We get all sorts of people in the shop.
When I am working a late shift, it's remarkable to see the number of customers who dash in for last-minute emergency beer or wine before we shut for the night. On sunny afternoons we get quite a few people calling in for booze for impromptu barbecues on their way home from work. There are one or two who come in for small bottles of cheap vodka, and who I suspect are not going anywhere to drink it.
The one who stands out for me this week though, is the Drunk Socks Man.
He came in for the first time mid-afternoon, buying a four-pack of chilled cans of cider. Fair enough. It was a sunny afternoon, and sitting under a tree with a cold cider would be very pleasant.
Two hours later he came back and bought another four-pack. Ah. Maybe he has some mates there too, and they're all enjoying a cold drink together.
Another two hours passed. By this time I was on my own in the shop. He reappeared, this time drunk. Very, very drunk.
"Hello my petal!" he said cheerfully. I said hello back, ignoring the over-familiarity. Well, you have to sometimes.
He selected a single bottle of beer and brought it up to the counter, then dug into a pocket for cash. I told him how much it cost, and he squinted at the handful of change, old receipts and oddments he was waving about in front of me.
"Have I got enough there, darling?" he asked. I told him no, he didn't.
"Well can you do me a deal then? Can I have it for *rapid counting of the coins he held* £1.28?"
I said no sorry, we wouldn't do that.
"What have you got that's cheaper, then?"
By now, I had realised just how drunk he was, and was beginning to wonder how I was going to get him out of the shop if he got stroppy when he discovered that I wasn't going to sell him any more drink. Cunningly taking the bottle of beer back to the fridge on the pretext of looking for something cheaper, I was able to convince him that we didn't sell anything alcoholic that he could afford just then.
"How about if I give you a cuddle? Can I have a deal then?"
Oh fantastic. The "drunk bloke is irresistible to women" stage has been reached. I declined the cuddle and got back behind the counter, wondering how much longer this was going to continue. He stood there, swaying a bit, then had an idea.
"What if I give you my socks?"
"Look. Here. You can have my socks." He tried to hand me a pair of balled-up socks which he pulled from another pocket.
I declined politely.
After a few minutes of loudly telling the next customer who came in how terrible it is to be an alcoholic - the customer agreed politely whilst paying for his diesel - the drunk left, staggering over to the pub. He did tell me "I'm always around if you need me, darling," before he left. How reassuring.
I waited with some interest, and a little anxiety in case he came back to the shop. A police van then drove onto the forecourt and parked up, I waited for the police driver to come in and buy sweeties. They're buggers for sweeties, police. However, the driver simply stayed in his van.
The drunk left the pub very soon afterwards, and started making his way up the road towards town. The police van immediately pulled out into the main road, the driver got out and spoke to the drunk. I watched, interested, as they had a long chat, the drunk smoking a cigarette. A short time later a police car arrived, and took the drunk away.
You don't get that in the Civil Service.