The Unknown Soldier

Many moons ago my wife and I (before we were married) ended up in Green Square, Kingston drinking at Filthy McFaddens – the night before ANZAC Day.

 A great start to the night was when my future wife took advantage of our table being right near the entrance to the pub, and started telling people there was a cover charge.  It was amazing how many people reached in to their pockets before being told it was just a joke.

 Shortly after that, the night took a rather strange turn.

 Moving around the pub as we often do, we went from near the door, to the bar, before finally ending up sitting next to a bunch of ex-army guys (who were relatively tanked – pardon the pun).  One guy in particular singled me out and decided to tell me with great enthusiasm and ever so slight aggression about what the army had done for him.  After much nodding in polite agreement with his various stories of courage under fire, I asked him if he was going to the dawn service.

 “Nah.” he said.

 “Oh, I guess it’s pretty early in the morning.” I said. 

 Astoundingly, in this one sentence I had managed to infuriate the guy and move his aggression up by a few notches.

 “How dare you cheapen the idea of ANZAC day!  Do you know how many people fought and died for your freedom!  Rah rah rah… freedom… rah rah… country… rah rah… rah rah Diggers… rah rah… honour… rah rah rah… think of the children.”

 Pretty much anything I said at this stage just seemed to make him angrier – and his mates started cracking their knuckles in anticipation.    Amazingly, just as he said something about how he ought to smash my face in, my wife exclaimed “Where’s my bag?”

 I said “What?”

 “My bag is gone!”

 As I am looking around Ex-Army guy attempted to finish what we had started.  In my genuine concern for the lost bag I turned to him and said “Can you just hang on a sec please mate, she has lost her bag.”

 “Sure, no worries.” he muttered (surprisingly).

 We stood up, looking around and remembered we had been sitting at the bar.  “Back in a sec, we’ve got to find this bag” I said as we walked off to the bar.  Ex-Army Guy even let us squeeze past.  Sure enough, there was the bag.

 “You know, now would be a good time for us to sneak off.”

 “OK, let’s go.”

 Being incredibly proud of ourselves and showing exceptional foresight, we snuck out and went straight to the Durham Castle Arms next door. 

 For the first ten minutes we nervously laughed about how close I had come to getting beaten up.  Then we promptly forgot about the whole thing. 

 Some time passed by and we were mucking around and my future wife did something that could not have been scripted any better in an episode of The Simpsons.  She was pointing at people as part of some story neither of us can remember and randomly going “You… and you… and You…!” and as the last point pointed the smile disappeared from both our faces.  She had pointed directly at Ex-Army Guy who had just wandered in and was standing at the bar.    

 “So… where were we?” he said as he came up to our table with a physical presence that any self respecting standover man would be proud of.

 In what can only be described as the most unexpectedly appropriate and random thing to say, my future wife says “We’re getting married!”

 Upon hearing that, our resident tough guy pulled up a chair and told us the sad story of his marriage, birth of his son, and subsequent break up. 

 “Look at him, he’s got his Daddy’s keys” he sobbed as he showed us a video on his phone of a very cute toddler carrying a set of keys.  “Me keys, he’s got me keys.  Ahh, I miss him.  I miss him.”

 After much consolation, he stood up, wiped the tears from his eyes and bid us a fond farewell. 

 “Let’s go home.”

 Later that year my wife and I got married and lived happily ever after.  One day we may even attend a dawn service – as long as it’s not too early.