I was sat at the bar in Origins aka The White Lion in Great Missenden on Friday night nursing a bottle of locally produced beer and my mind wandered down memory lane.
25 years ago I was working at The Kensington Arms in Redland, Bristol and getting paid £1.98 an hour and a pint of Courage Best brewed in Bristol’s St George’s Brewery cost £1.04. So it all boiled down to the cold hard fact that if you were paid in beer, a standard 5 hour shift behind the bar from 6-11pm equated to a wage packet of 10 pints.
Times have changed however, 25 years ago the Kensington was a back street boozer with a similar lay out to the Queen Vic on Albert Square. The punters were pretty bohemian, but down to earth. It was a drinkers’ pub which served the odd hot snack, but I sold more packs of Old Holborn than pasties in my time behind the bar there.
Now it is a “gastro” pub with a good reputation for food rather than beer. I went back there recently and could not get over the transformation and it was impressive. In a way it mirrors the way in which Bristol has changed and how the BS6 postcode has grown in popularity. Over the same time period the St Georges Brewery has been sold up and the dockside building has been converted into loft apartments.
Meanwhile back in Origins I asked Stefan (one of my former students) who was working behind the bar last Friday about costs of beer and rates of pay. It turns out that a pint of Shepherd Neame Spitfire or a bottle of Rebellion White that I was drinking cost £3.50. The bog standard rate of pay for casual bar staff there is £7.00 per hour, so guess what…..?
A regular evening shift behind the bar today still pays for 10 beers! Maybe times have not changed much then?
During the late 80’s The Kensington Arms had a Jack Russell terrier in residence that was called “The Rat”. She was a source of amusement though if you “charged her up” correctly. After finishing the glass collecting and general clear up after a busy Saturday night shift the landlord would often get his staff a drink before we went off home. At this point the Rat would often totter into the front bar and join us. The game we played on her was a bit cruel, but she never learned from her previous mistakes. We used to pick her up and put her on the bar counter. Then we would pour her a drink. Her tipple was Guinness which she drank out of a half filled ashray.
The Rat would just lap it up and the Guinness soon took effect, which you could normally tell when her back legs started to give way. Fair play to the old girl though as she would sit there still on her haunches and sup away until her front legs went. At which point her head lolled about and then she normally zonked out. Once she had fallen asleep she would be scooped up and plonked in her basket by the evening shift as a present for the Sunday lunch shift to open as it were.
In reality it was like leaving a time bomb as the next morning the Rat would wake up with a cracking hangover. She would be cranky and foul tempered, which was no laughing matter if you were pulling pints with her around. She would get the arse ache, snap and growl and often nip your ankle as you walked past her. The Rat was simply a nightmare to deal with when she had a hangover, but like a lot of people she would never learn.