Holding Screwdrivers and Conversations: the art of being a Compleat Landlord. #6: Some interesting ‘characters’.

Image result for images pub charactersAll pubs have their share of characters. Did I have more than most? Yes, I really think I did. You can judge; here are a few of the minor ones:


We never become accustomed to meaning less to people than they do to us but the circumstances of that most normal of human behavioural traits were unclear when it came to Gerard. Gerard Algernon Mannheim de Kriek was as big a character as his name suggests. From a South African mining family, he had been a fashion designer in the swinging London of his youth and knew many famous names from that era, notching up an impressive list of funeral attendances. An obituary of his own later life would begin like this:

Gerard Algernon Mannheim de Kriek married his fourth wife in 1981 by which time his cocaine and alcohol addictions were well advanced. Insatiably bisexual and with an almost limitless capability for spending more than he earned (imminent bankruptcy being constantly delayed by his myriad excuses for postponing payment), Gerard first came to my attention when he arrived at the pub with his 101-year-old mother in a Rolls-Royce with French diplomatic plates that he claimed to have won in a poker game. Having ordered the most expensive wine and copious amounts of food, Gerard suddenly remembered that he had to be somewhere else, left a £40 tip for the staff and told them to eat his food. He took the wine with him and was swigging it from the bottle as he drove up the road. He didn’t actually pay for the food or wine and always ran an unagreed credit tab which worked on this premise (which I understand is pretty much the way he paid his children’s school fees, too):

  • Dear boy, I haven’t been in for so long. I’ve been at the house in Provence. You must come as my guest. Now, can I have two bottles of Chablis and one of Chateauneuf du Pape.

His daughter interjects that he doesn’t need any more wine. I respond.

  • Gerard, you haven’t been in Provence. You’ve been in prison again for drink-driving while disqualified and supplying Class A drugs.
  • That’s an outrageous lie.
  • No, it isn’t. It’s in the paper – look there, on the notice board. With your tab.

He doesn’t bother looking.

  • So can I have a little drinky-wink now?

His son interjects that he doesn’t need any more wine (part two).

  • Only when you settle your tab from six months ago, Gerard.
  • Have I got a tab? I totally forgot. How much is it?
  • £93.20.
  • You didn’t even look it up.
  • Not many people get away with owing me a hundred quid for half a year, so I know.
  • I haven’t got any money on me.
  • Well, you can’t have a drink until you have.

His other son interjects that he doesn’t need any more wine (part three).

  • That’s most unfair. I’m not like normal people. I don’t have a salary, I just buy and sell property. And I can’t go home because the gypsies are waiting for me because they tricked me into relaying my drive and they want £2400 and they’ll kill me. They even told the police they’d burn the house down and the police just laughed.
  • They were probably pleased with the thought of getting rid of you and amused at the effect your pot plantations would have on the local spinster populace as they went up in smoke, so hard luck.
  • I can pay you in coke.
  • What?
  • I’ve got two big bags of coke in the car, you can have those.
  • I don’t want your filthy coke; I don’t use it. I want cash.

Someone relents and buys Gerard a glass of wine. It’s just a top-up to a day of drinking that began when he burst into one of his tenant’s flats at 9am with a bottle of Champagne and suggestions of swinging, or at least free tickets for the sex parties he runs at another dilapidated mansion. He sees a young man enter the toilet and follows. The next thing, the lad is at the bar complaining about the “pervy old posh bloke” who has been propositioning him in the toilet.

  • Gerard, you have to leave now.
  • Well, I’m taking my glass of wine with me.
  • If you take your glass with you, I will consider it theft and you will be barred.
  • That would be a great pity …

He slides down the wall and leaves but not before taking a bite from a half-eaten burger that a waitress is carrying past on a pile of plates. He is hoping for a lift home, but “my son’s fucking useless, I bought him a Lambo for his 18th and he’s 25 now but he’s still not had a driving lesson.” Note to self – look out for very low mileage Lambo.

