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Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Can't Do That Here, Love

Two old people, putting up coathooks. Factor in a hangover and the potential is ripe for comedy, or tragedy.
Certainly much time for the mere dental nurse of the piece – me – to spend on her hands and knees on gritty floor picking up careless screws while E, the important dentist, drill-happy, swore at walls and issued instructions then caught his thumb on a sharp edge and said, “I hate bloody DIY.”
Gosh, he's kept that quiet.
And it’s no barrel of laughs being the dental nurse either since each of your jobs, that is each of my jobs, is of far less importance than anything which is being done by the dentist, who is the agenda setter, with a sore thumb and a temper. So one minute I am battling with exuberantly belligerent packaging, ripping my fingers on cruel plastic, the next sent a-scurrying for the spirit level, or the pencil in the pocket, and then the dentist calls for coffee.

For sho’.

The lapse into black speak is explained by my recent finishing of the wondrous “Twelve Bar Blues” by Patrick Neate. It tells of the jazz age unfolding in New Orleans at the beginning of the last century and what vicious nasty lives they all lived. A bashed thumb was the least of your problems. And if you weren’t a whore your mother was, or your sister, or you were what passed for married to one. With names to render those on Jeremy Kyle bland, faces were ribbon-slashed by handy razors and eyes were incidental in the scoring of a slight. The tonks (hastily acquired familiarity with the correct term for jazz bars, I think) were cauldrons of discontent with dancing too scary for whites to witness. I loved it but it made Cheltenham look a dull old place and I’d had Cheltenham down as a stew of Boschian depravity, very Hogarth come a Friday night, when all the boys and girls come out to play. And drink, and vomit and fight. And that’s just the girls, ho ho.

But fresh from an acquaintance with Neate’s world, I was toughened, and grateful. For sensible comparison could only prompt a buoyancy purely by considering the sheen of civility offered by Cheltenham’s enthusiastic commitment to disabled parking bays. Plus we were tempted by the prospect of seeing a friend – one with a beard and a set of drums and friends of a similar ilk (or elk, as an old boss used to say) – playing, yes, jazz. How very synchronicitous. I reckoned that the slashing opportunities were comparatively few so off we set.

Mistake number one: optimism; number two: taking the children.

I had forgotten how this world of ours hates children; goodness, I’ve only been at it, “mothering,” for 11 and a half years.
My birthday always falls on a grim grey Tuesday in early March. The year in which T11 was T5months was no different and E and I took ourselves off to a pub for lunch. We stopped outside, in a contented “this’ll do” sort of way, unhooked the slumbering T5m and sauntered on in. The barman, busy with an empty pub, ignored us. We played eye catch a bit and then gave up and went to sit ourselves down.
“Can’t bring him in here,” came the welcoming tones from the suddenly vocal barman.
I looked around with mild, anonymous interest, expecting a drunken wretch clawing at optics or a sly teen in search of a cider, but no, it was T5m, warm with milk, who was the crim.
Turned out it was Licensing Laws: no children allowed in the bar.
“But he’s 5 months old,” I bleated, “and asleep.”
I’m all for children not crashing around and being irritating and taking over adult spaces, unless of course it inconveniences me, so we huffed and puffed and muttered grimly and went down the road instead.

On Friday, the night before CoatHookDay, different bar same attitude, delayed version.
I went up to order, and I won’t even go into – oh well, yes, I will – the intense annoyance caused by having asked for a glass of Sauvignon and then seeing the till display a price 50p more than I had expected.
I brought it up while peeling off a twenty (the new fiver), asking, nicely, so I’d know in future, if their policy was to serve the most expensive brand of a generic ask such as “Sauvignon.”
To which the bored barman said no, but that was the only cold one, which seemed a bit crap to me at ten to 9 on a Friday night when they must have been expecting the ubiquitous lorry-loads of pissed hens on interminable hen nights to stagger in dressed as fairies and braying for wine.
Perhaps I’m out of touch with hen drink.

And I do so hate paying half as much again for a glass of wine than I normally spend on a much nicer bottle from the supermarket. At a dinner party the next night the stakes were raised by one of our number claiming to have been charged £8 for a glass. Alcoholic madness.

T11 carried away the cokes, while I took to the table my wine (the new liquid gold) and E’s beer. And then E wanted another beer. Well, it was fun. The jazz was cool, of razor blades there were none visible, and we were mainly white so the dancing, scary or otherwise, was going to be fine. So he bought another which is when the gentleman – solid, bald, earpiece – argy-bargied over.
“Kidsa gonnaravta go” he croaked, the words of one who has never had to organise child-care on the hoof.
“Sarfta nine.”

Licensing laws.
Not mentioned by the barmen when arranging our second mortgage on round two, naturally.

“Can we possibly finish our drinks outside?” I asked, nice with ice, drawing my finger across my throat and pretending I was being hanged, to boot, to signal to Simon (beard, drums) that it was the end for us. He nodded in an eye-rolling way: no kids, didn't really understand.

