When I was young, my father firstly managed, and then ran as a tenant, a series of public houses. It is from that experience, gained over some fifteen-odd years, that I developed a life-long antipathy to all such establishments. Not from a point of view of managing or running a pub, or even of visiting a pub; but from the viewpoint which states ‘you are nothing but a boozers’ labourer’. Serving behind a bar gives one an acute insight into the minds and manners (now there’s a picture) of the people whom you have to be pleasant to, to smile, to mentally ignore the statements, views, actions and opinions of a bunch whom you are dependant upon for your parent’s livelihood. A bunch whom, under slightly different circumstances, you would rather inhabit a pig sty than mix with: because pigs, being animals, have no idea of how to better themselves, but are instead forced to live, and presumably die, in the space to which they are allocated.
Even as a schoolboy, I worked behind the bar, serving customers from all classes, areas and degrees of drunken maudling. I had to watch and listen to my mother, a classically-trained pianist, playing garbage songs and rubbish music every bloody weekend evening; because that was what the drunks liked to hear and ‘sing’ along to. The memories of my dear mother, playing a rickety piano, whilst a bunch of drunks, male and female, roared out the choruses; shall stick in my mind forever. She played because she was married to my father, and because the business depended upon us, as a family, being ‘nice’ and ‘accommodating’, and ‘friendly’; to a crowd that, in private life, we wouldn’t welcome into our county, never mind our back-yard. We had to welcome the true ‘scum’ that under different circumstances, we would not even let across the threshold of our home; and why, because they had cash, and my father’s job, first as a manager, and then a tenant; was to serve them the beers, the spirits, the mountains of crisps, sandwiches which they consumed every weekend; and after the maudling snivelling bunch has left: we had to clean everything up so that we could do it all over again the next day and evening.
For years, we lived in pubs, and then, due mainly to a combination of items affecting my father’s health; we left the pub business entirely, with my dad becoming just another customer and very occasionally helping out behind the bar in the local Working Man’s club. We three brothers’ lives were transformed, as we no longer had to act as ‘boozer’s labourers’, we could go out to whatever event took our fancy, our lives were no longer controlled by ‘licensing hours’, and; best of all, we could dispense with the ‘rictus’ smiles we had to live with whilst welcoming all the neighbourhood riff-raff, drunks and morons into our home. The peace was simply wonderful!