Kevin Barry's story 'Beer Trip to Llandudno' is available as a free e-book at the moment and is strongly recommended. From his new collection Dark Lies the Island, it deservedly won the recent Sunday Times Short Story Award.
'It was a pig of a day, as hot as we'd had, and we were down to our T-shirts taking off from Lime Street. This was a sight to behold - we were all of us biggish lads.' The 'lads' are men of a certain age and certainly larger than 'biggish', six members of a Real Ale Club July day outing from Liverpool to North Wales.
Barry's perfect control of tone is maintained throughout the story, as the narrator tells the story of the mates' expedition, a beer trip that gradually becomes a journey into their vulnerabilities. The deliberate predictabilities of those opening sentences, and the comfortable roles the 'lads' have settled into during their years of camaraderie, gradually give way to the touching, sometimes sad, truths of their lives. But in the end what they have most of all is each other, the repeated 'we' of that opening.
This is an impressive and very enjoyable story - funny, tender and perfectly structured.