Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012 - 20

Holiday Musings

Well, that's the Easter break over and done with for another year. Ahead of me is 6 weeks, a week off, and then another 6 weeks before that 6 weeks is matched by a summer holiday. That's the next 19 weeks of my life mapped out then...

Apparently, I've seen Richard Digance in concert - at the Royal Theatre - about 25 years ago. Really? Jesus, I must have been really drug addled back then because I can't remember it. "Made a big impression, then?" Asked the wife, as I stood there desperately searching my memory banks for some snippet and failing miserably.

But I'm sure it will come back to me at some point. On Tuesday, when we were in Leicester, I was sitting on one of the market stalls waiting for the girls to finish their toileting needs, I had a clear as a bell recollection of something that happened donkeys years ago. I sat there in the sunshine and relived a moment from my youth. When the girls got back they were deeply engrossed in some conversation and we continued on our way and by the time we got back to the car I'd completely forgotten my flashback...

Perhaps my memory is becoming shot to pieces? Just last week I saw something that incensed me. Someone - on line - mentioned they were doing something over Easter and it was only going to cost £28.50 each to attend and I thought, the last time I did that it cost about a fiver and I was appalled at the cost of it then! Can't remember what it was, though...

I've also had to deal with the gnawing realisation that now I'm almost 50 I'm eligible for Saga holidays and cheap motor insurance. I also appear to be having the kind of self-doubt and antsy-ness that one would associate with turning 40 - at least traditionally, that was until everything shifted forward ten years. Apparently 60 is the new 50, so therefore 50 must be the new 40.

I actually looked at a job in Thursday's Chronicle that required me to stack things in boxes and wondered if I could do something like that. I couldn't. I wouldn't let myself. But the thing is, after two weeks of being free from kids, I'm wondering if my abilities are being wasted. The break has allowed me to step back and look at my career path and I've realised that I might have to look for a different kind of job.

I had a conversation at the end of the week, which I will skirt around because of what it involves, but a mate of mine told me that he knows of a pub that will shortly be in need of a manager and I found myself doing what I did a couple of years ago; imagining myself back behind a bar. Are you mad? That's what my good friends would say if they read this. Working in a pub is madness. Too much hard work for little reward and you have to put up with drunken idiots and all the really unsavoury wankers you get in a pub.

The thing was, there's a period in my past that a) I can recall very well and b) I don't really talk about much. When I worked behind a bar.

When I was 15, my dad, disillusioned with his role at the adhesives company he had worked at for 20 years, decided he wanted to do something different in his life - something totally out to left field. So my parents began training to become pub landlords. Ironically, I kind of blame this on my failure to excel academically; suddenly being on your own when you're doing your O levels is a temptation too far. It wasn't like my folks pushed us through school either; so having no encouragement instead of almost none wasn't really going to change things; but had they decided to do what they did now, I think social services would probably have been crawling over my family home faster than a crow on carrion.

They got their first proper pub - The Crown Inn, Hardingstone - in 1979, so I became immersed in the pub scene at an age when I should have still been playing football and chasing girls through summer meadows. They lasted just over a year there before deciding that working in a pub was like a cross between a prison sentence and slavery. They moved onto the Club scene and really succeeded there.

I worked at the Crown; initially as a glass collector and washer, then a few months after my 17th birthday, I started pulling pints and drinking them. My dad never trained me, but I learned quickly through a mixture of observation and osmosis. Dad had a kind of full time barman at the Crown (I really can't remember his name) who covered the place during days off and stuff. Once, while he was busy, I went down to the cellar and changed a barrel of Holstein. I'd never done it before, but had watched my dad do it so was confident. I almost succeeded, but forgot to latch the connection properly, so when my dad returned from his brewery meeting an entire barrel of expensive lager had spurted out of the bad connection and covered everything in lager. Even in those days, that was about £40 down the drain.

My dad was pissed, but also he was kind of pleased, because I'd tried to do something good. So he decided that he would show me how to run the cellar. I changed hundreds of barrels over the next few years and never made the same mistake again.

As I was crashing and burning at the 6th Form, my folks were looking at the possibility of moving into clubs. The couple who had inspired them to go this route had themselves begun running a social club west of Daventry and both of them looked better for it. My mum had already started to have problems with her chest and the stress of running the pub was shattering their solid marriage. They saw the job for stewards at Shenley Hospital Social Club and got it, quite easily.

I maybe should have gone with them straight away and I've talked about that year before (or maybe I've skirted around it and promised to tell you about it, I can't remember!), but I kept my hand in behind a bar either at my job - at Lings Forum, or at my then local - The Lumbertubs. Then I joined up with my folks in the county of my birth and after a while my dad decided that as I wasn't looking like I was going to get a proper job, he might as well take me on.

It was during those 18 months that I finally connected with my dad. I think he'd always felt a little too distant towards me. I was mummy's boy for starters and I didn't have his ethics, unlike my two older brothers. I seemed to be more prosaic than practical. Hell, he might even have thought I was gay. I was certainly considerably more difficult than the other two had been. I also think he believed that in some way I had inherited the Rodway madness; something I'm sure you will hear about in the coming years. But suffice it to say; there were a lot of similarities between me and my gran and without being harsh in the slightest, my grandmother - Ethel Rodway - was as crazy as a skip full of foxes on LSD.

Despite the usual growing pains that late teens suffer, my time working for dad in that grotty, sprawling, ramshackle 1950s building was one of the best times I had and many of the jokes, sayings and things that happen are still alive in the world. Jokes and expressions that just wouldn't work in print, but still happen within the confines of family and just possibly further afield (I noticed last week while out with the dogs and Mammary Lass that she has a couple of things in her repertoire that she learned either from me or from my dad).

My dad revelled in the spotlight. I saw for the first time in him that he was possibly more like me than he was my other two brothers. I think now that maybe he was having similar thoughts to I am now about his life. My dad was a grafter and he admired and respected Ronnie Jr and Stephen because they shared that work ethic. He could discuss projects with them and they wouldn't look at him like he was talking Albanian. But during our time together at Shenley, I discovered that I shared a love of surreality and silliness with him. My dad was just fucking hilariously surreal at times. We would muck about like a couple of overgrown babies at times and instead of putting customers off, people used to hang around the bar to see what impromptu routine would possibly spring up.

Anyhow, they quit Shenley and eventually ended up in Maidstone and I never worked behind a bar again. In fact, I cannot recall pulling a pint for probably getting on for 30 years (although I'm sure the wife will remind me that I did it once in 1986 and I'll spend the rest of the day trying to recall it). Also, the pub world is completely different than what I remember. My good friend One El has made that abundantly clear; plus my personal indulgence - Real Ale - is a completely different beast to the barrels of Mann's IPA I dealt with in the late 70s. Plus bar staff no longer appear to be able to do calculations in their heads and have these tills that now look like massive computerised adding machines. Pubs are different now.

Perhaps I just have itchy feet again?

Roger's been and gone since I wrote the above; we suffered an Everton defeat at the hands of their arch rivals. He was gutted; so was I. I really have no desire to play the luckiest cup team in the world in the final; good luck to Chelsea tomorrow.

We've got guests; Neil and Jenny. We're off out for a birthday meal tonight at Pooja.

Why do I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack?

  • I have been listening to: Axess/Maxxess; School of Seven Bells; North Atlantic Oscillation; and something in the car, but I'm buggered if I can remember what it is.
  • I have been reading a lot about the US Elections on line.
  • We've decided upon a radical but not very arduous redesign of bits of the garden. I say it isn't arduous - on paper it should be really easy, but my dad was responsible for part of the structures we want to move and, well, when he built things, they stayed built.

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