Monday, October 27, 2008

How the mighty have fallen

I think I have essentially spent the last year of my life living out of a suitcase. Or bags, or rubbish bags, or whatever was handy at the time to transport my belongings.

When I moved to the truly awful pub in the countryside, complete with smelly named regulars and overconfident 19 year olds, I had one suitcase. It was the suitcase I brought back to the UK with me when I left Kenya. It was the same suitcase then went to the USA with me. It had the essentials.

While I was staying at the pub, a friend of mine managed to book a precious afternoon off to take me down to her friends barn in the countryside, where she had stored some of my stuff for me when I first left for East Africa. Even after I had decided that I couldnt stay at that pub, there was no way that I could call her and re-schedule, after the effort she went through in the first place to take the time off. The sum total of those belongings was 2 big black bags of clothing, and a box of personal items. Photos, dvds, music etc. All of which was stored in the tiny cubby of a room I existed in at the pub.

On one of my days off, I made a trip into London to an interview for an assistant manager position at a great pub off Oxford Street in central London. The accomodation looked great. Not too noisy, clean, own shower, shared spotless kitchen etc. The money was good, the job similar to what I had done before. I accepted on the spot.

I managed to get the manager at the country pub to allow me to leave some of my stuff there and made my way to my first day at the new place looking like a bag lady who had the benefit of a bath. I was dragging a suitcase, and carrying a box, and carrying a rubbish bag full of bits and pieces. And instead of arriving before the place opened, I arrived just as the customers were streaming in the door for their midday pick-me-up pint. Joyous.

The first couple of days of the job were fine. Nice staff, no drinking after work, no mad parties, only blissful quiet and sleep. The pub during opening hours, however, was insane. I have always worked at the type of quality location where making someone feel welcome and comfortable was more important than being able to do 15 things at once. This was not that type of bar. This was a 4 people at a time, people waving money in your face constant rush against the clock to get as many drinks out in as little time as possible. Frankly? I sucked. Badly. Its ego-destroying to discover that in your field there is a job you cant do. I know my job, I know my work. I could keep a pub running day to day with my eyes closed, and in some cases in the past have very nearly done exactly that. But this was beyond me. Do I really want to be stressed all day every day anyway? Needless to say, my week trial over, I am back staying at Miss M's and going to interviews tomorrow.

I truly am getting a little tired of moving around so very much. I would like all my belongings to be in one place, my bags to be unpacked, my room decorated with something other the stains of the previous inhabitant. I am homesick for a home I dont have. Lets see what the next pub brings...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Deja vu

Yesterday night was my first real opportunity to get to know the regulars of the pub. I worked Friday night too, but its too busy on a Friday to have the occassional conversation with a customer sitting at the bar.

I arrived after managing to stay awake through my break, and felt somewhat ready for the evening. Sitting at the bar was a man I was later told is commonly known as 'Stinky Brian'. If we were anywhere near water or the sea I would have believed him to be your typical wisened old fisherman, prematurely aged by the sea, the sun and excessive quantities of ale. He even smells somewhat like fish, which gives rise to the name. He sits at the bar with an expression of impending doom, like a man who knows that its only a matter of time before Death deals the final blow, or someone takes away his drink; either of which would be equally disasterous. He sits directly in front of the glass washer, which means that you cant actually avoid standing directly in front of him. He leaned over to me after I had been on shift for 10minutes and asked in a very soft, drink muddled voice, "'ave ya seen me phone, luv? I aint seen it. You seen it?" No sir, I havent. Let me check with the staff.

I checked with the staff, and all assured me he had lost the phone about a year previously, and just to keep saying I would give it to him if I find it. I told him exactly that and turned to speak to the next customer. My customer ordered a standard round, but was in a very excited mood as he was on his way to Greece the next day. He decided to celebrate this by ordering a couple of shots. One for him and one for me. One of the joys of working in a pub run by heavy drinkers is that I can drink on duty. Legendary. I accepted the shot and continued on.

The next guys made me feel old. They looked about 10 years old, not a beard hair among them, so naturally I ID'd them, and they were all 19! One of them offered me a drink. Thanks very much. At this point I wondered how drunk I could be and still make a passable imitation of working.

I headed back to a wave from Mr Greece and was told in no uncertain terms that I would be drinking another shot. Yay! I had just gotten to the point when more drinks suddenly seemed like a brilliant idea. He handed accross the money, with a lingering hand on mine, and a long stare into my eyes. Oh dear. Suddenly I hear: "Oi luv. You seen me phone? I know its 'ere somewhere." No sir, sorry.

I turned back to the 19year olds, who were making up for their low number of years with a high number of drinks. One looks me up and down. "You new? I can show you about town, luv. Whats your phone number? We can start with my place." Oh. My. God. I just got chatted up by a prepubescent chav.

"You there, luv. I lost me phone. You seen it? I aint seen it." No sir, fuck off sir, go somewhere else sir (I thought to myself).

I went to go and bitch to a fellow staff member, but before I could say anything he asked me if I could pop down to the cellar and change a keg, as he was mid order. No problem, I popped down, changed the barrel, and returned to try bitch again. Before I could speak, he says "thanks hun. Its so nice to have a girl around here who knows what they are doing. I mean, I could never sleep with 'Caroline' for example, cause if she cant even learn how to change a keg, whats the chances she can learn in bed?" It took my slightly addled brain a few minutes to work out if I was indeed seeing a come-on in there or not.

