My thanks to Chris, The Story Reading Ape whose enclosure is a haven and promotional hotspot for all of us. He is my hero.
Following my management training with a well-known steak house chain and six months as assistant manager at one of their branches in Eastbourne, we were appointed as managers of a pub at the entrance to Cowes Harbour. A yachting centre and home to the Cowes Week regatta each year.
Public House Landlady – Saturday Night Shenanigans
It does amuse me slightly when people tell me that they dream of retiring and running a pub in the country. This is not a job for the faint-hearted and I am afraid the hours you need to put in are far longer than opening times. It is seven days a week and most pubs now are expected to serve food at lunchtimes and evenings, with drinking habits changing considerably over the last couple of decades. It is hard work and with increasing regulations to comply with, it can also be daunting. Not all customers are going to pop in for a quiet pint and go quietly on their way, and in some cases it can turn nasty within a few minutes.
The pub that we were appointed to in Cowes had been run for thirty years by the previous tenants. The clientele out of season, October to June, were the regular yacht crowd and a slightly older generation who came in for half of beer and a sandwich. We took over before Easter and my responsibility was to cook bar snacks at lunchtime and in the evening. I paid the brewery rent, running it as my own business, so had a certain amount of leeway. Having found the formula and tight portion control effective during my time with the steak house, I applied myself to creating a tasty but profitable menu.
Weekends were the busiest times as we had two large balconies that looked over the entrance to the harbour and out into the Solent. As we got into our stride and the summer season began, I could be serving 100 lunchtime snacks from my small kitchen and in the evenings, even more chicken, scampi and sausage and chips in a basket, flew out of the serving hatch from opening to closing time.
This was great, and we congratulated ourselves on our luck of landing such a great pub and its position. Then the summer cruises from Southampton began in the June and we found out what the locals had meant when they said…. ‘Just you wait’!
The trouble actually began on board these cruises as alcohol flowed cheaply and in great quantities. By the time the passengers arrived in Cowes an hour later, most were well inebriated and wanted to continue the spree. They landed at the far end of the high street from us and yet the flood ran unabated the entire length. The first Saturday we experienced this, we had wondered why our regulars, who would come in for their supper and pint were all missing. Then we heard a rumbling roar as if a tidal wave was about to pour through the double doors. Which it did as 200 or so skinheads swept into the bar; lining up noisily to be served more booze.
Luckily we tended to have more staff on for Saturday nights but clearly we were overwhelmed. Our new customers were not in the mood to eat, just to drink, and I went behind the bar to help out. They had about 90 minutes drinking time before embarking on their return cruise, and they had little interest in going out on the balcony to admire the sunset over the Solent. We served beer as quickly as possible, but no sooner had you cleared one wave, there was another shouting and swearing behind them. That first week they came and went without incident but we were not so lucky in following weeks.
Off course not all skinheads were out for a grand finale to the night with a good punch up. However, some were intent on getting drunk as quickly as possible, and things could kick off in an instant. Even then there were strict laws about serving drinks to minors and those who were already legless. The local police were out in force on Saturday nights in the high street, but even they would have found it difficult to determine the age of some of these lads and their ladies, let alone convince one of them that you were not going to serve them any more alcohol. We were legally obliged to be open for business because we belonged to a brewery who expected us to maximise takings. We had little option but to manage staff and security levels to ensure a smooth running operation.
Things came to a head about four weeks in, when the dreaded influx fell into the bar. I had bought a pick axe handle and it was displayed over the entrance to my kitchen in full view. Underneath were the immortal words. Attitude Adjuster. That night a fight broke out in the centre of the bar area and it was mayhem. I grabbed my attitude adjuster and shoved my way into the arena, where all the action was taking place, and managed to get a few of the combatants’ attention by shouting at the top of my voice. All went quiet as they were confronted by a very angry woman circling a pick axe handle around her head slowly but with intent! No doubt today I would be arrested for being in possession of a lethal weapon…but to be honest at the time, I really didn’t care.
In fact after that, word must have got out, that bad behaviour would not be tolerated and things quietened down somewhat. But, over that summer I was threatened by broken beer bottles, a good kicking and other repercussions. The police actually did us a favour by parking their vans outside our pub in the street, which deterred the more belligerent, and my kitchen after hours was used as a tea and sandwich spot for those going off duty.
Cowes Week was another highlight of the year, and we were warned that although the customers during that seven days were of a different age and temperament, that it would at times get very busy and difficult to manage. Firework Night in particular drew a huge crowd because of the two big balconies where you could view all the action. In preparation we had all the furniture taken out, plastic glasses for drinks and the only food served was sandwiches without any potentially hazardous cutlery. All week we had employed bouncers for the door, who were moonlighting wardens from Parkhurst, and doubled this up on Firework Night. Thankfully the two such celebrations during our time running the pub, passed off without major commotions.
I fictionalised this time in the pub in one of my books along with some of the characters that I met. Looking back at myself at twenty-five years old, I wondered at my ability to accept the summer shenanigans in my stride. Despite these incidents most of our days were unadventurous and wonderful experience for my future jobs, where I needed to be able to adapt and react quickly.
However, perhaps you can understand my amusement when people say that they dream of retiring and running a pub. Anywhere where people and booze come together has the potential to become interesting very quickly, even in a sleepy county village.
My thanks to Chris for his ongoing support for myself and all Indie authors..
we could not do it without him.
All the previous posts in the series can be found
About Sally Cronin
My name is Sally Cronin and after working in a number of industries for over 25 years, I decided that I wanted to pursue a completely different career, one that I had always been fascinated with. I began studying Nutrition and the human body twenty years ago and I opened my first diet advisory centre in Ireland in 1998. Over the last 18 years I have practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as written columns, articles and radio programmes on health and nutrition.
I published my first book with a Canadian self-publisher in the late 90s and since then have republished that book and released ten others as part of our own self-publishing company. Apart from health I also enjoy writing fiction in the form of novels and short stories.
My latest book – What’s in a Name? – Volume Two.
Our legacy is not always about money or fame, but rather in the way that people remember our name after we have gone. In these sixteen short stories we discover the reasons why special men and women will stay in the hearts and minds of those who have met them. Romance, revenge and sacrifice all play their part in the lives of these characters. Kenneth watches the love of his life dance on New Year’s Eve while Lily plants very special flowers every spring for her father. Martha helps out a work colleague as Norman steps back out into the world to make a difference. Owen brings light into a house and Patrick risks his life in the skies over Britain and holds back from telling a beautiful redhead that he loves her.
My other books