Gerard’ fourth wife is often in the pub with her first husband and his coke-addled third wife and Italian prostitute mistress; her second husband and his fifth wife (who is younger than his grand-daughter and was actually at the same university the year below her) and some children that no-one can remember which wife gave birth to. Some nights the Italian mistress storms off in her white leather mini-skirt and thigh high boots into the muddy night, complaining that Gerard has been trying to simulate sex with her at the dinner table or followed her into the ladies and exposed himself.

Other nights, it’s much more entertaining.


Tamsin Pilkington-Glass

Is your coffee ice cream de-caff? It’s the sort of question that belongs in a sitcom. Or, what vegan desserts do you have today and are they gluten-free? You say none in the hope that these people won’t come but some of them do…again and again and again. Sometimes they bring their hairdresser, who they pay to come down from Chelsea, but usually it’s mums from their middle son’s prep school with their Hermes handbags, five holidays a year (three in Mauritius) and terrible tales of quinoa shortages in Waitrose.  There are more 4x4s in the car park than on an expedition in the Sahara. The Surrey definition of poverty is having to share a pony with your sister. Tamsin still thought she was poor as she chose her £2 million ‘downsize’ retirement place on the south coast which to most people looked like a medium sized hotel. Which was odd because she often claimed to just need “a small house in the country”. She also thought she was fat when she had less curves than a Saudi motorway. Once, when a comedian asked her, “What do you do?”, she answered with total honesty and not a hint of irony. “Nothing,” she said.

With great wealth comes great responsibility and Tamsin’s particular responsibility was making sure that she chose exactly the right thing from the menu and the wine list. If you visit somewhere on a weekly basis and you have read the wine list inside out on every visit, you would expect to have a favourite wine. But Tamsin had to try at least three wines every week because she couldn’t remember what they tasted like or which ones she liked best. Even if we told her which one she liked, she would decide that it didn’t taste the same as last week (even though it was Pinot Grigio and therefore tasted of nothing). Her ever exasperated, miserable and short-tempered banker husband and silently autistic son would sit in increasingly hungry amazement as she failed to decide……on anything. Which table to sit at, which chair to sit at at that table, whether to change table, whether to keep her cardigan on, whether to have ice, whether to have a starter and what to alter on the chef’s carefully prepared and costed dishes. Her whole life had become a celebration of procrastination with a smattering of imagined allergies and calorie counting that specifically excluded intake of wine. Her eating technique largely consisted of pushing rocket leaves around a plate with a fork while discussing other non-meals:

  • What do you have for breakfast?
  • Well, I used to have dried banana and muesli with nuts on but nuts can be quite bad for you if you get the portion wrong.

This was Tamsin’s peak in the kitchen department but with an au pair, two nannies and a cook, there really isn’t too much to think about.




Brainard Wilder

is a lecherous old man with a habit of masturbating in front of elderly cleaners. There are odd rumours of incest surrounding his family and they act very strangely together. His daughter was, after all, born to B Wilder. Some people simply call him Brainard the Rapist, with the disturbing disclaimer, “He’s definitely been questioned but probably never charged.” He has an explosive temper fuelled by drink which he puts down to his disability, although his disability often disappears when he forgets to limp or use his stick, such as on the occasion his conker was knocked from his hand in the 2009 Conker Final and he ran across the room to retrieve it like a modern-day Lazarus. He can talk at length on any subject without any knowledge of it whatsoever – “If the Japs hadn’t dropped the atom bomb on Pearl Harbour, America would never have entered the war” or, “Ben Elton definitely wrote “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Brainard has done everything – Olympic high-diver (seems to be no record of you, Brainard), Swinging Sixties London hairdresser (can’t find you in even the most minor biographies, Brainard), Michelin-starred restauranteur (have looked through all the old guides, Brainard. Where are you?). Even in a pre-Trump world, Brainard wouldn’t let facts or lack of evidence get in the way of a good story. Now he runs a furniture warehouse and wears a scarf. Every month he says that sales are up 163% on last year and he’s looking to buy such-and-such a farmhouse that is on with Savill’s at £4.65m but he forgets that the pub has a resident, diminutive private detective (Inch High Private Eye) who keeps us updated on Brainard’s regular stream of CCJ’s, impending and past bankruptcies. He lives in a rented corrugated shack and pays 20% IDLY (I Don’t Like You) Tax on every purchase.


