Lost & Found


The end of another traumatic week, one way or another. Thankfully this week wasn’t all about me or the member of staff in a pub I’d abused in some way (though it’s early yet). No, this week was certainly all about The Incumbent Mrs B — the long-suffering female who’s been so lucky over the past few years to have the pleasure of living with me. If you stick your head out of the window you may be able to hear another chunk of Crimean cannon ball being filed down as they make her Victoria Cross. Nobody said it was gonna be easy, kid. And they were right. I’d like to take this opportunity here and now to apologise to The Incumbent for all the pain and sorry she has gone through on my behalf over the years, and state categorically that it won’t happen again. Not unless I get drunk tonight.

Proving that there should be an age-limit to prevent old people attempting selfies. That's Mt Vesuvius in the middle, no idea who the two people in the foreground are.

Proving that there should be an age-limit to prevent old people attempting selfies. That’s Mt Vesuvius in the background , no idea who the two people in the foreground are.

So, first some good news: the hunt for the Incumbent’s family continues. Those of you in the know will understand this house has recently become a poor man’s version of Who Do You Think You Are ?  (I’m appearing next year on BBC3’s highly successful “Why Do You Think You Are ?” where, if you can’t justify your existence, you are made to sit down and watch a whole episode of The Call Centre —a show worse than anything Jack Whitehall has come up with.**)

Our version doesn’t have a film crew, a producer or mood music; we haven’t had to fly Mrs B around the globe (I had to drive her to Feltham once); and there’s not even a visit to the British Museum or a Holocaust Memorial in sight, but I’m hoping the Beeb or even 5 might pick us up sooner or later. I won’t go into too many details here — as The Incumbent will want to tell you her story in her own words, and probably with more accuracy and clarity, but suffice to say that she’s  suddenly become the rather shocked relation of a slew of new full-sisters, half-sisters, short dogs and tall nephews and heaven knows how many other assorted family members.  Good news indeed after such a long search. However, having traced her lineage, if Nigel Farage (rhymes with garage) ever comes to power my Missus will be one of the first he’ll send back home to the continent. I do hope so anyway — as if Farage (as in marriage) and his mob get in I’m going to need somewhere to stay as I shall be packing my bags and will be on the boat right behind her. Like Kaiser Wilhelm II before me, I fancy my own place in the sun.

Mid-week she lost her favourite pen. It was a nice one, a present bought by a dear friend, and it was her favourite shopping list-writing tool. We have had the house turned upside down but cannot find it anywhere. It could have been lost anywhere between Canterbury in Kent and Feltham in Middx.:  Approx 88 miles, according to Google Maps. The pen is fitted with a tracking device, but you have to clip it to your top pocket before you can actually hear the signal it sends out. The battery on the tracker last up to 4 minutes. Some have said this is a design fault. I have poo-poohed such suggestions. Me and a chinese mate attached a microphone to a broomstick and went and sat in his rubber dinghy just off Erith Marshes, dangling the mic in the water. Oddly, nothing has turned up yet, but I’ll let you know.

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Anyway, the point of this tribute to my very own Leader of the Opposition is to wish her a very happy birthday. Sad to say, m’lady, you will never be as old as me, and don’t you enjoy telling me so ? One of us has a very significant, important and depressing birthday this year but unfortunately it’s not you. So enjoy it while you can, and as is traditional on these occasions: it’s your round. xx

 

Woman with Cake

Woman with Cake

** correct at time of going to press.

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Taking My Business Elswhere


We’ve come full circle.

From being asked, albeit politely, to leave a Harvester ‘pub’ last weekend, to barring myself from my once very favourite pub last night.

Both were completely justified.

The first incident occurred when, after and because I was on the outside of two or three bottles of house shiraz. I then decided, for better or worse, that I needed another bottle (and one for yourself). But in my excitement, haste and eagerness to replenish my glass and that of my accomplices on this Leo Sayer of Leo Sayers, I may have forgotten myself as I chivvied along the barmaid, who may or may not have been one of the worst you’ve ever seen.

Leo Sayer — All Dayer

Leo Sayer — All Dayer

I don’t like Harvester, never have done. It is a chain of foody ‘pubs’ over here and throughout good ol’ Blighty which is the very embodiment of everything I hate about modern drinking. Acres of dining tables, and occasionally tended drinking areas, or “bars” as they like to call them. They are restaurants with a beer counter attached. They are the Nigel Farage (rhymes with garage) of Holsteries. The Paul McCartney of pubs, the Mike Bushell of Boozers in which to enjoy a Sunday afternoon quaff.

