Get Your Laugh­ing Tackle Around this

The Victoria Standard - - Food/ Calendar - GE­ORGE SMITH

The first few days at the new job went off with­out in­ci­dent, giv­ing us an op­por­tu­nity to set­tle in. On Satur­day, there was a huge con­cert at which Nel­son Man­dela spoke of his time in jail and his hopes for a new apartheid-free South Africa. We could hear the speeches and the mu­sic, but the event passed by with­out us be­ing able to watch it. But there were many op­por­tu­ni­ties to see some other amaz­ing events and con­certs. It was dif­fi­cult to take time away from run­ning the bars, restau­rants, and func­tion suites, but I was lucky to have good staff who were more than ca­pa­ble of keep­ing the place go­ing in my ab­sence.

I took my 10-year-old step­daugh­ter, Lynzey, to see Rod Ste­wart. He had caused a lot of ex­cite­ment the morn­ing be­fore when he came into the bar and or­dered him­self a beer. He then turned to the cou­ple who were sit­ting at the bar and ca­su­ally said, “Good morn­ing”. Half­way through his con­cert, Lynsey pulled at my arm. “I’m bored! Can we go now?!” I de­cided that she might not want to go and see Bruce Spring­steen in a cou­ple of weeks.

“Would you like to come with me to see The Rolling Stones?” I asked.

“Err! No!” she said, look­ing ex­tremely dis­gusted.

I only watched one foot­ball match in the years I was there, and that was Eng­land play­ing Scot­land. I watched Liver­pool many times when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. I had al­ways en­joyed the spec­ta­cle of the oc­ca­sion and didn’t re­ally care who won, though Liver­pool usu­ally did. This was one of those oc­ca­sions mul­ti­plied by ten. I spent my time watch­ing the crowd as much as the ac­tion on the pitch. I watched a skir­mish be­tween ri­val fans as the po­lice waded in and stopped the fight, both sides scream­ing at the play­ers. The fi­nal score that day was 2-0, Eng­land.

I was al­ways lis­ten­ing for changes in the noise com­ing from the bars even when I wasn’t in them. If I was in the of­fice on a busy night, I would be aware of the slight­est change in tone or vol­ume. The staff knew, with or with­out a sig­nal from me, how to re­act and what to do should a vi­o­lent sit­u­a­tion arise.

There was a wed­ding in one of the func­tion rooms one night. I was talk­ing to one of the guests who ex­pressed a pref­er­ence for a beer that we did not stock, when I be­came aware of a sud­den in­crease in the vol­ume of noise from the main bar. I walked in as Terry and the other staff were quickly re­mov­ing glasses, bot­tles, and ash­trays. If there is trou­ble, get­ting rid of as many mis­siles as pos­si­ble is ad­vis­able. I walked to­ward a group of guys who were laugh­ing loudly, while those around them were qui­etly pick­ing up their drinks and slowly mov­ing away. As I got closer, Terry was com­ing from be­hind the bar. I could see that there was some­one on the floor. A guy hold­ing his beer in the air turned to me and said, “Noth­ing to do with me, guv”. The guy on the floor was slowly get­ting up while try­ing to stop the flow of blood from a cut on his hand. “I’m sorry, I broke a glass when I fell.” “Get him an­other beer,” I said to Terry, and a snig­ger came from the four goons now prop­ping up the bar.

“When you’ve fin­ished those drinks, get out,” I said to the four at the bar. They left, slam­ming down their glasses, push­ing through the doors, and hurl­ing a last ex­ple­tive in my di­rec­tion.

At lunchtime the next day, stand­ing at the bar was DCI Wye­brow with an­other po­lice­man. “Hi, how are things go­ing?” he asked. “Fine,” I said. “We had a bit of fun last night, but I kicked them out.”

“This is John. He’s the lo­cal beat of­fi­cer,” he said, in­tro­duc­ing his com­pan­ion. “We know about the in­ci­dent last night. We picked up the four soon af­ter they left here.” “Do you want a drink?” I asked. To my sur­prise, they both said yes.

To be con­tin­ued…

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