Greaves’ Rules: It’s Your Round Again, Mate


This’ll be the third or fourth time I have posted this, but you can’t get too much of a good thing. This follows many requests from friends and drinking buddies alike to republish these rules (and they are RULES, not suggestions), and after observing from afar some truly shocking antics of the recent crop of Beliebers, Directioners and Whovians (I’m a Whothefvckcaresvian), who have reached their 18th birthday, somehow are allowed into my pubs, and who now seem intent on making my quiet drinking time a nightmare.

I suspect my first heart attack will arrive as I’m queuing (yes, I’m British) behind 7 Coiffured Dwarfs, fiddling through their man-purses while they individually ask for a WKD and pay for one with 20 pence pieces; or if the pub does Vodka Shots or bottles of Pomegranate and Strawberry Cider ?  “You do ? Excellent! one please. How much is that ? CAN OF YOU GUYS LEND ME 38 PENCE PLEASE ?”

Back in the day when the great Bill Greaves — Friend, Ale Expert, Pub Aficionado, Journalist and Right-Hand opening Bat — composed the following, life was a lot simpler (we’re talking about the 1980s, not the 1880s, you understand). People (men, mostly) stood together, talked together, drank (beer) together and bought a round for each other. If you were 18 years old (or even 15) “this is your pint of Bitter, get that down you and it’s your round next!”. Fluorescence purple or lime green alcoholic drinks had, thankfully, not been invented yet.

Too poor to get your round in ? We’ll stand you a few this time, but make sure you bring some cash next week or you can sod off out of our company (it was only 40p a pint after all).

So for those of us who hark back to such happy times, and for those of you who are in desperate need of a lesson in pub etiquette, I give you (once again):

GREAVES’ RULES

1.When two or more enter the pub together, one – usually the first through the door – will begin proceedings with the words “Now then, what are we having?” He or she will then order and pay. This purchase is known as “the first round”.

2.This player, or “opener”, will remain “in the chair” while other friends or colleagues come through the door to join the round. He will remain in this benefactory role until either (a) his own glass sinks to beneath the half way mark or (b) another drinker finds himself almost bereft of his original refreshment and volunteers to “start a new round”.

3.In the absence of new arrivals, any player other than the opener may at any time inquire whether it is “the same again?” On receiving his instructions, he will then order and pay for “the second round”. (N.B. The second round is the last one to be specifically numbered. Beyond that point, nobody wishes to be reminded how many they have had and, anyway, no-one should be counting.)

“His Eminence” Greaves (right, in jacket) with the late, great Preston

“His Eminence” Greaves (right, in jacket) with the late, great Preston

4.The round acknowledges no discrimination. All players, regardless of sex, age or social status, are expected to “stand their corner”. (Pedants might like to note that we are talking here of the only “round” in the English language that also contains a “corner”.

5.Any new entrant, joining the session after its inception, is not expected to “buy himself in” but should be invited to join the round by whoever is in the chair (see Rule 2). If, however, he is greeted by silence he may either (a) buy a drink just for himself or (b) attempt to buy a round for all present. If (a) or, worse still, (b) is not acceptable to the congregation then the new entrant has been snubbed and should in future seek out more appreciative company. There is one important exception…

6.For reasons of haste or poverty, a new arrival may insist on buying his own with the words “Thanks, but I’m only popping in for one”. If he is then seen to buy more than three drinks, he will be deemed a skinflint, neither broke nor in a hurry to get home, and will be penalised for his duplicity by being ordered to buy the next round.

7.Although everyone in the group is normally required to buy at least one round before leaving, the advent of either drunkenness or closing time sometimes renders this ideal unattainable. In such circumstances, any non-paying participant will (a) have “got away with it” and (b) appoint himself “opener” at the next forgathering. However, any player who notices on arrival that the round has “got out of hand” and has no chance of reaching his turn before “the last bell”, may start a “breakaway round” by buying a drink for himself and all subsequent arrivals. This stratagem breaks the round in two, keeps the cost within manageable proportions and is the only acceptable alternative to Rule 5.

8.When a pressing engagement elsewhere precludes further involvement, it is wholly unacceptable for any player who has not yet been in the chair to buy a round in which he cannot himself be included. In such circumstances Rule 7 (a) and (b) therefore apply.

9.In the event of any one glass becoming empty, a new round must be called immediately. This should not necessarily be called by the owner of the empty glass, however, because this place the slower drinker at an unfair fund-saving advantage. (N.B. Whereas it is permissible for any member of the round to decrease the capacity of his individual order – “just a half for me, please” – the opposite does not hold good. A large whisky, for instance, may be offered by the chair but never demanded of it.)

10.Regional variations. In various parts of the country, a particular establishment will impose its own individual codicil. In one Yorkshire pub, for example, the landlord’s Jack Russell terrier expects to be included in every round. Where such amendments exist, and are properly advertised, they must be piously observed. We are, after all, talking about a religion.

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Difficult, Difficult, Lemon Difficult


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Strap yourselves in; this may go on a for a bit.

This is not the time to panic. This is a time for cool heads, a time for reasoning and clear thinking. We’ve been here before and got through it, and we can get through it again.

