The Sex Discrimination Act had come into effect only two days earlier, and one of the many things it outlawed was discrimination between, and segregation of, the sexes in pubs.
In those days, most pubs had multiple rooms, where the smartly decorated and carpeted lounge bar or saloon bar charged a few pennies more for their drinks than the rougher public bar did. The other difference was, that until the practice was outlawed, only men were permitted to drink in the public bar: women were excluded. Some more liberal pubs had relaxed those rules years ago, but from the 29th December 1975, the rest of them were forced to by law.
I'd arrived at my girlfriend, Anita's house, (She's now my wife,) and since we had no party to go to that year, we intended to make our way to my house for midnight celebrations with my family, having a couple of drinks in some of the pubs along the way.
I'd heard earlier that day, that the local pub on Anita's estate was still doing it's best to avoid serving women in the public bar. Anita was livid about this, and though I was a little annoyed myself, it didn't bother me quite as much, because it had always been our choice to drink in the lounge bar, and anyway, the pub in question: The Drum and Cymbals wasn't one we tended to frequent.
There was of course, the appeal of being the first couple to enforce our rights and break their gender ban, and partly because we were both stroppy teenagers in those days, we popped into the public bar of the Drum as our first stop.
Anita sat down at one of the tables, and immediately got strange looks from the old gents on the adjacent tables; a couple of them even shuffled along their seats, away from her as if she were diseased in some way.
I approached the bar, and ordered our drinks from a middle aged barmaid (yes, a woman - they had no problems with women in there to serve!) The lady in question was frowning just about as much as I imagined the old chaps at the tables behind me were, and I suspected she didn't approve as she tutted audibly when I asked for my pint of bitter and Anita's Cherry B (that wasn't her usual tipple, but we wanted to order something we were certain wouldn't be on the shelves in that bar - like I said, we were stroppy teenagers.)
She pulled my pint, then still tutting and grumbling she went off into the other room, the saloon bar, and returned with the required bottle and a glass to pour it into, (the public bar being only equipped with pint pots, half pint glasses and short glasses.) As she approached me at the bar, she glanced over her shoulder; I looked in the same direction to see the landlord standing half framed in the doorway.
I feared at first that we may have a problem then, because though Anita was 18, I was still almost three months short of reaching my own majority. I knew the landlord from the occasional visits I'd made to that pub in the past though and at nearly 18, I admit I did look quite a bit older than my age. It wasn't as common in those days to have your id checked in pubs, probably because hardly anyone carried adequate id then, (remember that this is in the days before photographs on driving licences.)
I nodded toward the landlord and caught his eye. I half smiled as if to dare him to object to us being there, but he just nodded back, and the transaction between the barmaid and I was completed. I returned to the table and sat with Anita and we began to enjoy our drinks, though it was so uncomfortable, we were hardly savouring the occasion.
I glanced from side to side to see that the other five or six men in there, all much older than me, were staring right at me, though they seemed to be deliberately avoiding looking anywhere toward Anita, so much so that when I looked back at any particular one of them, they'd frown at me; that amused me and when Anita saw me grinning, she'd look toward the old chap in question and he'd immediately look away as though he feared she had a gorgon's gaze or something.
Then the grumbling started. At first it was just a hardly audible muttering, but then one of the old blokes went to the bar to refresh his drink and he said something to the barmaid, who replied in quite a loud voice "He should be bloody well ashamed of himself bringing a woman in here." I looked at Anita as I heard that. She didn't react, so I presume she hadn't heard what was said, (or I'm sure she'd have been ready to speak up and defend both my honour and her own.)
She stayed quiet, so I did too. When we didn't react, the grumbling became more obvious with remarks like "I don't know why they don't just bugger off into t'other room" and "I come drinking in 'ere to avoid bloody women" amongst them.
Just as I was about to tell them that I didn't care at all about what they felt, the door opened and in walked another man. This guy was big, and he was bald, (his head was shaved, probably to enable people to see the tattoos on his scalp) and he was built like a rugby player, a professional wrestler and a weight lifter all rolled into one.
He looked around the pub, and then straight at us. He then walked across to the bar, where the barmaid already had his drink waiting for him. He turned and leaned on the bar and I could feel his eyes burning into the back of my neck (I was right, Anita told me later that he was staring and scowling right at us both.)
The old men in there sat up straight and seemed to puff themselves up a bit now. Now their grumblings were less to each other and more directly toward us. They seemed to have a new found confidence and bravery since this man mountain had walked in.
In the end, I'd had enough so when one particularly aggressive old git said to me "Just piss off will you. You're not welcome here," I replied "I don't care. We've bought our drinks here and we're both going to drink them here."
At that point, the big guy at the bar shouted: "Oy!" which seemed to strike silence into the room, and I must admit, put the fear of god into me. Then he continued: "Shut the fuck up you old farts and let them enjoy their drinks in peace. It's the fucking law now, so live with it!"