Tuesday, 31 May 2011

What Can Go Wrong, Will, Trust Me!

Have you ever encountered “Murphy’s Law”? You know the one where if it can go wrong it will.I have on numerous occasions. I don’t think that there is anything left for me to experience in the pub trade. I've had fires, floods, electrocutions, power cuts, gas leaks, explosions, robberies and thefts amongst others.

I was always told that these events were either “part of life’s rich tapestry”, or “part of your training” or “part of a steep learning curve”. At the time I thought that they were a complete inconvenience but with hindsight I realise the importance of these experiences. This is why I thought that I would share some of my more unfortunate anecdotes with you. 

One of the best incidents was at a small pub just outside of Lichfield in Staffordshire. It was a small community pub in a mainly residential area that sold copious amounts of cask ales but not much else. The cask cellar was archetypical, small, square, directly under the bar, low brick arched ceiling and was only used for the cask ales, the keg being “out the back”. Anyway, one morning I was on my way down the steps to get the ale ready for that day’s trade, when I noticed something was not quite right. It had been raining for about three days solid, Michael Fish probably predicted sunny spells, but the main road looked more like a river. 

What I couldn't understand while I was descending the cellar steps was why I could see my reflection in the stone floor. I stopped and looked, then realised that the reflection was from the water. Water? I still had about five steps to go down and I was paddling like a kid on Blackpool beach. I leant forward and at full stretch I could just about hang on to the wall and poke my head around the corner in to the cellar. There was about a foot gap to the ceiling and floating all over the show were the barrels! Super. What was strange is that the water was absolutely crystal clear apart from the odd trace of Draught Bass. This couldn't be rainwater. It turned out that the assistant manager, in his wisdom, had decided to clean the cellar the night before and leave the hosepipe on in the sump. The sump in this particular pub was very large so it wouldn't have been noticed filling up with water the night before, but the pump had got stuck and was not pumping the water away. Luckily the electric sockets were high on the walls but ended up only being a few inches above the water line. I was scared stiff when I waded in to get the sump pump working again. I also got a plumber out to get another pump on the job. It took four and a half hours to get rid of all the water with two pumps running at full bore. At least I didn't have to clean the mess up that was left. I got the assistant to do it!

Another funny incident was when I was a young lad and had just started working in the trade. These were the days before “wireless communications” and credit cards were dealt with via paper and a device that rubbed an imprint of the card onto several carbon copies. It was the first time I had ever used the till. 

At the end of the shift the boss came to me and asked where all the credit card receipts were. I thought about this and then, quite matter-of-factly, told him that I had “whizzed them”. Apparently this was not the correct procedure. By the way, that’s not exactly how he put it. I was instructed to salvage them from the bin. Not a problem I thought, I knew which bin I had put them in, but the chefs had emptied it. They used to put all the bags from one kitchen in a pile before removing them, so now I realised that I’d have a few to look through. To my horror I noticed that the pile had also been removed and thrown into the large skip that we used to have. As Homer Simpson would say, “DOH!”. There were around twenty bags in the skip which I ended up having to rip open in the back yard and search through like some sort of tramp at Christmas. I think there were ten to find and after about two hours of rooting through kitchen waste I’d found nine of them. From that moment on every slip went into the till. I remember years later that a girl that did exactly the same thing. I remember telling her that there was only one thing she could do. She had a look of horror on her face but to be fair she only had one bag to go through though!

I don’t think I could make up half the things that have happened to me. Experience is everything, but by my accounts by now I should have a Masters Degree in it!

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