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Monday, 18 May 2009

be careful what you wish for

The pub is under new management again. This is the fourth set of owners we’ve encountered in the 3 years we’ve lived here. Each pair bringing a fresh surge of hope, both theirs and ours, to be dashed all round within months. Still, one never quite learns that hope is over-rated.
We’d all chattered about the mooted takeover with the avidity of the easily-pleased, lamenting the fact that such a nice village continued to lack a successful pub. It was on the market for months with nary a tickle of interest. Until then, once the then-current landlord was carted off by the police for the third and final time and an injunction served, there it was, bought (presumably at a knockdown price) by Turn’Em Round Tone, a snapper-up of failing pubs, magic at his fingertips when it comes to restoring Hook Norton to the menu and flashing the welcoming smile. Something which had been in short supply for so long; smiles having been limited to the anxious-desperate and the surly snarl, depending on which you encountered, her or him.

There was a launch at the weekend, with a free pig roast and a disco. The usual barmaid, Lucy, (knocking 40, 3 kids: it shows) was phoned at 2 and told not to bother coming in.
We arrived at about 8 and could barely slide in sideways. It all but induced a panic attack in E and I wasn’t far behind in wishing I was anywhere but. Just anywhere. It brought back the horrors of nightclubs in my youth. When Boy George had designs on my boyfriend. I might love a party but I hate crowds, the squash of people, the noise, the fear frankly of mankind in pursuit of a good time.
However, we struggled bravely to the bar to be confronted by Lucy’s replacements. Sluts, basically. A baying, jeering gang of youths had materialised, lured by hormones to slaver at the pillowy soft tissue on bold display. The lads stood in the area previously designated a No Stand area: it seemed so brave, but the habitual proliferation of signs (don’t stand here, don’t park here, dogs here but not there, no footballs, no kids, keep your children by you, keep back) had all been whisked away. A solid barman was all that was thought necessary for the laydees. No Adonis for us. Tone’s marketing was at the men. The villagers tutted slightly, grumbled. We like a good tut and eye roll.

Upstairs, slowly dancing round her mobile phone’s tinny pulsing of “I Will Survive,” was Mel, the fourth gin of the day doing its stuff. Beaten wife and afforded an extension on get orf my land by Tone to give her time to move on, her defeat was made plain by blatant comparison. That night saw as many customers in one shift as they saw in their entire year stretched out. Somewhere the prescribed 100 miles away, her ex-husband, Pete, could possibly hear the ker-ching of the till, the beat of the disco, could all but see the car park chock full, the success that could have been his, and without plentiful signage. He wailed, nursing his bloodied fists.
OK, so I made this paragraph up.

Made glaringly apparent was the gap in expectation and reality, the brutal difference between what you want and what you get. Fuss, fuss, fuss, but no-one had liked the basic sullen resentment doled out by Pete or his permanent defiance of the rules of hospitality – he once had words for a friend when she said that her food was cold, “if you don’t like it, you can fuck off,” he said. Big mistake when your husband’s captain of the cricket, and the fingers of interlacing village gossip which spread like swine flu’s meant to, ensures that everybody’s heard by Tuesday, and passed on a distorted version.
But this?

A new landlord had brought the predictable new hope, so the village turned out in force, the Olds elbowing all others out of the way in pursuit of free pork. Doggy bags concealed in the folds of their blouson jackets, shamed not by the tell-tale spread of greasy spots. The music thudded. The bar was several deep. What could one do but stare wide-eyed in a sort of horror at the bestial scene.
My chum snagged me a bar stool which I clung to as if it were wreckage from the Titanic and my one chance of survival in a sea of alien bodies.
Lucy tipped up and bore it well, a glazed smile her brave understanding of her sudden redundancy in a world where youth trumps and old bags go home.

Outside in the garden, the relaxation of rules had led to a certain feral quality triumphing in all of the children. They were kicking balls again with hearty abandon, neighbours’ fences reverberated with the thwack of missed goals. The underage and the overage were stealing goes on the fort-playground (a strict and unenforceable age range had been the prior norm). New kids were there, too, drafted in from the rougher reaches and called Kyle. Squalid little tramps swung dead-eyed on the fronds of the weeping willow. My inner headteacher flinched. I longed for a whip, and handcuffs. This Boschian soup needed quelling.