Out we went, herded onto the pavement like transportees, manhandled from the place, all but clamped in an elbow grip, as if we'd been caught fiddling with the fag machine, subject to smug sneers from the truly legal (ie: child-free), the ordeal doing little for our dignity. We're meant to be the good guys in life's balance and scale. The cheek of it all. I wanted to bluster, or cry.
We proceeded to down our drinks – well, they’d cost enough, as I might have mentioned.
The bouncer did some flicking action with his fingers which was the perfect time for F9 to mutter “How Offensive,” but he didn’t because for once something offensive really had happened (rather than me asking him to shove up, or suggest that he might put away his shoes) and he was lost for words.

It transpired that the children couldn’t even stand on the bit of pavement apportioned to this bar.
Nor could they stand the other side of a cobbled line holding the glasses.
“Can’t take drinks off of the premises see.”

This is the modern danger when out pursuing jazz, this is where our madness lies. Adherence to a set of guidelines which in principle may be just fine, but in literal quest of mapping to the nth degree are just ridiculous.
“I don’t make the rules, love,”
No but you enjoy enforcing them.
Good sport for the casual on-looker perhaps.

So we came home and slurped on wine and tossed our heads and tutted and, glancing at the box of coats which has cluttered the hall these past two years, E said, “We really must put up those coathooks tomorrow.”
For sho’.


DevonLife said...

Don't you just lurve this country's achiac publicans. It's at times like these that you should always travel with a disguise box in the boot of the car, wigs, 'taches, large hats. Then all could have disguised themselves and you could have grooved until dawn (or at least 9.30pm). BTW - Chard, it's the new Calbrese

Frances said...

Milla, I hope that once you all get that coat rack hung up, it will stay up!

Your bank holiday does sound quite jolly, aside from certain obstacles. Are these licensing laws enforced the same way throughout the UK, or is there some sort of local twist?

What a shame that you all could not hear more music from your friends, or that some of the folks behind the bar weren't warmer or more forthcoming. Their attitudes couldn't possibly be good for business, could they?

At least your lads got some insight into rules and regulations, and how they aren't always bestowed/enforced wisely, by adults who aren't their own wise parents.

Hoping that you all did get some laughs from the evening and morning after, since you have brought smiles to my face with your telling of the tale.

Edward said...

My what fun we had. Great blog as per. But why am I suddenly a dentist? Is it my drill?

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Yup they don't make the rules . . .but THEY do enjoy enforcing them . . . sooo berludy true . . .

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

And another thing . . .I hope your coat rack goes up and stays up. I am still waiting - two years on - for the second half of my mug rack . . . why I bother to wait is a mystery we don't use the first half. Yes Yes I could put it up myself - but I don't do screws into walls - big bits drop off when I try and the whole house ends up needing re-plastering.

Faith said...

Well, not much fun... but at least you have the talent to make a good blog out of it all.

Inthemud said...

Unbelieveable! But there is no tolerance of children in this country, such a shame, better in europe. They love children in Italy and spain, and france.........

You made me laugh with the coat hanger story! Lovely!

LittleBrownDog said...

What is it with pub landlords these days? Do they not realise people with children are their new clientele? (Thus speaks one meandering home from one's local after a second sauvignon that I could really have done without, but it cost so much I felt I had to drain the very last drop to get my money's worth.)

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh for god's sake. if T11 had gone in on his own they would probably have served him beer...the pubs seem to be full of 11 year olds when I venture in. or perhaps i'm getting old.
I hate jobsworth's.

I'm very sorry that your evening was ruined...i find it amazing that we have such tortuous rules about alcohol in England, yet not one of them prevents us having a culture of binge drinking.
oh you've got me all riled up Milla.
You got it goin' on girlfriend.
(do you like my terrible white impression of black speak? and by the way i love the term black speak!)

Exmoorjane said...

Come to Woods.....that's all I can say. No such nonsense here. jxxxx
Oh, and come to Glastonbury tomorrow - that's an order.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

So different here is darkest SW France. Kids are completely part of the scene at our local, toddlers up to teens. We're not talking hordes of them, typically two or three. And they are used to it, so no acting up.

Frog in the Field said...

Sounds simply marvellous!!
Also sounds like jobs that never get done in our house!

Her on the Hill said...

Brilliant blog as ever Milla - sniggered my way through it all. I have a set of hooks I bought at the Country Living (quick - garlic, cross) tent at the Tatton Park flower show last July. They're pale blue and pretty and for the girls room. They're still propped up against the wall, dangerously close to their rubbish bin....

Nails and hammers into walls scare me rigid: get it wrong and you're stuck with gaping holes and cracked plaster for years to come. (yes, you've guessed it, not a lot of DIY gets done in this house either - I'm still sitting in a half painted study - N threw some paint at it 4 years ago and then decided he wasn't going to finish it until I cleared the place up, so it could be a long wait yet...!)

