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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

12th May - What made Milwaulkie Fanous

Today I got confirmation of my leaving date. Sadly, the organisation I work for is closing, due to Government budget cuts and new Policy direction. Whether this will be successful, we will see. It is an exciting time, but also scary. Exciting as I look for a new challenge, and scary as I don't know how long it will take me to find and I am unsure of the lifestyle change it will bring with it.

It got me thinking about other times I have been between jobs. The first time was when I worked in a pub for 6 months as a barmaid. There's something about pubs that Governments don't get. In Islington perhaps things are different, but normal people don't have dinner parties every night, they used to go down to the pub to chew over the fat of the day. Its also done in churches, hobby clubs, and anywhere else people go to socialise or partake in an interest. Its a sense of belonging to people with common interests whether that be geography, faith, hobby or a taste for a particluar type of beer. That is your Big Society. That is where people look after each other, but the Government has moved us to a more secular society. Once smoking was banned, Government has started going for the drinkers, imposing what they consider to be the side effects of it. Yes there are wife beaters, drunk drivers, wino's, alcoholics, but generally they aren't found in pubs. They drink at home sneakily. Funny how pubs have been part of our society for 100's of years, but the bad side effects of alcohol have only increased since supermarkets used slabs of Wife beater as a 'Loss Leader'. You were looked after in a pub. It used to be part of your rites of passage, having a beer with your mates, your first pint with your dad. If you got out of hand, the publican used to tell your dad as well as dealing with it.

More sense is spoken in most pubs in the UK than ever is in Westminster. They understand that daft ideas and new laws will have implications that no Government has thought through. The law that changed Beer companies from brewers to property companies for instance, has removed the community aspect of drinking. Early doors is not the same if its served by a kid who doesn't know how to pull a pint of real ale, in a barn, with fake wood or steel everywhere. And why wasn't KFC, Burger King subject to the same law? Both only offer Coca Cola even though other Cola drinks are available. Ending the tie, started the end of community pubs.

The pub I worked in was in North London, called the Builders. Let's leave it as loose as that to protect the innocent. It was run by a very dodgy character from the East End who used to be in the Rag Trade and probably knew the Krays. His wife even had a name, Pearl, that only Eastenders called their little girls, as I've never heard anyone else called it outside the M25. They were probably alcoholics, as there wasn't a landlords tap, unless vodka and lemonade was it, as I had to put a new bottle up each session I worked, even though most of the punters drank real ale. The point was though that he was a character, that encouraged all walks of life to visit, providing good beer. In the Lounge at lunch time was the Executives from the businesses -accountants, lawyers etc. Greene King IPA was their lunchtime drink, with a sandwich. In the Public bar were the fitters from the Gas depot next door. They drank the same. The pub didn't have Euro-fizz, and so the bar staff had to pull a good pint or the punters went elsewhere. Early doors were the commuters, coming in on their journey to and from the Tube Station. That couple of beer gave them chance to unwind before going home, or getting on the crushed train. Then later the couples came in, a pint before a meal, to meet friends. Lads used it as a meeting place, before going 'Up Town', or during the week just to discuss how Spurs were going to put one over the Gooners.

Because it was a community, the bar staff were part of that, and often joined in the conversation, either to listen and join in or for people on their own to talk to. I remember one guy coming in and I had a bet with that the West Indies cricket team would win the forthcoming test series 5-0. They were that good. (Richards, Holding, Garner, Lloyd were World Class). He took the bet and paid up at the end of the summer.

Another day, a lonely old man used to come in for a pint. He used to talk to me about horses. I know very little about horse racing, but what I know I learnt from him. One day he gave me a tip. A sure fire cert.He was a professional gambler, who justified his tip as being that certain by the fact that he lived off his winnings. I've never put a bet on, so I told Pearl about it. She shoved a tenner on to win. It lost. (it could still be running for all I know.) Pearl asked who gave me the tip. When I told her, she laughed 'Idiot, look at how he's dressed - does he look successful?' A lesson in life's characters I think.

The pub was a managed one, and once a month, the stock taker/auditor came in. This meant a lot of frenzied acticity, as the landlord filled up empty barrels with water, to balance the books. Each month there was more and more barrels. Funny that, I remember quite often running out of IPA yet there were loads of barrels in the cellar. The other weird thing was that there was always a 'little' fire the day before the auditor came. Something was usually posted through the letterbox, and the porch damaged. It never involved the fire brigade, or the police. The landlord was always in control of putting it out.

The vodka and lemonade consumption increased, and the landlord was around less and less. A Head Barman was appointed. An ex-Navy guy who was a Steward in the Navy, and saw this as real power, as he ordered me only to work in the public as his seniority meant that he worked the lounge. Pillock. I'll just take the money, because in 5 years time, I'll be something and you'll still be pulling pints.

Shortly after I returned to the Midlands and got a job in a brewery, and my career slowly started. About a month later, the landlord was killed in a fire in the pub. This time the fire brigade was called. His wife and baby were saved, his mother in law didn't make it. Both were found by the baby's cot. I often wonder if he slept too heavy as a result of the Vodka, and it all backfired on him.

His wife, who on her appearances in the bar, used to first with a young man nearly half her age. Soon afterwards they were an item. That's what 'local' pubs give you - a complete cross section of life. It's impossible in the barns they call pubs now to have stories about such characters.

Not sure who the song above is by. I know Dean Martin and Rod Stewert recorded a version.

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