Being Tony: One More Time

Although Steve had taken over the Anchor with big plans for the future, we hadn’t seen anything much come of it in the intervening months, but he had taken on another couple of licensed premises during that time. One evening soon after I’d been et go by the furniture store I popped into The Anchor for a drink, he was there in deep conversation with Percy. I hadn’t seen Jenny for a few days, not since I’d driven for her, actually, but that evening there were a few of the people from Brightside beds in including Peggy and the new manager. We were sharing stories about what had been happening in the world of retail recently and were soon joined by Steve and Percy.

Our talk turned to pubs and restaurants, and I told Steve about my experiences at the Anchor, the Walpole Arms, and the piano bar in Edinburgh. Pretty soon the Brightside people started to leave, and I was thinking of doing the same when Steve offered to buy me a drink.

He had been talking about his new venture, taking over the Nag’s Head in Dereham, just a few miles away. He said he was looking for someone to help turn it around, maybe be the next manager, and would I be interested? This seemed to be the story of my life, just being in the right place at the right time, and I gladly accepted his suggestion. We shook on it, and he asked if I’d like to work in the Anchor for a few shifts until he got all the negotiations on The Hag’s Head completed, and I agreed to start the next day.

I started at 2 pm, just as the lunchtime crowd was going back to work, and got myself reacquainted with the other side of the bar. It was odd, somehow, to be back working here, a place that I’d lived in, managed, and been thrown out of. Since my time the kitchen had been closed again, a wall removed to make it one big bar, and a pool table put into what had been a separate dining room off to the side. The old hand pumps had been replaced too, and there was a fancy new till that recorded everything that was punched into it. And there was a new jukebox and some fancy games machines that Jenny liked to play.

But a pub is still a pub, people come here to chat, let their hair down, and have fun. Being a barman is the height of customer service, always cheery, always helpful, but at the same time, being the overseer of good order, and the one who stays calm in a crisis. We are a confessor when you need one, and a safe place to moan about your woes.

By early evening I was actually quite tired from being on my feet all the time, and when Jenny came in, I poured her a drink and then went the other side of the bar. My first shift ad been fine, I thought, and I was looking forward to getting over to the Nag’s Head and seeing what they had in store for me.

 

It was about 2 weeks later that Steve rang me one morning to say that I should head on over to the new pub that evening, and he’d meet me there. I drove over there a few minutes early so that I could check the surrounding area. Dereham is a lovely village, which does mean that a lot of the cottages are second homes fro people from London. But there were enough locals and tourists to maintain a small high street with a butcher, a general store, and two pubs. The Nag’s Head offered Bed and Breakfast accommodation, and there was a small restaurant which attracted the tourist trade in the summer months.

Steve and I took a look at the property, and I noticed some beer crates stacked precariously in the back room, a potential safety hazard. I was introduced to the staff, and I must say they all seemed friendly enough, even if a bit put out by the change in management. I said I’d come over the next lunchtime to help out, and Steve thought that was a good idea.

 

I commuted back and forth to Dereham, working behind the bar, and getting to know the ins and outs of the place. It seemed to me that it was slightly disorganized, nothing awful, but it could be managed better. I made one or two suggestions to the manager, and while he listened politely, I could tell he had his own way of doing things.

It was frustrating, on the one hand, Steve seemed to want me to help run the place, but he had not actually given me the authority to do so. One day, after about 2 weeks of this unsatisfactory situation I was washing up glasses when one snapped in my hand. This was a common enough occurrence, but I slit my thumb and had to quit work for the day.

My hand was bandaged up when I went into the Anchor that evening, and Steve called me aside and told me not to go back to the Nag’s Head. Apparently, the manager had complained about me, saying that my work was “shoddy” and that he did not need my services. I was shocked but assumed that the real issue was that he didn’t want me there showing up his management style. I said as much to Steve, who just said that, at least for the moment, it would probably be best if I just did a few shifts here at The Anchor.

Doing “a few shifts” as a barman was not the same thing at all that Steve had offered, and I told him as much.

“Listen, Tony,” he said, “I’ve heard how your hands shake when you pour the drinks, and about all the glasses you have broken, I’m sure you were a good barman once, but frankly you are turning into something of a liability around the place nowadays.”

Even though we had been talking in an undertone, it seemed that the pub went suddenly quiet, as if everyone was waiting for my reply. I didn’t even bother to argue, or say how he was missing the big picture. I just stood up and left, silently vowing never to come back to The Anchor for as long as Steve owned it.

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About Derek Knight

Transplanted Brit, now in the US Mid West | Writer, blogger & author | passionate about life | Traveler and home body | amazon.com/author/derekknight | http://derekknight007.wordpress.com/ | https://twitter.com/DerekKnight1 | https://www.facebook.com/Derek.Knight.Author
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