RAISING THE BAR
A gorgeous baby-shaped bomb had gone off in Eva’s life. But did it have to mean last orders for – you know – fun? It had the buzz of a real pub
Bubbles frothing over the side of the glass as I weaved my way back to our table, I plonked the pint in front of my hubby, Phil.
‘Did you put your siren on – wide load coming though?’ he teased.
‘Oi,’ I laughed. ‘You’ll be wearing that pint soon.’
‘You know you look gorgeous,’ Phil smiled. ‘Still, we won’t have many more nights like this once Baby comes along.’
I was due any day now, and we were both so excited!
‘I’ll miss our date nights, though,’ I admitted.
While we both knew our lives were about to be turned on their heads for the better, we were adamant we wanted to keep our relationship alive, too.
Me and Phil, 33, had known each other for 11 years, since I’d come to live in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, from my native Hungary. He was studying photography, and I was doing an interior design course.
We both discovered we shared a love of music, festivals and, of course, nights in the pub.
We’d spent many boozy nights out with friends when, in 2010, our friendship turned to romance.
After that, there were more nights in. But we still enjoyed sharing a bottle of wine or a cheeky shot of pálinka, a fruit brandy my family would send to us.
We’d married in 2013. Now, just over a year later, we were about to become parents for the first time. Excited and nervous... we couldn’t wait!
We’d moved into a new house just three months earlier, and I’d spent all that time preparing for our new arrival.
And on 21 July, our beautiful Millie arrived, weighing 8lb 8oz.
‘Hi, gorgeous,’ I smiled, overwhelmed with love for her.
She was such a good baby, ate and slept so well. Of course we were knackered, though – no new parent can escape that fog of tiredness.
‘Do you remember when Friday nights meant boozy nights in the pub and a kebab on the way home?’ I yawned to Phil one night.
We were still in that paranoid, first-time parent stage, where we wouldn’t take our eyes off the video monitor while Millie slept.
‘Nights out?’ Phil chuckled. ‘Remind me what they were again!’
‘I do miss a bit of “us” time,’ I sighed, wistfully.
Weeks passed in the blissful daze of new parenthood. But if we looked on Facebook, and saw our friends posting from the pub about how much fun they were having, I had a pang of envy.
‘Didn’t think I’d ever miss a hangover,’ I groaned.
‘I’d love a night out, but I’d miss Millie too much.’
We’d already decided that when she was older, we’d take her to Glastonbury with us.
And a couple of months after she was born, Phil came home
with a big grin on his face. ‘What are you up to?’ I frowned. ‘Well, you know how we miss the pub, but don’t want to go and leave Millie?’ he said. ‘Yeeeees...’ I replied.
‘Well, how about we bring the pub to us?’ Phil smiled. ‘What do you mean?’ I laughed. ‘I’m going to build us a pub!’ Phil announced.
He explained that he wanted to turn the concrete garage in our garden into a pub. ‘We can still have friends over… have nights “out” just the two of us,’ he smiled. ‘Without leaving Millie.’
‘It sounds perfect,’ I laughed. ‘It’s got to have a name though, don’t you reckon?’
Just then, our greyhound, Mitch, let out a big yawn.
‘What about The Wonky Dog?’ Phil suggested.
We’d got Mitch when he was 10. By then he had a broken tail and one stroke behind him, meaning he couldn’t use his back leg, so was wobbly on his paws.
We always joked he was a bit ‘wonky’. ‘I love it,’ I said.
Phil’s dad brewed his own ale, and said he’d show him how to do it. So, over the next months, we set about ‘operation pub’.
Whenever we had a bottle of wine or beer, we’d soak the labels off to decorate the pub’s walls.
The house had been a repossession when we’d bought it, and there’d been lots of bits and bobs left behind.
‘We should try to make use of them,’ I told Phil.
Some friends had given him pallets to make the walls; I used an old sofa to make seats; somebody donated two bar stools; and I even found snooker cues to use as curtain poles.
Each weekend, Phil was out there, hammering away.
‘We’re going to have some date nights here,’ he’d say.
‘As long as you don’t bar me!’ I teased.
‘We’ll be having plenty of lock-ins,’ he told me with a wink.
Phil installed a log burner, and a friend even painted his very own
The Wonky Dog sign to hang outside. We had a lantern made, too, with the pub logo on. There were beer mats on the wall, a working beer tap, optics...
‘I’ll give Peggy Mitchell a run for her money,’ I giggled, fixing a bottle of gin to one of the optics. ‘Get outta my pub!’
Finally, The Wonky Dog was open for business. ‘Drinks are on the ’ouse,’ I laughed.
We even had a glass fish on the bar filled with peanuts. That Friday night we decided would be our first date night.
After Millie was in bed, I cooked us a lovely pasta dinner.
‘One for the road?’ Phil grinned, after our meal.
‘That’d be lovely,’ I smiled.
So we trotted out to the pub.
‘What can I get you?’ Phil asked from behind the bar.
I smiled. ‘And a cheeky pálinka?’
With Millie’s video monitor propped up on the bar, we sat on our stools and sipped our drinks.
‘This is lovely,’ I said, grabbing a handful of nuts. ‘We can go “out”, but still be home with Millie, and we don’t need to worry about getting a taxi back home!’
Soon, we were inviting friends and family over to The Wonky Dog.
As everyone helped themselves to drinks, it soon had the buzz of a real pub.
When Millie started walking, she’d toddle into the garden and start playing with the beer mats and labels on the wall.
‘Youngest barmaid in town,’ I laughed. We had so many lovely nights there, and people loved coming over to join us.
On Bonfire Night 2015, we had loads of friends and their kids round. We cooked hot dogs and the pub was buzzing.
Standing outside, as we set off fireworks and they lit up the sky, I cuddled into Phil.
‘The Wonky Dog was a fantastic idea,’ I smiled.
‘We’ve managed to become parents, but still stay the same old Eva and Phil.’
Sadly, we’ve recently had to call last orders on The Wonky Dog, as we’re moving house so Phil can be closer to work.
But he’s already got plans for The Wonky Dog Two.
And what else can I say to that idea, but cheers! Eva Avery, 36, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
We’re a lighthearted bunch
Little Millie is a natural behind the bar
family Our pint-sized
Eveybody loves our watering hole
Mitch: the original Wonky Dog