The title of this blog entry was going to be Putting on the Ritz, but I haven't heard that song for a number of years. There's a reason why I considered calling it that and it sort of makes me feel really evil...
The wife (you remember her) has a number of favourite films and one of them is Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. It's not really one of her favourite films, but she loves Peter Boyle as the Monster and she especially likes the musical number called Putting on the Ritz. it makes her howl like kid. If you're not familiar with it, it's here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ-aRwEbp5I.
On Thursday night, Roger and I decided to go to a pub we haven't really frequented in a long time. I'd been there Thursday lunchtime too and it was here that the reason we hadn't been there for a long time was finally explained. Let me elucidate.
It was some time in 2006 or 7. We were having a quiet pint, watching some football match on the big screen and generally just minding our own business. It was my turn to go to the bar and as I sauntered up to it, I got accosted by a strange looking man. He got right in my face and bellowed something at me in the form of a question or at least that's what it sounded like. No one seemed to take any notice of the fact that I was being verbally assaulted by this hulking great figure and on return to my seat, I decided, especially after something similar having happened at another pub we frequented just a few weeks earlier, that we'd give this place a miss for a while; even if it did have excellent beer.
On Thursday, I'm having a pint of the lovely Oakham Citra with my good pal One El, when I heard this bizarre hooting from behind me. One El and the nice barmaid Emma both took little notice of it, so I didn't either. An assortment of strange noises and bizarre speech accompanied the initial hooting and into my eye line comes this big fella who was the man who had got in my face a few years earlier. It was pretty obvious by the way One El and Emma were talking to him that he was as they say in uncouth circles - a few sandwiches short of a picnic. His name was Michael and he was a victim of dear old Maggie's Care in the Community measures back in the 80s. He was totally harmless, but obviously a bit intimidating to anyone who doesn't know that he has mental health problems and suffers from severe autism.
He got in my face a couple of times on Thursday; but I now knew what the problem was and it wasn't a problem at all. He seemed more interested in what was going to be empty soon and in his own unique way, he came over as being quite sweet really; daunting but harmless.
So what's this got to do with the above? Well, not a lot but just enough to link it together. So there was Roger and I, pulling up outside the Romany for a Thursday night drink for the first time in years. The car was parked, we climbed out and we could hear music coming from the lounge. I'd been told that the old Thursday night Jam Sessions had been discontinued, so I was a little confused; so I figured we'd go into the bar instead. it was, after all, where I'd been just 7 hours earlier.
I ordered two pints of the wonderful Citra, with its grapefruit undertones and its Oakham hoppyness and was served by a young girl who was promptly insulted by a guy who had been in the pub when me and One El turned up at 1pm. Roger looked at me with that, 'are you sure this is a wise idea' look on his face and all the time there was this racket coming from the lounge. It sounded like karaoke but equally it could have been some dogs howling at the moon. Emma, the nice bar maid from the afternoon appeared and sorted out our beer, smiled and explained why the noise from next door sounded like Putting on the Ritz from Young Frankenstein (my description, not hers).
It was a party for local Down's Syndrome kids and their parents. There was food, cake, soft drinks and a karaoke machine, which all the kids were having a go on. By the time we had been there an hour, we were laughing, but not at the kids, but along with them. However badly they were singing, they were doing magnificently well and deserved the thunderous applause they were getting after each song.
Now, this ties into...
I decided to write an article for the Real Ale magazine called Over the Barrel, it's a freebie produced by CAMRA for real ale pubs in the county and I read it every 3 months - it's a quarterly magazine. It probably survives on advertising alone and the people who put it together are volunteers. As an ex magazine man, it's dreadfully put together, but it's free and its a good read, especially if you're into real ale.
So, I wrote this 'on spec' article and submitted it on Thursday afternoon and it was largely about pubs' failure to be a success in the current market and how I see it. I think pubs like The Romany, the Queen Adelaide in Kingsthorpe and The Vic, our regular Tuesday night quiz haunt, are the kind of pubs that need to be copied rather than new and revamped pubs following the multiple lager, cheap food and bouncy castle route, which many of them seem to think works. The thing is, my entire point is that local pubs have to be more community oriented and The Romany proved that by having this party - on a quiet night - for the disadvantaged and for a group of people that your average pub would never consider welcoming into their establishments. it was heart warming and left me with an even warmer glow than the fine Oakham beers did. Well done The Romany. I shall be adding you to my regular Thursday night drink route again!
Apparently, Anglia Water Authority were supposed to have written to me to inform me that they were going to dig up my front garden. They didn't.
Apparently, Clancy Docwra, the contractors who dug up my garden, were supposed to have knocked on my door at 7.40am and asked me if it was okay for them to start using a pneumatic drill. They didn't.
Anglia Water promised to ring me back within an hour to offer and apology and an explanation as to why this had happened without my knowledge. they didn't.
Clancy Docwra rang me at 3.15. I answered the phone and heard this condescending voice at the other end say, "Hello sir, I understand we woke you up this morning?"
I am so glad I heard and learnt what the acronym CAUC was the other day, because these two companies are full of them...
2011 could well start very badly and if things don't improve it could get much worse. The Office for Budget Responsibility reckons that the number of public sector workers who will lose their jobs has dropped from 490,000 to about 330,000 (I might have got the figures slightly wrong, but we all know the score). Well... I looks like I might be one of those 330,000. Merry Fucking Christmas...