” I say” quoth you “shall we go to the Bill Turnbull, the Sally Nugent or the Charlie Stayt for a pint ?” “Nah” comes the reply “let’s go to the Mike Bushell. It’s not a real pub, but it’ll do, don’t cha think ?”.  (You may find this odd, but that’s how the “shall we go for a pint in the Harvester” conversation  sounds in my head. I bet it does in yours too)

And I’m just like you. To save a row, you go along. After all, this time it’s definitely not all about YOU, is it ? This is not your day and you go with the flow. That’s what makes you a civilised human being, isn’t it ? Someone who people like and admire, someone who considers other people’s opinions and feelings. Even if you hate the pub you’re walking into.

In truth, I’ve always hated that pub, even when it tried to be a proper pub. Back in black&white it used to go by the name of The Rising Sun, and it was always last on our young drinkers list of places to go for an evening’s entertainment. It was huge and uninteresting, more like an pub in Essex, not one in The Garden of England, (or even in the bit I live— The Allotment of England). Huge, overrated and uninteresting, in that David-Walliams-sort-of-way. Now, apparently it still goes the name of the Rising Sun, but known to all as “The Harvey”. Or sometimes “The Bushell” (though probably only by me.)

Harvester Logo_salad-grill

But none of this by any means excuses me for what I apparently said to this person serving — or otherwise— me that afternoon. Early into that next bottle I was asked by the manager of the pub if I had a minute, was taken to a quiet corner of the bar, and was kindly asked to leave the pub as I had been rude — “in the extreme”— to the young lady behind the bar. First hand accounts are scarce and differ slightly about what happened and who said what to who(m). What seems to be clear is that, to paraphrase Sesame Street, this conversation was brought to by the letters U, T, N & C and by the words  SLOW, USELESS and YOU.

I was asked to leave on the grounds that I was “rude and tipsy”.  It was, apparently, a fair cop, guv. That was a week ago, and it took some getting over. Angst and shame. Using inappropriate language; not being able to remember saying that rude word, or indeed anything, to the barmaid; being barred from a pub, however awful, and thus having to curtail my assault on the Dartford Shiraz surplus. I have, however, gradually been able to come to terms with my actions by way of convincing myself that a) she may well have (or probably) made it all up; b) she was indeed slow and useless (though not necessarily a utnc); c) I never liked the pub anyway. If, indeed, a pub it be.

I moved on.

Mid week, I found myself in The People’s Republic of Luton having beer & sandwiches with a couple of the locals.

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Strange lot. It appears they grow up with either too much hair, or none at all. However, they do know how to run a boozer, as the chaps in The Castle pub, castle street — next to the castle (how do they come up with these names ?) illustrates. Good beer, proper, quick and attentive bar staff, no food, original decor (well, underneath the old folk music flyers there was original decor.) It restored my faith in pubs and the people therein. It was clean, well stocked, reasonable priced and catered for the beer-and-wine-drinking community as a whole.  Hairies and baldies alike.

 

Marianne Faithfull, The Salisbury Pub, London by Gered Mankowitz

Marianne Faithfull, The Salisbury Pub, London. Photo by Gered Mankowitz

Cut to yesterday afternoon when I strolled manfully through London’s Covent Garden, leading The Incumbent and two friends to my very favourite watering hole the capital has to offer. Anyone who has ever met me for a drink in London over the past 30 years will have been asked by me if “we could go to The Sailisbury, St Martin’s Lane”. In the heart of London’s Theatre Land, this is what a pub should be. Great beer, friendly staff (apart from that time one of them charged me over four quid for a pint of Peroni, but then I wasn’t very friendly either), beautiful, original features like cut glass partitions, red velvet seats and a sticky paisley carpet. Even though they serve hot food to punters, it is just my favourite pub in town, almost the world.

Or rather it was.

Since 1892 The Salisbury (or whichever name the pub went by before) has been serving beer, wine and Mars Bars to theatre-goers, revellers, drunks and Marianne Faithfull in these plush, welcoming surroundings. Yesterday, thanks to the marketing men, interior designers, painters, atmosphere-removers and parquet floor-fitters they reduced one of their punters to tears.