"You seen me phone, luv?" No, you stupid drink steeped old fart of a fake fisherman, I have NOT seen your bloody phone (I thought to myself. At some point thought would become speach, and I was getting nervous).

Mr Greece waved frantically for the next round and I delivered it with the required 2 shots, which were rapidly downed by me and him. "So what you doing after work? Come back to mine and have a drink." Sorry mate, I have a man. "Oh really where is he then? He is in the States right now. "Well then, you have the 'different continent' rule, dont you then." I sighed and walked away.

"Oi luv, you seen me..." I turned to find that Stinky had fallen asleep mid sentence. I took the glass out of his hand, poured the remaining drink down the sink and woke him up. "Dont wake me up! You should be workin, not wakin me up. Wheres me drink?" You finished it before you fell asleep. "Awrite, luv. I'm off to me bed. You comin?"

I am not exceptionally pretty. I am not exceptionally busty. I just keep living in small towns and communities desperate for fresh meat of the human female variety. God knows whats going to happen to my ego when I move back to the city and find I am one of many and no longer remarkable. On second thoughts, should I stay?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New jobs often suck

So I started my new job with all the flair and hope that one starts any new undertaking. Although this job is simply a means to an end (paying off a stupid phone situation, and saving up for the return to my man) I hoped to enjoy myself while I did it.

My first mistake: Accomodation. On the day that I came for my interview, there had been a farewell party the night before for the member of staff that I was to replace. This meant that everyone I met was hungover. Including the manager I was interviewed by. This was fine by me. I like a drink or seven when a good party is an excuse, and I was assured that this was not the normal state of things. However, when I asked to see the accomodation offered (pub jobs in the UK usually come with accomodation. It means you cant pull a sickie), I was told that the place was strewn with drunk people, but assured that the accomodation was above average and that I would have my own room. I figured that after living in a tent in the dustiest and most disease ridden country in the world, that I would be able to manage. I was sorely sorely mistaken.

The day I moved in I lugged my belongings from London out to the countryside, and arrived ready and full of a certain hopeful cheer. I knew I was going to hate it when I walked up the stairs to the accomodation. Imagine a teenagers bedroom. Got it? Now imagine that the teenager has been sharing his bedroom with 10 other teenagers for the last 4 years, and that they had occasionally decided that a bonfire INSIDE the house was a good idea. Not to mention the belongings of several past members of staff that they couldnt be bothered to take with them on their next adventure. At the top of the stairs is a landing that has to be negotiated with a certain amount of nimble footedness to avoid the old shoes, the random dirty glasses (some broken) and for some bizarre reason, a packet of ready sliced cheese. I am still sure that the cheese turned to watch me pass.

I made it relatively safely to my room, a little concerned for my health, and was in for yet another disappointment. My room is tiny, has a single bed that I choose not to know the history of, and has one small window, which I choose to keep closed because the heating doesnt work and the air outside is frosty. At some point it was part of a bigger room, and has been subdivided, using standard corner cutting chip board of the cheapest variety. They never plastered, or painted, over it. Also, it is directly above the bar, and not only can I hear the music downstairs, but I can actually hear the conversations of the customers as they sit at the bar on their 20th pint of the day.

At this point I almost walked straight back out again. However, I liked the people and figured if I could live in Sudan, I could live in this. Until that night. I wasnt shifted to work for that first night and so I sat at the bar and had a few drinks. Both my man, and my Dad, called that evening to ask how I was doing, and I assured them that the pub was great, the staff nice people, and that I was looking forward to my job. That rapidly changed when it reached 3am and the staff were still going strong on the drink. At this point I wanted to cry. The all night drinking is, in fact, a nightly event. As are the drugs (which I avoid as much as is possible). I woke the next day with a feeling of dread but was determined to give it a shot. I worked my first shift with a hangover, and was astounded when a staff member I hadnt met yet arrived for her lunch shift half an hour late (to no comment from management) and immediately poured herself a double gin and tonic. By the time she finished her shift 5 hours later she was hammered. I asked the manager if this is normal. 'Oh yes,' he says, 'she does this most days.'

I hate it. I hate the accomodation, I hate the staff who drink solidly, I hate the supervisor who gets too drunk to count the tills in the evening, and I hate that the only quiet I have in my room is somewhere between 3am and 9am. I am staying until the end of next week, I shall collect my pay, and run with my tail between my legs back to London. Dear god, what a place. Beautiful pub, beautiful location, and the most derelect and insane staff I have met for a while.

I am DEFINITELY too old for this shit!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New blog, new situation

So, there may be a few changes. And although some photos and a small change in font and colour may appear to be a little small in the change department, they reflect slightly larger changes in the rather strange situation that is my life.

I have taken a new job. I will be working in a lovely little country pub in a small town in a very affluent area of England. This is, of course, a temporary situation. Lets just wait and see where it leads. 

No more Sudan, no more Kenya, no more 3rd, 4th and 5th world. I have done my time, and once the dust and grime was out of my hair I realised I didnt want it back in there. 

Whats amusing to me is that when I first started thinking about writing a blog, it was when I was working at a small local pub in London. The things that happen behind the scenes, and in front of the bar were often more funny than any episode of Cheers could hope to be. 

Now I am moving to a local country pub, where the affluent newcomers are flanked by the long standing plumbers and mechanics, who were the ones who made it such a desirable place to live to start with. I love seeing subtle Gucci and Prada standing next to spattered plumbers uniforms as the sleeves reach accross the bar for a much needed pint of local ale. This looks like it could be fun...