudno for 1.55pm, I’m an exotic dancer.”

Aigburth station offered a clutch of young girls in their summer skimpies. Oiled flesh, unscarred tummies, and it wasn’t yet noon. We groaned under our breaths. We’d taken on a crate of Marston’s Old Familiar for the journey, 3.9 per cent to volume. Outside, the estuary sulked away in terrific heat and Birkenhead shimmered across the water. Which wasn’t like Birkenhead. I opened my AA Illustrated Guide To Britain’s Coast and read from its entry on Llandudno:

“A major resort of the North Wales coastline, it owes its well-planned streets and promenade to one Edward Mostyn, who, in the mid-19th century - ”

“Victorian effort,” said John Mosely. “Thought as much.”

If there was a dad figure among us, it was Big John, with his know-it-all interruptions.

“Who in the mid 19th century,” I repeated, “laid out a new town on former marshland below ...”

“They’ve built it on a marsh, have they?” said Everett Bell.

“TB,” said Billy Stroud. “Marshy environment was considered healthful.”

“Says here there’s water skiing available from Llandudno jetty.”

“That’ll be me,” said Mo, and we all laughed.

Hot as pigs, but companionable, and the train was in Cheshire quick enough. We had dark feelings about Cheshire that summer. At the North West Beer Festival, in the spring, the Cheshire crew had come over a shade cocky. Just because they were chocka with half-beam pubs in pretty villages. Warrington lads were fine. We could take the Salford lot even. But the Cheshire boys were arrogant and we sniffed as we passed through their country.

A little bit about Kevin Barry

Shortlist

As well as winning the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award in 2012, Irish-born Kevin Barry was longlisted for the prize in 2011. His first short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms (Stinging Fly Press), was published in 2007 and was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. His first novel, City Of Bohane, was published in 2011 was shortlisted for both the Costa First Novel Award and the Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel of the Year and won the 2013 Impac Award. His second novel, Dark Lies the Island, was published in 2012, and his third novel Beatlebone, won the 2015 Goldsmiths Prize. Kevin’s stories have appeared in The New Yorker, the Granta Book of the Irish Short Story, and Best European Fiction 2011 among others and his plays have been produced in Ireland and the US.


See the full Shortlist