Me.

Ok, ok. I had already enjoyed a marvellous lunch up the road, and may have had a beer or eight before I walked into the place, but when I did I cried like a Dartford Barmaid who’s just been call a utnc. It may have been an over-reaction, and you may well look at the snap below and say “ooh that looks nice”, and you may or may not be correct. But truth is they still serve italian lager at over £4-a-pint, they still serve hot food which rids the place of its happy hoppy smell and replaces it with one of gravy & onions and it still attracts far to many backpacking half a shandy brigade. None of this mattered to me before, but now it does. Who gave who(m) the right to go against history and change what drinkers have been enjoying for 120 years ? WHO ?? If I wanted to drink in a Slug & Piano or an Airport Departure Lounge Bar/Wetherspoons* (delete where applicable) I WOULD HAVE GONE TO ONE. Instead I chose to introduce friends to my favourite hostelry. Now they think I like laminate flooring.

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The Incumbent, top right, puts on a brave face as The Author shoots photos through the tears, the sorrow and the pain.

So apart from crying in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a packed pub in the middle of the West End of London, I thought I maintained my composure pretty well. I only posted my complaints on Facebook, Twitter & Beerintheevening.com and alerted the bar staff to my deep concerns— after having dried my eyes, of course — and without using the ‘U’ word once. I used words such as “Awful” “shameful” and “goodbye forever” and meant all of them. Apart from the last two as I still had a gallon of Guinness to cry into.

I now brace myself for those-in-the-know to reply to my various protests, pointing out that The Salisbury “has been altered 17 times over the last 30 years but you’ve just always been too drunk to notice”, which may or may not be accurate and true. However, I’m similar to many people: Although I don’t like Conservatives, I am very conservative. Like a lot of blokes I know, I’d go to the same pub every night of my life and drink the same pint for the rest of my days, as long as no-one changed anything. ANYTHING. I can moan about any and every aspect of the pub, from the price of a pint, to the speed of the barman/maid, the state of the loos to the state of the pickled eggs, pork scratchings and carpet. But I pay enough for a pint and drink enough of them to have an opinion, and it’s MY pub! Not yours — you fly-by-night manager who’ll be off in a couple of years to run that little B&B near Droitwich at the drop of a hat. I’ll be here, come rain-or-shine, moaning, laughing and crying at my regular spot in the corner until I decide I’ve had enough, or you decide to decorate. Or I’m politely asked to leave.

God, I bet they’ll miss me.

 

 

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate


Last Autumn Dartford Council spent weeks informing the residents that the workmen were due soon to re-surface our road (Swaisland Road, DA1 – if anyone down there’s taking notes). We were all very excited— If you live in Dartford there’s very little to get excited about.  So when a gang of diminutive, old suit-wearing Boys from the Black Stuff arrived we were indeed thankful for small murphys.

CoolHandLuke16

NOT the men from Dartford Council.

I wish now that I’d taken a photo to prove to my neighbours that the men actually came, because few believe me that anything happened at all. The road is roughly (and getting rougher by the minute) 400 yards long yet my tichy tarmac-toiling troops curtailed their asphalt-laying activities immediately outside my house — having completed a whopping great 47.32 yards. The remaining 352.68 yards of potholes, dog turds and more potholes were left to fend for themselves.

Cool Hand Luke it ain’t. It isn’t even Yosser Hughes.

So todays quiz is simply this:  In this snap taken by my own hand this very afternoon, see if you can spot where the new surface stops, and where the old one begins. A Greggs Iced Finger to the clever reader who spots the council’s deliberate mistake, Mike’s two fingers to Dartford Council.

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Those of you who haven’t paid their Council Tax please move to the right please.

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On the Ridiculous


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Noon GMT today.

Brrrring …Brrrrring…..  (that’s my phone impersonation again)

Brrrring …Brrrrring…..Brrrring …Brrrrring….. (it’s my mobile)
Brrrring …Brrrrring…..(I have one of those “retro” rings — same one as everybody else)
Brrrring …Brrrrring….. (so I never know if it’s my phone ringing— unless I’m alone)
Brrrring …Brrrrring….. (like this morning)
Brrrring …Brr- “Hello?”

‘Hello, Mr Bealing?’ a young female Geordie voice asked

“Speaking” an old male Estuary voice replied

“It’s Virgin Media here” she announced triumphantly

“hm-hmm” (I was less than impressed. Having dealt with the English-speaking world’s joint -2nd worst Customer Services** before, I  didn’t anticipate having too much fun here).