We’ll move onto some of the bigger players next time……….

#pubs #villagepub #hosptalitylife #barstaffproblems #customerserviceproblems #beerlovers

Holding Screwdrivers and Conversations: the art of being a Compleat Landlord. No.5 – Chefs

Related image


There was a time when we weren’t busy enough to have a second chef. Then there was a time when we realised that no matter how busy you were, you didn’t really want one. The relationship problems, the scattered children, the substance abuse, the prima donna antics, the petty theft, the chip on the shoulder that comes from being transient, 30-40 and never being good enough to wear the tall hat. We’ve had chefs who have lasted such a short time that we don’t even remember their names. Indeed, we’ve appointed chefs who have never turned up but we didn’t know that was going to happen until the night before – ‘My mother in Spain has been taken ill’, ‘My wife doesn’t want me to work week-ends’. Why did she marry a chef then?

No-one can remember the name of the South African chef who left Jersey to work for us at the end of the summer season. His two referees agreed that he was a good chef and said little else. His French partner was to work front of house. In Skype interviews they had seemed sensible and reliable but when they arrived from the night ferry into Weymouth, he was a very different character. He wasn’t just in your face as so much of all over your head, a constant steam of rapid-fire bullshit spewing from his mouth. Speed or coke were our first guesses. Oh well, nothing new there – we had a chef once who said that it was the drugs that attracted him to the job in the first place – so we sent them to their room to recover and start the following morning but only one turned up. Guess which one.

– E can’t come to work today, e doesn’t feel zo good from ze boat crossing.

It’s not a great start. When the girlfriend finishes work, she goes to Tesco to get him ‘something to eat’. The plastic bags strain under the weight of angular shapes within.

Sunday begins the same. At the end of a busy service, it’s time to make some calls to the Channel Islands.

-Hi, you gave me a reference for a chef named (can’t remember). You said he was a good chef.

-Yes, he is.

-Is there anything you didn’t tell me.

Long Pause.

-He drinks……..and when he drinks, he doesn’t turn up for work.

-So, he’s a good chef if he turns up for work.

-Yes, that’s about it.

-And how often does that happen?

-A couple of times a week.

For some reason I made a second call. This time I spoke to the Head Chef. It’s a reference I will never forget.

– Well, Mondays and Tuesdays he has a bad ankle, Wednesday and Thursdays are his days off, Friday and Saturday he has a stomach ache and when he turns up on Sunday he isn’t much good.

When I fired him on the Monday (before he had actually started) he asked for his boat fare from Jersey. I’ll leave you to guess if I gave it to him.

We are setting our standards too high. Perhaps Hungarian Stan would be better but he too cannot complete a full week without ailments or injuries. He has also stolen one of the waitress’ bicycles, although he denies it. Finally, he is allowed to run the kitchen alone on a quiet winter Tuesday. We call from a night out to check if this potentially fragile arrangement is working. Isabelle answers.

– Hi Issy, how’s it going?

-Not very well. Six ladies came in and ordered dinner and when I went to the kitchen it was in darkness; Stan had locked up and left. They come in quite often and they weren’t very happy.

Another phone call.

-Stan, I hear you locked up and went home at twenty-five past eight.

-It was very quiet. Anyway, it was twenty-eight minutes past eight.

-What the fuck? (rhetorical question) You’re fired.

-That’s so unfair.