Her on the Hill said...

PS: we live in the village but our village pub landlord still doesn't trust us to take our drinks outside without paying first(he's probably got a point, mind, as we teeter and vomit our way back up the lane and our children play chicken with the tractors...You just can't get the parents these days, can you,eh?)

ChrisH said...

Tend to agree with Pig in the Kitchen's comment which is probably true. Sigh. I got kicked out of a pub when Lily was a baby - she was hardly there she was so small. Feel annoyed all over again on your behalf!

The Lehners in France said...

Milla, it's ridiculous the attitude in the YUK towards kids. Here in France and all over Europe children are taken into bars and restaurants and know how to behave. It's lovely to see 3 or 4 generations of a family cooing over a baby. For sho'! I loved it. Well done Debs x

Preseli Mags said...

Bonkers rules. Why can't a kid (potential future customer in, what, seven years or so?) enjoy a coke and a bit of music after 9pm?

I loved the DIY with you as 'dental assistant'! Great blog, it really made me chuckle.

IrishEyes said...

Given that the little ones are tomorrow's customers, aren't the publicans forward thinking!

Love this, Milla and whatever happened to your friendly local hostelry? That place where the family could gather for refreshment. And then they wonder why customers are dwindling!

Dusty Spider said...

What a "jobsworth" but it made a lovely post. Much enjoyed. Flick x

Maggie May said...

Brilliant story telling as usual.
What is it with men that makes them keep us waiting for jobs to be finished?
As regards that jobsworth....... well words fail me & that doesn't often happen!

DJ Kirkby said...

Lol...and of course you worked off your hangover by drilling holes in the wall for the coat hooks... N3S has to begin having his hypoplastic teeth removed. Our dentist wanted him to give informed consent..he is five eyars old! What kind of an infomred choice can a 5 year old make? His choice is to not have an injection thank you very much!!!! Sigh...

KittyB said...

Darling you are obsessed with dentists. For Sho'. Thiose two words have made me cackle like a toothless old hag for , ooh, seconds, don't know why, just funny. Clever you. SOunds like a good book though.
Sad testament to S&my dullness though, we've never been in a pub with H after 9 to test those laws out, bedtime you see. Ours, not necessarily his.

CAMILLA said...

It's sheer madness Milla, over in France I am sure children are accepted to have drinks in pubs.

On the theme of the DIY, I have a shelf that needs putting up, I don't do the fixing, ah well, it will have to sit there a bit longer.

Great Blog Milla.


dulwichmum said...

Thank you for taking the time to leave your kind words on my blog. I can't believe I never found your blog before!


Melipop said...

I've got some serious catching up to do, I have just found your blog and its fabulous. I look like a fule nodding in recognition, eyes popping etc. I'm glad I found you.

Elsie Button said...

have ONLY just found you - and what a gem of a blog yippeee!

Good to see a Gloucestershire girl too! - i am not too far away from you

Mean Mom said...

Some pub's just hate customers don't they? They might as well say 'Go away and take your money with you. We don't need it.'

We called in at a pub' like that, once, with our 3 lads, when we were having a canal holiday. We walked up to the bar, intending to ask whether we could eat outside with our sons. 'Get the children away from the bar!' said the landlord, before we had chance to say anything. The pub' was very busy, but a month later, when we passed by, it was closed down. Ha ha!

Thanks for your kind comment on my site. From you, it is praise indeed!!

Incidentally, my husband would expect 2 BOTTLES of wine for £8!!

DevonLife said...

Chinny McGinger here. You've made me laugh out loud on a dreadful day. thank you!

Stinking Billy said...

Good blog. Moves along nicely and chuckles in just the right places. I'll be back!

Sally's Chateau said...

oooh who's Ernest from SW France ? oh you've got me all revved up now with indignation, I feel a blog coming on.

aims said...

Over here in Alberta - or in Canada period - you can't go in any bar if you are under the age of 19. No-one! If you are caught by the liquor police - no kidding here - then you can be charged. That is the person serving the drinks can be charged.

If you serve someone so much that they get drink and have a problem outside of the bar - then you can be charged.

So - for the people working following the rules - there is a reason. Unfortunately. Who wants to go to jail because someone else wanted too much to drink? Or to bring in someone who is under age. Just not worth it. Easier to kick up a fuss and kick people out then go to jail for them.

Angel said...

The attitude to children in pubs is one of my bug bears!! Makes me very cross!

Laughed out loud at the coat hooks-I did blog once about how it is for me every bank holiday and living with Frank Spencer!!


@themill said...

For sho'. Just love it....

I have set of children's hooks propped against the wall in the children's bathroom awaiting fixing. I worked out the other day they've been there 18 years and the children are now leaving home....

Oh, and why have you not been snapped up by a publisher somewhere? Don't they know what a solid gold opportunity they are missing?

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