There was a slight pause, as if she was waiting for me to either shout ‘hooray’ or hang up. Once she’d established neither was about to happen, she continued.

“I’m calling you today to discuss improvements to your landline and to see if we can provide you with better value in the service we provide to you .”

“hm-hmm”

“Would you have five minutes at the moment ?”

“Of course, I’ve been desperate to talk to you” (that may have been a fib).

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Another pause while she considered the implications of this statement.

“Oh, ok, well before we start, could you confirm for me the first two characters of you Virgin Media password?”

“I have no idea what my Virgin Media password is, I’m afraid”

“Really?” she was clearly incredulous

Really?” I emphasised. It’s not something I use often. Oh I dunno try X.A.” (regular readers will remember the name of my first pet stoat)

“Ooh, I’m afraid that doesn’t correspond to the password I have here”

“”Oh No!” I was mortified. Ish.

“Would you like me to ask you other questions to confirm you identity ?”

“I know my identity”

“But I need to confirm it before we can proceed, sir”. I don’t think she shared my sense of humour.

“Ok, yes, of course, fire away”

“Good, so can you confirm the method by which you pay for your Virgin Media Services ?”

“Direct Debit”

“Yes, Correct”. I had answered a question correctly. The warm glow of pride inside me was immense. She continued, and I was on a roll,

“Now can you tell me the speed of the broadband service which you currently receive from Virgin Media.”

“Nope. I think it’s 30 ish. Or maybe 50. I know it’s about half the speed of what you lot reckon it is.”

“Er….no… that’s not quite right…so can you tell me the name of the TV package which you currently have with Virgin Media?”

“Ha !  No I can’t. No idea what you call them. I know I reduced it a month or so ago shortly after the Ashes ended. Erm…. Tall ? Grande? “

“Er, no, Mr Bealing, I’m afraid that is not the package you have with us, so I’m afraid as you’ve answered two questions incorrectly we cannot continue this conversation”

“Ok then” I tried unsuccessfully to sound disappointed. She was clearly crestfallen.

“I am really sorry, Mr Bealing, but I do need you to answer these questions of verification, otherwise I cannot help you.”

“But you called me?”

“Excuse me?”

“YOU called ME . On my mobile. For starters, why didn’t you call me on my landline? At least you’d know you were calling the right house? But I was going along fine, not aware that I needed anything Virgin Media-wise until you called me. I didn’t call YOU to ask for anything. YOU called ME ! “

“It’s a procedural thing, sir. We would have called your landline and received no answer so we called your cellphone.”

“Well no, you didn’t, but that’s by-the-by. You called me to sell me something. But because I don’t keep a note of a password I use once every other luna equinox, or know your code names for Television packages, you are prevented from selling me anything. Something wrong with your system, I reckon, don’t you?”

She’d begun to go all Westworld on my ass. “It’s a procedural thing, Mr Bealing. I need you to answer these questions of verification, otherwise I cannot help you.”

“Ok then. Byeee”. I pressed the Fuckoffthen button on my mobile. My legendarily long patience had suddenly deserted me. I was left to consider where I was before the phone call.

sir-richard-branson

Now where was I ?  Ah yes, writing a letter of complaint.

Dear Mr Branston…”

**Tied equal with RBS and Interflora, just behind the British National Party.

Customer Services


Having worked for and with more than my fair share of Americans, it always makes my blood boil when they carp on about the poor quality of British Customer Services: No Smiles; No Have a Nice Day Now Y’All Hears; No going the extra yards; No nuthin’.

So let’s put an end to the myth that us British have no idea how to treat the customer. Here’s evidence that things are improving, at least in the British Courier community:

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Makes you feel kinda proud. Even the dog at the door can’t believe it.

Missing You Already.

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Didier Fookin’ Drogbah !


Why do we bother watching football ? Who out there hasn’t felt like this  on more than several occasions about their own team ?

Very sweary Geordie gets himself in a lather about the Toon. (Works perfectly too if you substitute the word Newcastle for Charlton). Things clearly ain’t going well for the Magpies from the Land of My Fathers (well, mothers to be precise). Made me smile on more than once, which is more than Charlton do.

 

Thanks Shola, but fook off !

Champion !

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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