Holding Screwdrivers and Conversations: the art of being the Compleat Taverner. Christmas Special: Bar Humbug

Image result for pub christmas 1930s

What is the etymology of Boxing Day? Before I had a pub, I believed the view that it was the day you gave your servants their Christmas Box and let them have the day off, although it should be noted that my servants appear to have had the last sixty years off. Perhaps I should have been more generous on my first Christmas but hey, times were hard – rationing hadn’t long ended and we still had a tin bath. Anyway, after I had a pub, I realised that Boxing Day is so-called because it inflames pugilistic tendencies in landlords.

Comedy icon, practising Catholic and recovering alcoholic Frank Skinner was once asked how he felt about all those once a year churchgoers. Far worse, he said, were the once a year pub goers who crowd round the bar leaving the alcoholics feeling desperate at the back.

For most pubs, Boxing Day is the busiest day of the year. So, if you love your local, or even if you say you love your local but only go there once a year on this very day, please try and avoid the following if you want to rid your landlord of the demons in his head, wherein a phantom bell rings, he puts his gloves on, leaps over the counter and knocks you to the canvas.

  1. Yesterday was Christmas Day

And little Noah got a new bike. He is understandably pleased with his bright yellow Bridgford Tornado 24” Alloy and it is pouring with rain outside. No doubt he doesn’t want to get it wet but could you please not let him ride it in ever decreasing circles in the bar area, which is as busy as it is likely to be at any time in the next twelve months ie people are queuing at the door, looking through the window at a ten year old pretending he’s on a silent Wall of Death. Please don’t let me have to tell him to stop and then look at me like I am a bad person. You are a parent and even though your nanny has gone home to Poland for Christmas, she must have left you some instructions on what children are like. No? Some people are just inconsiderate. Why not buy a My Little Pony abattoir and glue making set next year. Goodwill to all men is SO yesterday.

  1. Plan ahead

If you are taking your extended family on a lovely country walk along paths that would remind your great-grandad of Ypres without the shellfire, not only would I request that your remove your boots before entering, it would also be useful for you to have changed your socks this week. Surely you got some new ones for Christmas? Or do you just want to get the most out of the old ones. More importantly, as there are fifteen of you and a twin buggy, don’t ring me up at five to one and ask if I have a table for fifteen in about ten minutes (preferably, don’t ring me at all today). I haven’t got a table. I haven’t even got a chair. Even more importantly, don’t then say, “Well, what are we going to do? We’re nearly there now.” You are the sort of person who thought the Charge of the Light Brigade or the invasion of Iraq were well planned. I am all for spontaneity (I bought a pub on the spur of the moment for God’s sake) but sometimes “we’ll decide when we get there” doesn’t work for the best.

  1. You are not alone 1

You are not only part of a large party of people, you are part of a large party of people in a pub full of large parties of people. Many of them are crammed at the bar frantically waving crisp Hawaii five-oh notes. When you have advanced to the bar, it would so help if you know what you want, rather than bellowing across the pub to Rob, who is deep in conversation with Liz and cannot hear you the first three times until Virginia taps his knee to attract his attention.

– Rob, what are you having?

– Some beer. What bitters have they got?

– Snot’s Old Bollocks, Farty Faggots, Aunte Lil’s Bloomers and Dead Tramp’s Ashes.

– I don’t know any of those. Have they got Doombar?

 (shake of my head)

– I’ll just have a Heineken then.

– Pint or half?

– Half. No, no I’ll have a pint. No, make it a half.

– Pint of Heineken please. Erica. Erica. Erica, what would you like? Erica? Charles, find  out what Erica wants, will you?

It is bad enough that you asked for the generic, corporately brewed Doombar, because it reminds you of holidays in Cornwall, although it’s now brewed by a faceless Canadian conglomerate. Frankly,  it could have been worse; once someone asked for a pint of Friary Meux and that hasn’t been brewed since 1991 (it tasted like piss then, so god only knows what the discerning palates of ale loving hipsters would make of it today). I know you only come to the pub once a year and now you will bask in the glow of your f & f telling you how lucky you are to have such a great local but next Boxing Day, could you just try to remember that everyone is going to have a drink? That’s the idea. And I would even forgive you if two of them were Earl Grey or hot chocolate, if you could have found that out before you got to the front of the baying mob. Why haven’t they lynched you yet? Maybe they are waiting until I am serving the next person and you came back and ask what crisps we have and then order plain.

  1. How long will our food take?

How long is a piece of string, mate? As you can see, we are very busy, there are already sixty people waiting, there are another sixty booked who haven’t arrived yet. ‘Will it be quicker if we just have a sandwich?’ Why do people think that? There are three humans in the kitchen; each human has two arms with a hand on each end (one of them has six fingers on one hand because his family have never left the village but the extra digit doesn’t speed things up). Your check will go in the queue with everyone else’s; we will not bump you up the queue because you are spending less money than the ten people who are having roast pheasant. Please don’t complain if you wait for an hour – just try to enjoy the company of your family. Pretend they’re someone else and you actually like them. I guarantee that if you came in the pub more than once a year –  any weekday night from now until the clocks go forward, for example – you would get served much, much quicker. How long will your food be? How long does it take to dig half a hole? Don’t forget to leave a terrible review now – emphasizing that you ‘live in the village’-although none of us have ever seen you before in our lives.

  1. You are not alone 2

Just to add to the fun, I sometimes put a bit of music on – Mike tinkling the piano or Jim singing a bit of RnB (proper RnB that is, not something that sounds like the Stylistics doing hip-hop with a drum machine). Most of the customers seem to like it, something you might notice if you weren’t obsessed with yourself. If you don’t like it, just shut up. Do not say:

– I don’t like that. How much longer is it going on?

– It’s a bit Butlins, isn’t it?

– Does he have to use a microphone?

– Could you get him to stop now? Our friends are German and they are having trouble understanding what we are saying.

Have a great day everyone. I’ve got my first Christmas off in a decade, so I will be merry in many ways. Big shout out to every landlord, bar person, waiter, chef and kitchen porter who are working any day between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

#pubs #Christmas Day #BoxingDay #villagepub #hospitalitylife #barstaffproblems # customerserviceproblems # beerlover

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