I’d like to say we never heard from Stan again but it’s not true. He came back the next day purely to spit at my wife and call me “bitch”, a nickname it took me a long time to live down, as if I was a cross between Al Murray and Joan Collins. All of the chefs we fired threatened us with tribunals but they never went there. We paid very few of them for their last week – or in some cases last month – of work. They shout a bit and threaten to ruin you but basically they just see it as an occupational hazard. Like Winston, who cycled off in a huff at 1pm on a Sunday lunchtime having kicked the shit out of the dishwasher because he was told it was not acceptable to defrost a crab in a kettle. Or Daryl, the archetypal loser who spent his spare time making false benefit claims, drinking cooking wine and robbing the safe of 10p coins in change bags and walked out on Christmas Eve. Or Lesley, who had a full-on catfight with her lesbian partner who had just discovered that her sexuality might be more fluid following a steamy encounter with a regular. A simple domestic, except it took place in full view and earshot of a guest’s wedding reception. Or Koens the Belgian, whose signature dish was chicken, cornflakes and Coca-Cola (“it tastes much better than it sounds”) (it didn’t) but whose real speciality was asking waitresses thirty years younger than himself if they wanted to go or a walk in the woods.

There was no-one however quite like Polish Stan. A tiny man, raised in a Polish army orphanage, he confided two important things at interview – he could work with anyone unless they shouted and he didn’t drink. Wow, a chef with no bad habits. Except a tendency to panic. To panic so much that when left alone, he would get the food out very quickly. Mainly because he had forgotten to cook it.

-This burger’s raw.

I resist the obvious Basil Fawlty response. You can forgive the odd mistake though and this was his first week. Monday of the second week wasn’t auspicious either and that was his day off. Anthony the Fraudster called in for an early evening pint.

-I’ve just seen your new chef, staggering down the middle of the road, pissed as a pudding. I nearly ran him over.

-But he doesn’t drink.

-Well, he was clutching a bottle of Absolut.

The mystery was solved moments later when the police arrived and poured Stan from the back of the car into the road. He simply wandered into the laundry shed and slept the night there. The next day he was acutely embarrassed.

-I am so sorry. I don’t drink but I met my girlfriend’s parents and I was so nervous I started drinking and it was a disaster. It will never happen again.

Okay, a one-off. But the following week when we returned from an evening out, a clearly lubricated Stan was there to meet us.

-We have problem in the kitchen. I need to talk you.

-Let’s talk about it tomorrow, Stan.

-No, I need to tal k now.

Julie could see I was irritated.

-I’ll deal with it, you go to bed.

Which I did. After half an hour, the discussions were continuing and the two voices were getting louder. I got up and dressed.

-Look, can we leave this until tomorrow now?

Stan indicated that he couldn’t. I shouted.


Stan hid behind a chair cowering and in the morning he was gone.

It’s good to have a French chef. They do know how to cook and the best of them will admit that British food is now far better than the sauce drenched throwback of haute cuisine. But you do have to cope with a lot of Gallic shrugging. We had several but Jean-Claude was particularly stereotypical – his idea of a good day off was to sit in a cafe in a black roll neck sweater with endless cups of coffee musing on his lot, only to come up with the same conclusion every week – “Life eez sheet”. Contributing to this equation were his working days when, “Zay all come at once” and order whatever he was short of. “Ow zay know?” he would scowl and follow up with the plaintive cry, “Where’s my spatula? J’ai perdu mon spatula”. “Are you French?”, one of the less bright waitresses once asked after four weeks in the job.

Of course, kitchen porters are on a different scale. Sometimes a little lacking academically or linguistically, or sometimes just young kids who think saying “My bad” forty-three times a day makes up for the forty-three service disrupting mistakes they have made. Managing them requires the skills of teacher, sergeant-major and zookeeper. Strangely, if they are truly passionate about food, they can go on to be kitchen greats and many well-known chefs have taken this route. Unfortunately however, most of them have taste buds that can just about distinguish a hot kebab from a cold kebab. We had one who didn’t know what a prawn was. Their main skill seems to be the ability to stop whatever they are doing to watch open-mouthed as the chef counts the cauliflowers in the latest veg delivery as if he is performing some sort of mathematical miracle. Most of them have lost him by the time he gets to six.

I only managed the kitchen for three weeks – it was always my wife’s job.  I managed the intelligent, motivated and relatively normal people who inhabit the front of house. Three weeks out of ten years when Julie was away. I was a broken man.

