Thursday, November 24, 2005

Philistine gets foothold

A couple of posts ago I brazenly referred to the establishment where I work as ‘my pub’. It is not strictly true that the pub is mine. In fact, it absolutely isn’t. A disagreement over an executive decision was once resolved by a face-off in which my opponent, unable or unwilling to tackle me on the level of abstract reasoning, stooped to the level of plain-as-mud fact and screeched ‘look, I own the pub’. Well, why didn’t you say so earlier? My carefully constructed line of thought based on sound experience would’ve collapsed immediately.

Yes, the true owner is that sleek leather jacketed 50-something who rolls up from time to time in semi-crashed 4x4s, drifts behind the bar where I am busy serving, bantering with customers, and generally helping to leach their hard-earned cash, and then blankly says things like, and I quote: ‘oh, what are you doing here?’ Yep, me again, behind your bar. Clearly six years continuous presence is not quite long enough to have established who I am and what exactly I do. God help the dozens of ephemeral washer-uppers and kitchen helpers. I dread the day that I am ordered to set the dogs on them as suspected intruders.

Well, when I am working there, if I can’t technically own the place, I do like to think that I am at least ‘borrowing’ it for the duration of my shift. I think it’s good if there’s someone working there who feels responsible for a smooth ship. Making sure the building doesn’t burn down. That we don’t accidentally start pumping out hardcore ‘house’ music to a bar full of over-60s. Paying attention to those little details, you know. ‘Cos no matter how much I want him to add smoothness and ship-shapeliness to proceedings, I can see by now that’s outside the remit of our current manager.

As with any form of borrowing, beggars can’t be chosers. But like most of the beggars I’ve encountered - and through volunteering last year, I can promise you I’ve encountered 600 of ‘em in one building - I reserve the right to make crass, impotent complaints.

I was talking about little details, so what started all this? Well, in my pub we now have these little cardboard advert thingies scattered across the tables, promoting the delights of such traditional favourites as ‘WKD Blue’, ‘Smirnoff Ice’ and whatever the other teenshit is that people are drinking these days. The mad thing is that we don’t even sell these hangovers-in-a-bottle, unless the other barstaff are in conspiracy and unlocking a hidden stash when I’m not there. Or our manager could be moronic, but I wouldn’t like to say. But for the love of old English oak beams and large dogs of ambiguous breed laying by open hearth fireplaces! Call me adverse to change but I can’t see the advantage in having ads which are (a) ugly (b) for booze you’d have to go to another pub to purchase and (c) which drag our interior décor down to the level of such McPubs. Come on, this is a 17th century tavern we’re running here! The next time you’re at your local ye olde inn, take a shredder.

OK, I’ll give it a rest for the moment.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I just looked at the visitor counter and was surprised - I know it sounds stupid - to realise that a few people have actually looked at this site. I'm sorry. I hadn't really imagined that happening. It was just theory. I hope it hasn't been too wanky self-indulgent so far. Feel a little worried now, but I don't really know why. Maybe it's normal for rookie bloggers?

Going Solo

I know it’s nice to have space to yourself. I know it’s refreshing to enjoy certain moments and places without the potential distraction, danger, annoyance, funniness, fussiness, deviance or arrogance of your fellow man.

I have, even with my relatively limited experience of the world, known, just for example, the pleasures of reaching a mountain top. Alone. And being there at the peak. Reveling in the nooneness.

In the days before it became a fortress, I was left by myself briefly to luxuriate in the House of Commons, as my tour group wended its way through the Palace, minus one wistful tourist. And noone minded.

Staying up all night to help a friend doing a Uni project, filming London’s abandoned landmarks and tourist hotspots. I wandered off for a moment. I loved the loneliness.

Situations with noone to bother, and noone to be bothered , are perfection.

One thing, though: don’t even think about doing that in my pub. Yes, you may be pretty awestruck at nearly-closing-time when we might be practically empty. Yes, you are the last customer. You didn’t need to ask me, just take a good look round.

I’m the one sitting at the bar fidgeting with a large bunch of lock-you-out keys. Did I mention arrogance? Well yes, here I am. Yes, you can finish your drink. No, I’m not serving you another.

Go home to your family, please. Go climbing and be awestruck in the mountains – they’re outside. Toddle off into the unlit country lanes. Leave me. Alone.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Endless opportunities for busy-body nosiness... one of the things I like about bar work: every shift, hundreds of little human interactions play out for my delectation, like performance art with the bar as my personal theatre. Another thing I like is when we, the staff, ‘spot something’. On this particular occasion, a girl had been spotted, and muttering was going on amongst the kitchen staff. The unattractive Dessert-maker Boy was blushing. Malevolent Female Cook’s malevolent eyes searched the crowd of punters.
Rumour filtered through to us, the bar staff.
‘I didn’t even know he ever had a girlfriend!’
‘What, him?’
‘Apparently that’s her over by the fireplace.’
That thing?'
‘Ex-girlfriend it turns out.’
‘Which way is she facing?’
‘Don’t turn around right now’
sort of thing. We’re a sympathetic bunch, really.
Seizing a quiet moment I stalk out from the bar under the pretence of glass collecting. So far, so good. Punters must’ve shifted round a bit - can’t match the description to anyone. ‘Any empty girlfrie... err, glasses?’ goes my internal monologue. Suddenly, a tap on my shoulder. Angry middle-aged mother woman faces me.
‘Yes, THIS,’ she jabs at daughter, ‘is Dessert-maker Boy’s ex-girlfriend, have a good look now!’
In a dreamlike flash the scenario plays through my head where I actually do have a good look and award her marks out of 10 because I’m a cheeky devilette like that. (2, by the way). But then I might not still be here to write this now. Thank the gods for self-preservation - but damn them for psychic customers.