Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 10 August 2014
From beer to milk in one year
I am reluctantly going to a beauty-contest this afternoon, and I am not looking forward to it.
Our community-owned pub has been advertising for a new General Manager, and the chairmen (there are two, and they are both women) want to parade the short-list in front of a few village elders - I am probably the oldest.
When the idea was first put to me, I thought that I would be sitting-in on the interviews like some amateur psychologist, not having the qualifications to make any judgement on their abilities in the post, but now it all sounds a bit public, and a bit excruciating.
When I went to Art School, one of my fellow students - a good-looking girl from the North - said that she had attended one interview for a place on a diploma course at a different school, and when she stood in front of the all-male panel of teachers, one of them said, "Well go on, then."
She asked, 'Go on what?' and he said, "Lift your skirt and show us your legs, of course!"
She got in, but didn't take up the course. I am hoping that this afternoon will not have the slightest element of this sort of thing, but since at least two of the applicants are male, I don't think it will.
To be the general manager of a British pub is a taller order than you might think. There are many potentially conflicting qualities that are required to do the job properly, and the job itself is a really strange mix of sobriety and party-animalism, friendliness and authority, penny-pinching and generosity.
There is always a strong likelihood of an old-fashioned 'mine host' who is given the chance to be a kid running a sweet-shop, to fall by the wayside and take the pub with him/her in a personal downward spiral, but I don't think there has been any applicants who have displayed these sort of tendencies.
The previous owner would often talk about his moral unease at making money by selling people alcohol, but the last time I talked to him - in the street - he said he couldn't possibly talk to someone who was smoking a cigarette, and asked me to put it out before we continued. I'm pleased he doesn't own the place any longer.
One landlord of around 30 years ago when the place was owned by a brewery, was so patently unhinged that I really don't know how he persuaded the company to instal him.
He was - for lack of any real custom - always trying to come up with money-making schemes to off-set the losses on the 'wet sales'. He told me one evening, that there would be sandwiches and snacks available the following day for a select few of the regulars, and I begun to smell a rat. What little business he had was from the already select group of regulars, so nobody else could have been offered sandwiches in any case.
The next day - sure enough - there was a trestle table laid out with a variety of unappetising, shop-bought morsels, and after I had bought a drink, he invited me to help myself - after having given him a small donation of £8 to cover his costs.
I declined, but he said that I had agreed to it the day before. I think I told him to fuck off.
His last - and maddest - scheme involved the huge, 17th century fire-surround which dominates one side of the main bar - the one in the photo above.
I had casually mentioned that this surround - dismantled and in an auction house - would probably fetch upwards of £10,000 at a sale at that time, and I saw a dark look come over his features as his tiny brain whirred into sluggish action.
At first I thought he was joking, but it became clear that he really was suggesting that I turn up one night with a set of demolition tools and a replacement two-ton fire-surround, artificially aged so that nobody could tell the the real one had been stolen.
He had not even understood that the whole North side of the ancient building is held up by this monster set of stones, and was built-in as part of the structure, about 300 years ago.
The last I heard of him was that he became a milkman in Bristol.