#pubs #villagepub #hospitalityindustry #chefs #kitchenporter #pubkitchen #beerlover








Holding screwdrivers and conversations: the art of being a Compleat Landlord. Episode 4: Greengrocer’s and their apostrophe’s?

Image result for greengrocer 1950s photos

It’s not just customers and staff that landlords have to deal with – it’s suppliers too. They’re a mixed bunch, from the faceless corporations who deliver 15 days late and then want to charge you £12 because you’re one day overdue with payment, to the little men: the butcher, the baker and the……greengrocer (candles are never an issue) with his myriad superfluou’s apostrophe’s. It’s not actually fair to single out one particular retailer for grammatical error’s – I’ve bought my share of pork lion chop’s; the fishmonger once sold me 2kg of Hadd Ox (he had just arrived from Bulgaria) and I’ve even seen a hand-written invoice from a wine merchant for two dozen Servant Mont Blanc (just assume the person is tee-total or new and ignore it).

Greengrocer’s are special though. Some of them have been at it for generation’s. My wife admit’s to being confused about where apostrophe’s belong because, as an avid and early reader, much of her grammar was learnt from shop sign’s (that and the fact that she’s from the north). Here’s something my greengrocer Alf said to me the other day. He didn’t breathe when he said it and he tells me something similar most days.

“I says to my missus I mean my ex-missus cos we’re not togevver anymore you can’t move to Cornwall coz I get up at one firty every day six days a week and then I gotta drive to fuckin St Ives to see my daughter and it’s not fair I know you don’t like me but it’s not fair on her and my new missus never gets to see me cos she‘s in Derby waiting for her divorce to come through and her and her old man just lived off credit cards and had all these fancy holidays but then they had ninety grand on credit cards with all that interest and I turned round and said to her if you wanna live like that you better find someone else cos mum and dad offered us a free pitch on their site and we could live in a caravan and all I’ve gotta do is buy the caravan and she turns rounds and says she don’t wanna do that she says I’m not living in in caravan and I turns round and says why not all you’d ave to pay for is your food and you’re in a sorry state if you can’t afford to eat I live by what cash I’ve got in my pocket and I ‘ad a Beamer on trial last weekend the dealer wanted forty five grand and I turns round and says I’ll give you forty cash and he said I can’t take that kinda cash and I said I don’t want it then ‘ere mate do us a favour can you pay me that thirty quid from yesterdays delivery cos im going out tonight? I don’t wanna keep working like this I turns round and says to my old man why don’t we sell up and live on the costa del sol and play golf all fuckin day and he turns round and says he don’t like that my old man but I don’t see the point what is the point you don’t have a life do you if all you do is fucking work and I’m gonna dump my missus anyway what I wanna know is how everyone in town knows my business I don’t like it they’re all talking about my personal life? It’s not right.”

He delivers that sort stream of consciousness as if it’s a free gift that comes with the order. It might as well be wrapped in a brown paper bag and be charged for by the bunch. The speed of delivery, lack of hesitation, political correctness and volume are all Olympian. Dizzying even. Even more dizzying than the fact that, in his conversations at least, no-one can say anything without “turning ‘round”. A party at his house must be like a Whirling Dervishes’ rehearsal session, with a peculiar rule that you can’t start a conversation with anyone until they’ve turned their back on you. Or perhaps they actually turn ‘round’, inflating like human balloons each time they speak.

I’d like to hear him do it on a shrink’s couch, with the tape spools running ever faster simply to keep up. I’ve reached the point of hiding in the attic when I see the van or even borrowing three carrots from a neighbour to avoid having a delivery. It’s not a conversation, it’s a Cockney monologue that would benefit from a few bits of rhyming and two chords from Chas ‘n’ Dave. He could write an Eastenders Christmas Special in fifteen minutes; chuck in a couple of discharges from a sawn-off and he’d knock off two series of the Sweeney in a week. He means well but don’t we all? Like when you ask after a customer’s husband to find he’s emptied the bank account and run off with the au pair – possibly not something she needed urgently reminding off.