There’s no easy way to say this. So I’m just going to say it: My local pub has run out of lemons. I’m sorry, I didn’t know how else to break it to you.In truth it has had no lemons OR LIMES for a whole week now. Now before you scoff, just take on board what that actually means. Ever tried, of your own free will, a gin & tonic without lemon or lime (let alone both)? Or what about a vodka and coke? For the youngsters among you, doesn’t that glass of coke that dad buys you in the pub when he sees you every third Sunday in the month taste a little bit better with a slice of lemon floating atop? Well of course it does sweetie, just don’t tell mum we came in here.

But let’s dig further, let’s get to the nub of the problem, let’s don the safety helmets, lamps on, and delve deep to the heart of the matter: My pub has gone to pot. No, there’s no use in denying it, the boozer which has been home for the best part of a year has come to the end of its run and now I must move on.

“A year?!?!” I hear you cry in amazement. “But you speak of it as if you have been there forever-and-a-day??!! A year doesn’t seem very long”

Well, as Nana Mouskouri would say, let me tell you a little story:

A long, long time ago I can still remember how the music used to make…. No hang on a minute, that’s a different story altogether.

A long, long time ago, back in the day when two young blokes called Tony and Gordon were just settling in to their new swanky pads in the heart of London’s fashionable Westminster, a young bloke called Mike was getting used to life on his own in a house in London’s unfashionable Blackheath. In a flash and purely by chance, he happened upon a newly refurbished public house, not far from his dwelling. Over the ensuing months Mike and his friends spent many a long and happy night dancing and drinking and singing and drinking and wobbling in that little faux-Irish pub. But after three or four years of happy times, the group of friends started to go their separate ways. Some of them realised they were getting a little old to be drinking every night of the week. There were those who lamented the passing of their favourite landlord. Some felt the pub had run it’s course and was beginning to be filled with far too many of the ‘younger set’. Others agreed, but thought the fact that younger women were coming into the pub was precisely the reason to remain using the pub. Yet more others pointed out to those others that none of them had pulled so much as a muscle in all the years they’d been drinking there and that those others were wasting their time trying.

And so it came to pass that this ever-dwindling band of chums trotted down the road and began to use the pub by the railway station , imaginatively called The Railway which they would continue calling the ‘local’ for many moons to come. The Railway was a completely different kettle of prawns. It was dark, sleek, laid-back with subtle shades on the walls, non-matching, low-slung furniture. Chaise longues and sofas everywhere, mood music and exotic nibbles. They served several draught beers from oversized pint pots, there was a huge and extensive wine list, and a long and varied food menu. In short, it was fucking horrible. This was not what Mike required from a pub at all! This, in fact, wasn’t a pub ! This was a ‘bar’. Yuk!! True, the clientele was a little older and looked (at first glance anyway) to be slightly classier and less rough-around-the-edges from the Oirish bar, but in truth they were the same people, just out in their best bib-n-tucker and having had a wash.

Ever the accommodating diplomat (quiet at the back!) Mike said nothing and went with the flow, supping many a happy sundowner with his chums, sometimes chatting away quietly at the bar, accompanied by the quiet hubbub of a cattle market going on around them. However, it always seemed to take just that little bit too long to be served, and was lacking in what Mike perceived to be the due respect and politeness from the bar staff due to a bloke who poured half of his week’s wages over the counter. All this was to be endured while taking in lungfuls of the smell of duck a l’orange, or scallops in walnut batter being brought to tables every 4 and a half minutes. Mike hated the smell food in pubs, and this one was a serious and serial offender. It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t very pleasant. But again, after a couple of years, the group slowly diminished down to a mere handful. Some got married, some left the area, some went to the infirmary and some to Doctor Gibb’s. So, when the couple who had been the main champions of the bar upped and went off to buy half of Cornwall, Mike saw his chance to change pubs. (continued after this Advert:)

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By now he had met The Incumbent (in the Railway, funnily enough) and together they made their way up the hill to The Crown. An attractive looking little boozer (both the pub and The Incumbent), with a considerably older intake (that’s the pub, not The Incumbent) than the previously two hostelries, with an interior which looked and smelled like a proper public house (old and smelly) and locals to match. It was run by Keith, a salt-of-the-earth Geordie with a bad back. This allowed him to order the young staff up n down from the cellar, lugging barrels around, and gave him more time in the bar. There was the world’s worst afternoon gambling syndicate, armed with the Mirror and the Sporting Life they systematically bet on every horse which came in last in every race on TV. There was the local village idiot, who shouted his way around the pub trying to impress women 20 years younger than himself with his brand of cockney wit, Timmy Mallet glasses, tales of the past and knob gags. There was the bloke and his little scruffy neckerchiefed dog who popped in for a sharp single as part of their nightly ‘walk’ around the village. It was too old and crusty for most trendy types, too smelly for many women, too dead for violence-seeking herberts. Only once did anything kick off in there when one rather drunk and rather fat bloke took a swing at the assistant bar manager over an alleged short measure. He missed by a yard, fell off his stool, literally shit himself, and left with not just his tail, but also a long trail of poo between his legs.

