Friday night in the Fat Cat - nubile suits sip insipid liquid and quaff at the old men swilling their dark malty dregs in the redoubtable clandestine corners of redemption. A salt cellar dances to an unknown subterranean vibration.. I catch the regulars observing the vessel edging towards the precipice of the pock marked table before me. The greasy fingerprinted condiment smashes onto the cellared floor.
‘They cost money you know’, grunts the surly glass collector.
Before I have time to compose a suitably sardonic quip the barman emerges from the cellar below:
‘Did you hear that?’ he enthuses from this submerged ladder.
‘An earthquake?’ I suggest.
‘Must be the freight trains from the viaduct’ I shrug, swilling the last finger of beer, and rising to my unsteady feet.
‘Time, ladies and gentlemen please’, lauds the glass collector as I narrowly avoid disappearing into the cavernous hole of the cellar.
Sauntering down Spring Road in the warm balmy August night, I hear quickened footsteps behind me - they bring no threat to my beer coated contentment, until an ale odoured hand grabs my shoulder with a panting voice.
‘There’s no trains this weekend so it can’t be the viaduct’.
I turn to face the wide eyes of the barman.
‘You won’t let on about me opening the cellar door in pub hours will you?’ he enquires.
‘Course not’ I laugh reassuringly.
‘The Woolie have got a later licence than us – fancy a pint there?’ he enthuses.
I smile and we quicken our pace to The Woolpack – he laughs of cutting through Christchurch Park in the dark, and we reminisce about the now defunct Co-Op fetes in the summers of our youth. Approaching the pub, the cellar doors are open in the street, which strikes me as odd for 23:42 at night: Two cask carrying men sporting long grey beards, innumerable tattoos and piercings greet my companion with a chiding glance.
‘Wot toime d’yu call this?’ growls one, in a broad Suffolk lilt.
‘Yeyar, yew sid hupparst’ quips the other, his ruddy face rouge with sun and cider.
‘Hush yer mouth’ quips my companion.
‘This is the bloke I was telling you about’.
I follow the men into the bowels of Tuddenham Road and libations are poured freely with no small talk; trepidation hangs in the musty dank air. The same thumping and clattering that I had heard in the Fat Cat pub earlier is now … clearer – louder. A dancing light permeates from the street and flickers upon the skin art of the men.
‘You have found them!’ I utter in disbelief.
‘The smugglers tunnels to the old docks, Alnesbourne Priory and Custom House?’ I enthuse.
The beards remain silent.
‘We have indeed’ remarks the barman. ‘The Spread Eagle and Halberd tunnels are clear of the old salt blocks and contraband, so we’re excavating this one now.
‘We shan’t bother with the Custom House’, laugh the beards.
A foot stamps the bolted cellar doors above us -
Student New Angle Prize
The Student New Angle Prize is a competition partnered with the New Angle Prize for Literature, a national book award for published authors. SNAP is an annual event and offers all students of the University of Suffolk the chance to enter by submitting 500 words of original writing as prose or poetry. Like the New Angle Prize, all entries must either be set in or clearly influenced by our East Anglian region.
The SNAP competition gives offers a chance to hear new voices in the region and encourages students to add to the literary representations of the region which continue to make East Anglia such an important place for art and literature and poetry. Every year a different judge is invited to join the panel.