There’s his van now. Must go, I saw two rogue wild potato plants in the back field. If I can dig up 5lb, I might not have to have a delivery tomorrow……

Holding screwdrivers and Conversations: the art of being a Compleat Landlord. Episode 3: how much of what the customer says is real?

Image result for old pub photos

They don’t look very convinced, do they?

As the Stylistics told us, first impressions are certainly lasting impressions but experience tells me that they are very rarely correct. A close friend of 20 years considered me ‘a cocky little gobshite’ on first acquaintance. It wouldn’t have worried me if I’d known because I thought he was ‘that boring, pompous accountant bloke’. As it happens, I couldn’t have been more wrong (although he was probably close to the truth, given that copious amounts of ale were no doubt involved). As a landlord, you learn that those people who enter the front door and immediately charm the staff and even begin to win over your own hardened, cynical view of humanity are the fraudsters, the fakes, the ex-cons and the Walter Mittys. Anthony and Loreen were those people.

I have no idea if these were their real names. Every attempt on the internet to find out more drew a minimal amount of information – Facebook accounts with no photos or friends, CV-less Linkedins, dubious addresses. They formed an unlikely couple – he, a poor copy of the Pilsbury dough boy, keen to remind everyone of his working-class roots but equally keen to hide any trace of an East End accent behind stock American sales-speak: ‘absolutely’, ‘you don’t say’ , ‘that’s unbelievable’. She was tall, extroverted, athletic, dynamic and very American. With a big job in IT, she travelled extensively, often bringing back expensive gifts for members of staff and customers she hardly knew. He rarely left their rented cottage before 4pm and, although he had been home all day, would arrive wanting beer at 10:50pm after everyone else had gone home. This, he explained, was to avoid infection, as he was undergoing chemotherapy for leukaemia, as was another regular. They shared a consultant and the same type of leukaemia. Mysteriously, Anthony managed to have appointments with her when she was on holiday, although he always had a back-up story to cover the time he was caught out. While our other customer went on to die, Anthony was cured of this incurable strain.

At night, his house glowed blue with flickering computer screens. By day, it lay silent. The rumours began that he was a spy. But how could he be, with so many mistakes and such a poor back-story? A former captain of industry, he had nothing. He had children in Barcelona and London but he neither visited them nor they him. He had lived in Paris for four years and once spoke fluent French but was now unable to understand the simplest of schoolboy phrases and made an obvious effort to steer clear of any French visitors.

Meanwhile, Loreen continued her extensive world tour, yet less and less of it seemed related to her power job. Instead, relatives and step-relatives all over the globe were succumbing to life-threatening diseases which involved her taking weeks away at short notice. This included three weeks with her grandmother in California. Who takes three weeks off work because their granny is sick? These relations were everywhere – North Dakota, South Africa, Amish towns, Rome, Las Vegas. She became a one-woman geography lesson. Although her lifestyle seemed unlikely, her cover stories were a lot better than his. Perhaps she really was CIA. One day, however, there was a fatal slip. Months before, she had told me that she spent a year living in China teaching English when she left college. The son of a regular returned from a similar post-uni adventure and I introduced them. Which town? he asked.

She visibly reddened and stammered, “Oh, oh I can’t remember”.

It simply didn’t ring true. You don’t do something like that and forget the name of the place. And surely a decent spy would have made somewhere up. Or just said Beijing.

The next day she compounded her error. “I’ve been trying to get hold of my girlfriend from college to see if she can remember the name of that town”. This reeked of trying too hard to cover the fact that she knew she had been caught out. It was never mentioned again.

People began to ask directly if her company were okay with her taking so much time off to nurse the dying and bury the dead. So, she quit (allegedly) to set up a pyramid selling scheme for natural beauty products. This is good spy cover.

One day she left the house with a huge trunk. He didn’t help her take it to the car. She called into the pub: “Just came to say goodbye, I’ll be away a few months this time”. Most of us never expected to see her again and we were right. One or two – wealthy but not street-wise – thought they had made a good friend but she never replied to anyone’s messages and in time, her on-line profiles disappeared. Loreen’s departure brought a side-story to the saga: the bar girls were disturbed that Anthony would be in the pub solo more often. His comments were inappropriate and creepy and none of them liked being alone with him.

