An Attractive Pair by Helen Bing
The sign in the job agency window said, Attractive Bar staff wanted over the Easter period. Apply within. My husband and I looked at each other, decided that must be us, and went in to apply.
“Are we attractive enough?” we asked.
The woman grinned and said she would ask.
I’m not entirely sure they were counting on a husband and wife team, but hey, we were keen and sometimes a little cheek goes a long way. Apart from that, we were surviving off the smell of an oily rag and any work was welcome. We were also living in a holiday flat not too far from the beachfront, so this job would help keep body and soul together.
We were called in for an interview that took place at around 7 o’clock in the evening in a small bar above the bingo hall. We were met by a couple of gentlemen, and so the strangest interview I’ve ever had commenced. They seemed to be intent on seeing just how much alcohol we could consume before we fell flat on our faces. I gave up and stayed on tomato juice for the rest of the time. We must have passed the test because we got a job offer in the Long Bar in the Royal Pavillion, across the road from the bingo hall, over the Easter break. Our landlady Sally and her husband John were waiting for us when we got home that night to see how we had got on. They must have just about been knocked over by the alcohol fumes.
Well this was all well and good, but there wasn’t what you would call much in the way of training. Tony was a bit more clued up in the ways of English pubs, but as for me, I was a whiskey and ginger ale girl who had never heard of the interesting varieties of drinks that people in England drank. In those days in New Zealand, beer was something that came in a quart bottle that was kept cool in the fridge and got downed fairly quickly after the lawns were mowed. I had been introduced to the wonders of the English pub, but Tony had done most of the buying and I hadn’t taken all that much notice of what he was buying, so long as it was to my taste.
The bar manager was a very nice lady, not all that old, and certainly fitted into the category -Attractive Bar Staff. She met us for the first shift, three hours over the lunch break. We found out how to pull a pint, how to put a shot in a glass and, most importantly, how to make a Snowball, that particular favourite of the Bingo ladies. This bright yellow, fluffy mixture was made up with ice, with Adovocat poured over the top, and finished off with lemonade and a splash lime. Super sweet.
The first session went in a blur. Thankfully it wasn’t all that busy, but by the time I was finished, it was time to get home and catch breath. I was shattered from the effort of trying to look as if I knew what I was doing and working out what the customers wanted. People, I must say, are very tolerant and generally very nice. A few must have got some strange mixtures of beer, but I suppose they figured the young thing behind the bar with the funny accent didn’t know any better.
Then came the evening session. Tony was in his element. We had serious made inquiries about running a pub, and I think he would have really flourished in this work. I would have got there eventually. We’d already had an interview with Courage, but as yet we’d had no reply.
Anyway, I learnt about Mild and Bitters. The Londoners wanted something called AB. I discovered that although we were all apparently speaking English, not all English speakers necessarily understand each other. It was a bit embarrassing having to ask people to repeat their orders several times, but I eventually got my way around the accents. I really was trying desperately to understand what was being asked for in the very noisy environment we were working in. I also found people liked to buy the bar staff a drink as well. This was very sweet, but there is only so many drinks you can manage in a night before your bladder gives out. I suspect this may have been the form of a tip? Tony has told me since it was. Nobody ever told me that at the time.
We worked here over the slightly extended Easter break, and by the end of that time, we had coped reasonably well. We were still talking to each other and we hadn’t been fired. The biggest snag it turned out, was extended family. One of Tony’s aunts was a keen Bingo player. After one particular Bingo session, the old dears were told that if they came across to us they would get a free Snowball, as in ONE free Snowball. Aunty though had other ideas. What was the point in having family behind the bar if you couldn’t work the system, and of course, she targeted me, the weakest link. She definitely got away with a second drink, and probably a third.
After Easter, the Long Bar closed down until the summer season. We must have done a reasonable job because we were offered work for the the summer season. This would be ideal provided we could find somewhere to live. A job in the hand, and all that. Over the summer months in the seaside places, all the holiday flats were well and truly booked out. We found a large caravan for sale at a local farm and thought this would do us quite nicely. It was clean and roomy with a separate bedroom. Our possessions at the time were fairly modest, to say the least, so we only needed somewhere to unpack our suitcases. It was being sold on behalf of somebody else. We were prepared to pay full price of 60 pounds. The only problem was finding somewhere to put it, so off we went to sort this out. We had stayed at the local camping ground before and we were quite friendly with the manager, so we went to ask Joan if there was any chance of staying there. This was not going to be a worry, so back we went to buy the caravan. It had been a great idea, but, by the time we got back that afternoon, the woman had sold the darned thing to somebody else at a reduced price. Darn it.
We never did get to work the summer down at The Long Bar. We needed to find somewhere to live, and our only real hope at this particular time was to find somewhere that provided both work and accomodation. Pubs were still on our list, but a job in West London managing a newsagents with a flat came along first.
That’s another story in itself. It’s funny how life works out.