We lasted barely an hour and crept off defeated.
“It’ll never last,” E said as we shuffled home.
“I do hope not,” I said.
Next night, driving past, it was comforting to see that the circus had packed up and crawled back to whichever part of the local Beirut from which they had scuttled. The carpark was pleasingly empty. Through the window one could make out the sluts, hugging themselves since no-one else was there to do so, cold in May with this much flesh on show.

35 comments:

LittleBrownDog said...

Shudder. Sounds like you needed a stiff drink and a lie down to recover. We, too, have a village pub that has changed hands three times in the last three years, but have not enjoyed the bacchanalian scenes you describe so vividly. Yet. Let's just hope the new landlord doesn't read this and get untoward ideas...

Maddie Grigg said...

Now that everyone has seen the freak show, it'll probably move on soon. It'll never last.

Exmoorjane said...

Soooo smug here, as we bask in the wonder of two fabulous pubs and two bearable ones (not forgetting the wonderous Thai restaurant, the passable chippy and the various tea shoppes). Shudder indeed.
Shame about the lone handbag dancer - I liked her...

Frances said...

What excitement, what horror. You surely have painted the picture of villagers at play. (Joking.)

Milla, do you think the new owner will figure out how to keep regular customers happy? Are there enough "regular" customers to keep the pub in business?

My own employer is always trying to attract new customers, while not losing those customers who've loved us for a long time.

In my neighborhood, I have seen many long-times favorite spots close, from cafes to bookshops ... usually down to landlords raising the rent. We are left with Starbucks and Barnes & Noble.

In your village, what would an ideal pub be like? Do you think the new owner would want to know?

xo

Dave Pie-n-Mash said...

A great post, but a little painful to read. I enjoyed village life when I experienced it in the 90s, and I know what the village pub is to that life. But the last thing you wnt is the standard lowered to accomodate the Chavs of society. Slutty barmaids are acceptable, but not the Chav customers. I hope the pub rights itself again and you aren't stuck with the circus.

Dumdad said...

The perfect village pub it is not, but I dream of them all the same. Surely a pub with good food and ales and a hearty welcome would do good business? We're intending to visit a fair few pubs for lunch and dinner when we're over in England this summer. And there ARE some great pubs around.

mountainear said...

Sounds grim, my idea of hell too.

Doesn't sound very sustainable either - are the trollops, low life and oldsters going to beat a path to his door on a wet Monday when there isn't a hog roast?

Carol and Chris said...

I know I shouldn't laugh but you do have a fabulous way with words!!! The 'new' pub sounds hideous...wouldn't be my idea of fun either!!!

C x

OMG Pregnant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OMG Pregnant said...

Ohhh your village pub sounds just like mine! It's got worse, there were three ... now two are closed, one left, and the 'one left' now homes all the village vagrants and underage drinkers ...

*Sigh*

lampworkbeader said...

Two good pubs in our village, so you have my sympathy. Not far from where I live the villagers clubbed together and bought their pub, to save it from falling into the hands of a wrong 'un. It takes money and courage though.

Mast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mastranone said...

Who'd be a pub landlord? Open to ridiculous unsociable hours, too many days a week, no family life - no wonder so many are such grumpy buggers.

Still, you write about it well.

TIGGYWINKLE said...

Sounds like a dreadful evening. An opening like that is not a wise move, as it is bound to attract the riff-raff. Hopefully the landlord will do his homework, and provide what you want, to be successful. Blows my memories of lovely English Village Pubs - cosy, great pub grub and full of atmostphere.

Mean Mom said...

Is it any wonder that so many people have taken to drinking at home, rather than in the local pub?

Love your writing, as ever!

Pondside said...

You described, perfectly, my idea of hell....a crowd of questionable origin, loud music, so-so food. Better to stay home. With the exception of an 'English pub' up island, there is nothing here like I'd imagine a real pub to be. They're all fake-Western, fake-Irish, fake-German-beer-garden.