Anthony never acknowledged that she had gone. He lingered on for a few more months, telling us what Loreen was up to when he ‘spoke to her today’. Like most other things, it was fantasy. Eventually, he was offered a wonder job in Seattle. Green Card instantly sorted. Great technical explanation of what the job involved, which we later discovered was taken verbatim from an internet article.

– What’s the name of the company? someone asked.

– Um, I can’t remember.

It seemed like a fairly basic piece of knowledge to be in possession of at this stage of a complex recruiting procedure.

There were no goodbyes when he left, purportedly for Seattle. We found out later that he was living between a plastic cabin cruiser on the River Cam in the summer and a caravan in a second-hand car lot in the colder months.

The people they befriended never heard from either of them again. They’re making new friends now.



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

Holding screwdrivers and conversations: the art of being the Compleat Taverner

Tales from the Other Side (of the bar)

This blog is the revenge of a retired landlord on that most loathsome of customers, Mr Joseph Public.

Even when there were lots of pubs, some people didn’t know how they worked and made the stupidest statements, such as, “We’d like something to drink and some food”. This is the equivalent of walking into Top Shop and saying, “I’d like some clothes and some worthless jewellery.” They also asked the stupidest questions. Now there are far fewer, the questions have got a whole lot more stupid……

  1. Do you have a toilet?

Strangely, in a licensed premises in the 21st century, we do have lavatories. Inside too. Although I prefer to say, “No” and produce a bucket. An extreme version of this enquiry is, “Excuse me, you wouldn’t happen to have a toilet by any chance?”.

  1. Do you know where the Gents is?

No, I’ve only been here for a decade and it’s such a big, rambling old building that I haven’t found the toilets yet. That’s why I walk in this peculiar way. I’ll let you know when I do.

  1. Do you do food?

Madam, the premises is littered with menus, specials boards, people clattering their knives and forks and waitresses carrying piles of plates. No, we don’t serve food, you’ve walked into a play.

  1. Are you still serving food?

It’s five past twelve. Noon. Do you think we serve for five minutes only?

  1. Are you still serving food?

It’s five past midnight and you’ve been in here since seven. Three times you have been asked if you are eating with us. Now fuck off.

  1. Are you open?

Well, all of the doors are locked (you know that because you’ve tried to pull them all off of their hinges). None of the lights are on and the bar stools are stacked on the bar, upside down. There is nobody else around and it’s 4pm on a Monday afternoon in February. You are standing in the garden, ringing me up to ask this question. What does it look like to you?

  1. Do you have lamb’s kidneys on?

We have a menu. The things that are ‘on’ are listed either on it, or on the various boards that your waitress has read to you. Everything else is ‘off’. If you want me to go and catch a lamb, eviscerate it, fill in the Lamb Evisceration Forms, cook it and serve it to you, you may have a little wait. Otherwise, read AND CHOOSE FROM the menu. Yes, I know you had lamb’s kidneys the last time you were in; that’s because then, it was on the menu. Now it isn’t. No, I don’t know when it’s coming back. No, I don’t know when I will know when it’s coming back. Yes, it’s still the same chef. No, he doesn’t know either.

  1. What vegan, gluten-free desserts do you have?

A carrot.

  1. Did you see episode three of that thing with wossname in it/ that brilliant Barca game/ the interview with Hitler last night? It was the best thing I’ve ever seen on TV.

No, I was standing here serving people like you ie people who like to rub it in and point out what long hours I must work when they are propping up the bar two hours after everyone else has left.

  1. Any chance of another one?

I started work at 8am with a delivery. It is now 11:40pm and the bell rang forty minutes ago. It is not my fault that you didn’t hear it. Do you wait until Marks and Spencer’s closes and then bang on the door asking to buy a shirt? Of course not, that would be the action of an imbecile, which is what you have become after five and a half pints.

Bonus question – How big is the soup?