Publicans: they’ve seen it all – drunken arguments, spilt drinks, fights, the flashing lights of the emergency services. Regular exposure to the darker side of humanity gives them the right to a employ a certain cynical wit when dealing with an irritating customer. And talking of irritating pub customers . . . step forward my friends and acquaintances!
My first tale concerns Jimmy Nevado, The Fox and Hounds pub in Fleet and Ron Kettle, a tough ex-para and a no-nonsense publican of the old school.
One evening in the ’90s, Jimmy was well into his cups and went shambling inside from the beer garden in search of more drinks for his table of friends. However, when stood at the bar, drunkenly trying to place his order with Mr Kettle, his memory failed him.
‘Uh, that’s two pints . . . no, one pint of Kronenburg, a double Jameson’s without ice. No, with ice. Or was that for the vodka and coke? I think -‘
‘Can you whistle?’ Ron Kettle said suddenly.
‘Uh, yes, I can. But why?’
‘Because I like a bit of music when I’m being fucked about.’
Skip over to a pub in Farnborough (The Angler’s Arms I think, though I may be wrong) and the band, Peach Razor, are setting up. Their music was hard, heavy, incredibly loud and much influenced by those ’90s guitar bands who drenched their songs in atonal drones and screeching feedback.
The band set up and did one song as a sound check. As they were preparing for a second, the landlord beckoned them over.
‘I’m not listening to that shite all night,’ he said, counting tenners as he did so. ‘Here’s your money. Now pack up and fuck off.’
Another group of musician friends had a similar experience when on tour in the north of England. Having stopped in a dark, drear pub somewhere in Yorkshire, one dared another to go to the bar and order “a half-pint of shandy and lime” in his best effete southern accent.
The landlady was a prim, dainty, Miss Marple lookalike who took the order smiling, prepared the drink smiling, and was still smiling when she handed it to my friend.
‘Here’s your half-pint of shandy, love’ she said. ‘Now sup up and the get the fuck out of my pub. We serve men proper drinks round here.’