The story opens on the evening of the D–Day invasion, with The Quarryman’s Arms filled with patrons who have come to hear Winston Churchill’s radio broadcast. Sarah, the story’s protagonist, pulls pints behind the lounge bar while Jack Jones, the pub’s owner, tends the public bar. The pub has the tallest aerial for miles around, and for this reason it enjoys a large clientele. At Jack’s urging, Sarah steps onto a crate to warm up the wireless.
The crowd in the lounge bar consists mainly of English soldiers. A regular, Harry Hitch, asks for his ‘‘usual.’’ Most of the soldiers are ‘‘sappers,’’ military men on a work detail. One in particular, Colin, has caught Sarah’s eye. Unbeknownst to friends and family, much less the patrons in the bar, Sarah and Colin have been ‘‘sweethearts’’ for the past week. They have agreed to meet when Sarah gets off from work. As Sarah hears Churchill’s speech, she thinks of the men doing battle on Omaha Beach, and she feels proud to be of service to the men in uniform who have come to the pub.
Once Churchill’s speech ends, Sarah turns the radio to a broadcast featuring dance music from the Savoy in London, and she sees that the patrons are clapping one another on the back and smiling at the soldiers, including the locals. The men have been transformed into heroes through the actions of their countrymen far away. Colin seems even more handsome—‘‘like the lobby card of a film star’’— now that Sarah views him in this new light.
As Sarah pours pint after pint for her customers in the lounge bar, she notices that the patrons in the public bar have begun to file out. She sees her father, Arthur, among the men, and she wonders if they are leaving because they must rise early and tend to their work on their farms or if they are leaving because they feel out of place in the midst of the British soldiers’ celebration. She would like to buy her father a pint, but she knows that he is much too proud for that. Their relationship has changed since her mother’s death three years ago, for Sarah is now in charge of keeping the farm’s books, a responsibility her father entrusted to her once she obtained a job at the pub. Sarah is sad to see the men go, but she knows that their absence decreases her chances of being seen with Colin when they rendezvous after hours.
The pub is filled with soldiers and diehards now, and Sarah observes that for once the talk isn’t about politics. The village is nationalistic in its views toward the British, and Sarah thinks it is ‘‘like so much tosh’’ that disputes are still being fought with as much fervor as they were when they first arose more than forty years ago. The majority view in the village is that the war is an English war and, therefore, one that does not concern the Welsh. The Welsh still consider the English to be ‘‘occupiers,’’ but Churchill’s rousing broadcast has temporarily put an end to such divisiveness, yet a palpable tension between English and Welsh patrons still exists within the pub.
On this night when the air is charged with patriotism, Sarah, though she is proud to be Welsh, wishes she could be British. Her father, a ‘‘staunch nationalist,’’ would never entertain such a thought, for he has never forgiven Churchill for the riots that occurred at Tonypandy. Sarah knows that nationalism and provincialism go hand in hand, yet she suspects that at the heart of every nationalistic argument is the desire ‘‘[t]o be important, to be the center of attention, not isolated.’’ She feels excited because the soldiers and the broadcast crew from the BBC Light Program are coming to her, thus eliminating her own sense of isolation.
The sappers are building a mysterious base located on the site of an old holiday camp. Boys from the village spy on the camp, descending from the trees at dusk to explore the buildings while pretending to be commandos. Speculation about who will occupy the base runs rife throughout the village, but Jack hopes that the Yanks will come because they spend the most money. The villagers hope to see film stars like James Stewart or Tyrone Power pass through on their way to East Anglia, but, as is so often the case, they must settle for ‘‘gangly, freckle-faced farm boys’’ instead. One such boy, a tail-gunner from ‘‘Kentuck,’’ presents Sarah with a gift of a torn parachute which contains enough silk for a petticoat and two slips. When Sarah tries to politely return the gift, the tail-gunner insists that she keep it, saying, ‘‘Why, you’re what we’re fighting for!’’
As Sarah watches Colin talking to one of his fellow soldiers, she wonders if Colin will give her a gift to remember him by. She thinks that she could get him to tell her about who the camp is for, but she reconsiders, realizing that it would be ‘‘unpatriotic’’ and ‘‘disloyal to Britain.’’ More important, such an act would be disloyal to Wales. She wouldn’t want to give the British an excuse to call the Welsh unpatriotic. ‘‘Only the Welsh, it occurs to her, are allowed to declare themselves that.’’ Sarah continues to speculate about the new camp, especially since Colin told her that the work is almost...
(The entire section is 2149 words.)