However, after nearly a year, even this roller-coaster ride of thrills and spills got to Mike in the end: The village idiot started recognising him and tried to start up conversations beginning with “allo bruv, ‘ow’s yer bum for spots?” and suchlike. The groups of old smelly men started to get progressively louder and more boisterous, much worse than any bunch of shiny-suited tossers from Eltham. The barmaids became even more miserable and unhelpful than ever, and they ran out of beers far too often to call themselves a pub. The final straw came when Mike asked for a pint of Guinness and a G&T (ice and lemon) for the missus. The sour-faced girl behind the jump went away to address the optic. She returned.
“We ain’t got no ice. You still want the lemon?” she enquired.
“I don’t think I even want the gin” Mike sighed back. They left.

Who has EVER asked for a warm gin with no ice or lemon? (no whelk jokes here please).

Crossing the road, and with a walk reminiscent of Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, Mike led the Incumbent back into O’Neills, the very same Oirish pub he’d left all those years ago. It was a changed pub: New landlord, new atmosphere, less youngsters, less anyone, in fact. Barmaids and barmen who smiled at you, asked how you were and remembered what you drank. Night after night, week after week, month after month of great service, pleasant company and great bands on a Thursday night. Mike was truly happy once more. He felt at home. He came to know the staff and they came to know both him and The Incumbent. Drinks were bought, tips were given, jokes shared. It was a nice happy time, and it lasted for about a year. Until it stopped.

Another change of manager led immediately to a change of staff. Some left immediately, never to return. The service started falling off, they started running out of certain beers, increasingly there were too few behind the bar to serve. Last Thursday Mike waited ten minutes to be served, and there were only another eight people in the pub. Two floor-servers were working but only one person behind the bar. He had half a mind of sitting down at a table to be served, but Mike doesn’t sit down in pubs. Even the Thursday night band on stage seemed not to be pulling their weight. Mike was sad again.

And then they ran out of lemons.

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So that is my story. I hope you can see my plight. Where to go next? I hear tell the Hare and Billet has something to offer, but I’m sure the landlord will serve me in his vest. The Princess of Wales may be long on lemons, both behind and in front of the bar, but it’s short on atmosphere. And anyway it’s far too far to walk (about 300 yrds). I can’t go through the whole winter without a local. Where would I take the kids at the weekend ?

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Saturday Titfers


Unknown Football ground photographed somewhere or other, circa dunno. Probably not the Valley.

Unknown Football ground photographed somewhere or other, circa dunno. Probably not the Valley.

In a quiet side street of the charming hamlet of Charlton, (as in ‘Charlton Athletic Nil’), South East London once stood a little pub called The Valley, named after the local football team’s home ground. A pretty unremarkable little boozer, which my brother and I used to go in for “just the one” at lunchtime on match days (we were supporters, you understand, not players. The players were in the boozer across the road).  It was suitably scruffy, unknown to traveling opposition supporters, and mercifully free of the formica and stainless steel decor favoured by the Slug and Pianos, the All Bar Funs and the Trout n Tillbox pub chains so popular with the roof of today.

But the feature of this pub which will stay with me forever was an old photograph on the wall. Or to be precise, a photo so large it stretched across two walls, floor-to-ceiling, in the main bar. It showed life as it was 60 years ago, a life sadly no longer with us. The photo at the top of this page , similar to the one in the pub,  will give you an idea of what I mean.

Pictured was the old, massive, main terrace at Charlton’s ground, presumably photographed just post-war. Several things struck you when you looked at the picture: That they used to sell-out home games; Some of the supporters were smiling; No-one was kicking seven shades out of anyone else; and everyone in the photo was male. But there was something else: of the nigh-on 20,000 people in the photo everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was wearing a hat. Be it a trilby, a flat cap, or whatever, EVERYONE wore a hat. Question: when the time came to throw your hat in the air in celebration of Charlton scoring a goal (quiet at the back!) how did you get your own hat back? It must have been carnage.

Charlton beating Liverpool 3-0 (yes, honestly). Not a dry hat in the house.

Charlton beating Liverpool 3-0 (yes, honestly) December 1959. The home goalie, Willie Duff, dives to clear some smudges from the photograph. Not a dry hat in the house.

I have a particularly big swede and I suspect I would have often walked home with someone else’s cap, 3 sizes too small perched, at a jaunty angle, on the top of my head, while some other poor little sod wore my one, having to walk four yards before the hat moved.

In 1953 Charlton beat Middlesbrough 8-1 which presumably meant that some of those present changed hats 8 times during the match. I wonder if after twenty minutes you ended up with a real corker of a titfer you just buggered off home and sod the result? Were you refused entry to the ground if you were hatless? What if your chapeau was a birthday present but the bloke standing 7 yards away caught it during the melee after a late equalizer? My mum would have gone Garrity if I returned home without it.

Sad I know, but it’s something that’s always bothered me.
The pub’s not there now. Demolished for yuppie flats, A Costa Coffee bar or somesuch. Gone the same way as epidemic hat-wearing, a thousand proper boozers around the country, and home goals at The Valley.