Sunday, 29 December 2013

Paragon


Me trying to teach my good friend Colin how to send an email this Summer. The only reason I am showing you this picture is to point out the disgraceful absence of an apostrophe on the coffee mug.

Considering that he is only 18 years older than me, I reckon that either he is looking very good, or I am looking very bad. H.I. and me sat down to watch 'Papillon' the other night, and I was depressed to notice that it took about 20 years of solitary confinement, relentless torture, sleep and light deprivation, being shot at, witnessing many executions and a lengthy spell on Devil's Island before Steve McQueen's hair looked exactly like mine.

Those of you who remember Bath from the old days will probably recognise Colin as the inspirational owner of the now defunct, 'Paragon Wine Bar' - inspirational because he was the only proprietor in a very long line of them who actually made a healthy profit from it.

What was his secret? By just being himself, he created an ambience which became famous far beyond the city boundaries and which stretched the circle his hard-core regular clientele, of which I was possibly the most dedicated. (If anyone can give me a tip on how to make this last sentence a bit more graceful, I would be very grateful. Sarah?).

Colin was (and is) a product of a well to do family which long ago ran out of money and influence, but still retained the ostensible trappings which marks such families out - a love of country sports, a distinctly upper-class (if slightly military) accent and above all, his parent's furniture.

The Paragon Bar had a 'dumb-waiter' fitted just to one side of the staircase, and because the building was very tall and narrow, Colin would load all the washing-up in it before yanking on the rope to send it the two flights up to the kitchen.

Late one night as he was telling one of his long and rambling stories to the few who were left in the bar, he completely filled the opening of the dumb waiter with glasses and crockery before realising that the actual platform was still at the kitchen position, so he yanked hard on the rope to bring it hurtling down.

When it reached the ground floor, the sound of dozens of plates and glasses being smashed to smithereens was heard from behind the closed door. There was the briefest of pauses before he carried on with the story and he relaxed and sat down, leaving the clearing up for next morning.

During the lunchtime sessions in the bar, he would wait until precisely 1.30 pm before pulling the top off a can of Special Brew, often saying, "I have been fighting alcoholism for 40 years now, and I think I have finally given up".

On the wall next to the dumb waiter, Colin had fixed a stuffed and snarling fox-head mounted on a wooden shield (another family heir-loom) and often talked about mounting a fox-arse and tail on the other side.

There was a small dog who visited the bar regularly, and it would sit staring up at the fox, growling and snarling at it all night. This was all part of the ambience of the Paragon.

One night, a very pretty young woman with a very strong Northumberland accent asked for a 'Coke'. Colin looked at her quizzically for a second or two then asked, "Is that all you want?". He had become very testy with all the American ladies who turned up to eat one of the famous crepes (which he made no money on at all) and who all drank nothing but water as they ate them.

When the Geordie girl replied in the affirmative, he sighed and reached into a bucket, then produced a cork to hand to the girl. It was her turn to look at him quizzically. I later found out that he had genuinely misunderstood her.

Colin now lives in a pretty Cotswold village which is almost owned by his son-in-law and daughter. This is his front gate...


... and this is me in The Paragon in the old days...


27 comments:

  1. Yes, I know you have seen these pics before, but there are some others who haven't - that's my excuse before you accuse me of being forgetful.

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  2. We should all have a 'Paragon Bar' in our lives.

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    1. Sounds like a Thatcher quote, but she was talking about 'Willies'.

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  3. I am totally overcome by the glory and beauty of your head of hair Tom.

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    1. What Weaver. He being a white haired grumpy old badger?

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    2. Pat, He's not the only one with white hair you know!

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    3. Yes, but Weaver is totally 'overcome' by mine. Someone must have done the reverse to Heron.

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    4. I noticed the hair thing too pat
      Impressive for someone so old

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    5. Forget it - you don't stand a chance, John. Keep your silvery-tongued comments for Chris.

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    6. Grass doesn't grow on a busy Street Tom and my hair loss started when I was 17years young.

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    7. I wasn't talking about your hair, I was talking about mine. I really don't give a damn about my hair, which you can tell by the way I spend hours styling it. Anyone would think that you were actually concerned about the top of your head - really, and at your age.

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    8. Tom's hair is indeed impressive. Leonine, almost. And what about Colin's eyebrows? Magnificent!

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    9. I love Colin very much, and not just for his eyebrows, fine though they are...

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  4. I must do something with my gate.

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    1. Could be. Less alc%. That's my new resolution.

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    2. You're my best mate, you are... sob...

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  5. Interesting to note that in the old photo, every smoker has a box of matches. That's something else which you don't see these days.

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  6. I've just seen that my eBay feedback has just hit 1001. That's another thing you don't see much of these days - a normal carpet-cleaner in a bottle.

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  7. I also see that they have made a sequel to '101 Dalmatians'. It's called, '102 Dalmatians'. Clever, or what?

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    1. If that works at the box-office, can anyone guess what the third version will be called?

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  8. A comedy film just released in Austria to rave reports and great acclaim is called 'Bad Fucking', which is the name of a real place where the action takes place. It was a sellout in the first week. I'm going to see it next week. Cripes! It's no wonder I've also got white hair.

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    1. Yes, but I believe they have changed the name of that little village now.

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  9. Tom - I've put a picture of those hedges on the balcony on a post on my blog. I'm hoping some one says they are fake and that they cost only 2 pence! lol oh, and where to buy them from of course

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    1. I will look up again next time I pass beneath, but my first impressions are that they are plastic - like the rest of the pig-ugly building.

      They used to say that the best view of Bath was from any window in the Hilton Hotel - because it was the only place you could not see the Hilton Hotel from. The same could be said of The Empire. I would like the top tower to the left as you look up from the weir, please.

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