An Old Barmaid Spills…

The cocktail of life is a curious thing…

How do you make that perfect blend, to please your taste just so…

Sure… many of the key ingredients will often be the same but the quantities will vary…

I mean… life’s gonna get dull pretty quick if you drink the same stuff from the same glass, in the same place everyday…

In my student days, I worked several bars jobs and it seems to me that it’s less about what you’re drinking and more about who you’re drinking with…

Now I worked in some varied places… and one place was flash and shiny and filled with the suited and booted… But I never drank there in my free time… The clientele were pretty rude on the whole… and then there were the bouncers… Now this was in a time when very few bars had bouncers and really there was no need for them in this place… but there they were… And they were thuggish and brash and abrasive and heavy handed when it came to last orders and tossing out drinkers. I left that job after I saw a bouncer hit a young lad in the face. I was quite stunned by it… I’m not so sure on the rules & regs these days… but back then, after the bell rang for last orders, you had 20 minutes of drinking up time. The bell had just rang and I went out to round up dead glasses and I walked by this young smartly dressed lad… One of the bouncers picked up his drink and went to take it away and told him to leave. The lad was well spoken and polite and I heard him say – Excuse me, I’ve not finished with that, can you please pass it back, there’s still 15 minutes and then I’ll be gone.

The bouncer laid him out cold… knocked him off his feet and sprawled him backwards across the bar… blood spilling from where his nose had been split by the macho man’s half-sovereign ring…

What sickened me most is that management found no problem with that…

When it came to drinking in my spare time… well then I headed to one of the other places that I worked…

Now this place had a reputation and a lot of people I knew wouldn’t drink there and were quite shocked that I worked there. I was often asked – How dare you work there? Aren’t you scared?

No… I wasn’t scared… I felt very safe there… this was a proper spit and dawdust pub full of bikers and interestingly no bouncers… No bouncers were required as basically most people were no trouble… and the ones who could be… well… they’d been barred from every other place in town and this was their last watering hole and they knew that ALL staff had automatic right to bar with no explanation and full support of management… That kept things pretty well balanced…

Yes… I enjoyed the company of Angels 😉

There were some very colourful characters… My favourite is now sadly long dead…

By night, he was loud and raucous and bawdy… never speaking but always shouting!! A small man with large gestures, wild waving arms and a beard big enough to have it’s own ecosystem.

Everybody knew when he was in the room… He filled it all alright!

One night the landlord shouted at him – will you shut up? Why are you always shouting?

He bellowed back at twice his normal volume… if that was possible…

BECAUSE I LIKE SHOUTING!!!!

Then he pulled a harmonica out of his pocket and danced and jigged and blued some tunes…

Often when stood at the bar, he’d appear at your side and ask – Have you got enough money on you to buy your Uncle a drink?

And if I had enough… then I would buy him one and he would call cheers! and if I didn’t have enough, then I wouldn’t and he’d still call cheers!

Someone once told me that I shouldn’t buy him drinks, that he was taking me for a mug…

But then they’d not seen the other side of him that I had seen…

See.. I also worked lunchtimes and when he came in then, he was a whole other character… He came in armed with pens and crayons and various art supplies and swathes of paper and he sat and drew… and often he was surrounded by a table full of children… he taught them tips and tricks and basically ran a free creche as women left them safe in his charge whilst they went off to shop…

Also… the first shift I worked there… yeah… I was a bit a nervous… as I had heard all the stories… there were lots of stories… though mostly as it turns out, urban myths and legends… But my first shift was a double shift and I got an hour break in the middle… This man came up to me and said.. Right… follow me… I’m taking you for a drink and I’m going to tell you all you need to know to stay safe in this place… We went across the road, he bought me several drinks and introduced me to several people… There are people who will watch your back…

And those are just some of the reasons why I was always happy to shout him a drink…

He was a musician, an artist, a poet, a live wire, a gentle soul, a badass bastard if crossed…

He was an eclectic blend of many things…

He was  a Temperance (Hell’s) Angel…

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