Holding screwdrivers and conversations: the art of being the Compleat Taverner. Part Two: the Bard is barred.

I don’t suppose many of the cultured folk pictured above were chatting about the works of old Will as they sipped their nips of Courage Russian Imperial Stout with rum & pep chaser (fourpence three farthings) down the local. Even less so about the little known Henry IV Part One (unless they’d sat through it, in which case they would be discussing how much they could get for their tickets to Part Two on e-bay, or how it was at least better than watching repeats of ‘Goldenballs’ with Jasper Carrot). They might be worrying that it could be the worst sequel since ‘Speed 2: Cruise Control’. But they should have been indulging in Shakespeak – read on, from Act 2, Scene 1 (best done in an internal monologue with a Somerset accent, I find):

Second carrier: Peas and beans here as a dog and that is the best way to give poor jades the bots. This house is turned upside down since Robin ostler died.

First carrier: Poor fellow never joyed since the price of oats rose. It was the death of him.

Second carrier: I think this must be the most villainous house in all London Road for fleas. I am stung like a tench.

First carrier: Like a tench? By the Mass, there is ne’er a king christen could be better bit than I have been since the first cock.

Second carrier: Why, they will allow us ne’er a jordan and then when we leak in your chimney and your chamber-lye breeds fleas like a roach.

Brief translation of the last bit: They don’t even give us a bathroom. So, we pee in the fireplace and you know that urine breeds fleas like mad.

What we have here is a 16th Century TripAdvisor review:  The food here is rank since the new people took over*. The rooms are not cleaned properly and there are no en-suite facilities**.

*note that the old landlord died of the stress caused by rising wholesale prices.

** Management response:

Dear Second Carrier,

We are sorry that you were not informed that our cheapest room (because that is what you asked for) does not have en-suite facilities but that hardly gives you an excuse to piss in the fireplace……..


A landlord develops some peculiar skills, many of which are akin to a doctor’s bedside manner.  A good landlord can serve three people at once whilst calculating separate sums in his head (even though this one wasn’t allowed to take GCSE Maths) and remembering that when these three people are served, the people on table 8 want a dog bowl with no leaves in it and the little boy on table 15 needs a yellow straw next time but he can only have it if he stops running at the new waitress, who is nervously tilting a plate of hot gravy en route to table 10.

A good landlord can see three people at a distance of 100 metres and, by the time they’ve arrived and shaken the mud from their boots, have poured an apple and mango J2O with one ice cube, a pint of Diet Coke (no ice, green straw) and a large sauvignon blanc “to help me cope with my teetotal family”. He can remember who ‘hasn’t been in’ if anyone asks and what stage each currently divorcing customer is at with their current divorce, as well as how it compares to the last one. He can fix leaks and valves and things he didn’t know existed not that long ago and, while he is lying in the cellar in near-frozen fluid that he hopes is just water, dictate his weekly wine order into his mobile without consulting any notes.

Even though he went to bed at 3am a little worse for wear and having brought all the furniture back in (having taken it out earlier for the band he had on) he is not flummoxed by orders for ten hot chocolates with whipped cream and marshmallows at 1pm on a Sunday lunchtime despite the shortage of mugs brought on by the pot washer’s hangover-induced go-slow, nor by the people who ring up at that time to book a table for two on a Tuesday evening three months hence and not only want to know what the pescatarian options on the menu will be that night but also want to tell you that the person they are coming with is their ‘friend’ from Canada who they went to school with when they were five and they haven’t seen for thirty-three years. They speak without punctuation. He is flattered that his Bloody Marys are so bloody good that he is making eight of them immediately after the hot chocolates, although he wishes the group hadn’t all ordered them on the basis of, “That looks good, I’ll have one of those”, or at least that they’d all noticed how good they looked at the same time. The most positive thought he can come up with is, “At least it’s not Mother’s Day”.

Occasionally, when someone says they have been “waiting over an hour” (more like ten minutes, although it seems like an hour because they hate being with their unsmiling relatives but still want a chance of being kept in the will), he is given to outbursts like, “Well, we’re not exactly sitting on our arses” or, “I can send the food out raw if you’d prefer”.  Once when returning from the cellar, he was faced with a choice of two men at the bar. He served the first with two simple, speedy drinks. The second then said, “I was first actually”. The landlord replied, “Well, nobody fucking died, did they?” and the stupid fat bastard never complained or came back again. When he is short-handed, he really appreciates people telling him that he should have more staff on and is pleased that they are intelligent enough to realise that he is working at life-shortening pace out of choice.

The landlord must not mention the fact that the vicar was doing tequila shots after closing when she comes in with the bishop the next day. The landlord must not tell the agency chef that he is a cretin because it is 12 noon and soon some people will want to eat the cretin’s food without risk of him gobbing in it or simply walking out.

The landlord must graciously respond to Tripadvisor reviews, even from the idiots who think that it’s your fault that their taxi was late or that they got lost trying to find their way back from a gig, so they slept on their friend’s sofa yet you still charged them for their room (which they’d been playing hide the sausage in all afternoon). I have massively failed in this respect and I recommend everyone to read the responses by the Corner House in Winchester, who manage to raise their middle finger whilst giving a charming smile. The worst reviews begin, “We have been coming here every month for nine years and it is usually excellent but today…..”. These people will give a ‘Terrible’ rating yet have never considered writing a review about the 108 experiences which were so good that they came back again and again. Note: I only ever write good reviews; if it’s bad, I’m not going back and someone else may have completely different expectations to me, so what’s the point? We are all individuals (“I’m not”).

After all this has been said, I want to tell you one more thing: I bloody love Sunday lunchtimes. Fact.

#pubs #village pub #hospitalitylife #barstaffproblems #customerserviceproblems #beerlovers

2 thoughts on “Holding screwdrivers and conversations: the art of being the Compleat Taverner. Part Two: the Bard is barred.”

  1. I have worked in retail/customer service/food service for 35 years. You’ve put on paper every internal conversation I’ve ever had. Love your style and sarcastic undercurrent 😉 Excellent read Barkeep!


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