Pipany said...

God it sounds like hell Milla. Hopefully he'll soon move on too and leave th chance for someone more appropriate to village life.

Milla said...

you're so right, Mastrone, about who'd be a landlord. Ditto who'd run the local shop. I've blogged before about the misery of the latter with the Olds moaning over tuppence more on a box of tea. We really do seem to get idealistic oddballs taking on this place however with no conception of the hellish hours involved and the boredom of being surrounded by drunks!
thanks to everyone, as ever, for their lovely comments.

Edward said...

It wasn't a happy experience, but my take on it is that the pub is a "village" pub only in the sense of its actual location. It's not exactly the destination of choice for much of the village, and I think the big party was simply a means of reminding some of them that there was a pub there, selling beer and food and stuff. Sadly, they pitched it to the wrong audience - a festival of petanque would have been more on the mark.

muddyboots said...

village pubs - what are those? a nearby village their pub has been closed for 2 years and is about to turn into a house, others in and around here, the term 'themed' or the mega expensive gastro pub all slate plates and pea puree, the diners bordering on the 'orange'. Have tried to persuade friend just north of you to use village shop & butcher, oh no, it's more expensive......... l give up

Expat mum said...

Brought back such memories of packing into pubs in the middle of Covent Garden in my London days. You could barely lift your drink to your lips it was so squashed up. These days (having no good "pubs" in Chicago), if I don't get a seat instantly, I don't stay. Any excuse really!

Mark said...

Well, 'your blog is fucking fabulous' seems a pretty appropriate award after reading that.
Great stuff. I especially liked '...cold in May with so much flesh on show.'

amy said...

award for you over at mine enjoy! x

elizabethm said...

Our local pub has changed hands four times over the last year, prior to that it was with the same family for fifteen years. I just wish someone would clock that we don't want jazz nights, rude staff or London food prices. Maybe number four will get it right.

Weeping Sore said...

I suppose there's a certain charm in being told to fuck off when taking issue with the cook. Then again, in the USA, they'd simply smile, take your dish back to the kitchen, spit on it, and return it to the table, with a flourish of "Haveaniceday!"
Let's hope the next turn on the great wheel of pub reincarnations that you get decent food and pleasant company.

FairSailor said...

Wonderful blog, as ever Milla. My you can sure paint a scene.

ChrisH said...

Sounds like hell-on-a-stick, I bet you needed a drink after that.
Truly, I do think you and Mr Rot should spill the beans on your younger days.

The Machinist's Wife said...

I was there. I saw, smelt, felt, heard. All of it. Great, great writing. I especially loved "..pillowy soft tissue on bold display ...".

When's the next visit?

Fennie said...

That is all really sad. Reminds me of so many pubs and how they linger to a sad death, oblivious to whatever rejuvenation attempts their owners make upon them. Ah, for the good old days when no-one care and we all could sit outside on a May evening, children running in the garden and munch crisps in just the one flavour, with salt in a little blue twirl.

Sally's Chateau said...

Brill blog as usual, you'll be adding it to twitter then will you to bring in the readers in their droves ?

Pig in the Kitchen said...

pillowy soft flesh. marvellous. Mine is of course tight and tones, so i've no idea why that phrase struck a chord.
Pigx

Sordel said...

Less of the Twitter for you and more of the Country Lite, please.

As for pubs, my ideal pub closes at 9pm so that I don't have to listen to drunks raging home between the hours of 10pm and 2am as I fully expect to have to over the Summer.

For some reason (and the reason may be that I have three pubs within about fifty paces of my front door) those with an ardent desire to discuss football while waiting for the vomit-reflex to kick in tend to do so directly outside my bedroom window.

There is therefore something worse than going to a bad pub ... and that is when a bad pub comes to you.

Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Award for you over at mine.

The wife of bold said...

"they say that hope is happiness.." - yes, i have to agree with you hope is definately overrated, sounds chavtastic, i hope for your sake the new owners suffer the same fate as the old ones, you have depicted a scene straight from emmerdale....but WORSE LOL.

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