While Matt & I were having our early morning MSN rant, we were, as per usual, moaning about previous employers and how they simply do not appreciate the quality staff they have in us two. I recounted an employer for whom I had worked about 15 years ago during the summer break from University as a waitress and how, two years ago, she banned me from her pub - for breathing in a happy manner, I think.
The pub occupies a great position in the small village, Cronton, where my ageing, cantankerous parents still live. It was once a coaching inn and is about 300 years old (I think), almost the same age as the landlady, S.
I don't think anything gave S pleasure apart from bitching. She rarely smiled and if she did it did nothing to lighten her nasty, slitty, gimlet eyes. As a boss, she was totally unfair, and as a landlady she was not the genial host. I hated her and so did my mates, who were also banned one particular day after she wrongly accused one of them of using her payphone to order drugs - a completely inaccurate statement - Al was simply asking his mate to drop some mucky videos off at his house for a massive porn marathon - a considerably innocent past-time, in comparison. She lost the custom of five alcoholics that day who moved over the road to the other pub where they could have lock-ins until 5am if they so wished.
One particular night, the 'restaurant' (and I do use that term loosely) had a gourmet night and I was waiting on along with a few other girls. It was a set menu and the entrée was a dish which contained truffles (those prohibitively expensive fungi dug up by pigs and dogs from dirt). As it was a busy night, the chefs were a bit manic. One of the truffles fell on the floor and I bent over to pick it up and throw it in the bin. One of the chefs grabbed it out of my hand, licked it, wiped it with his dirty tea towel and sliced it up for the plates. "Don't throw that away! They're f*ckin' priceless those things!" he barked at me. I was speechless at the lack of hygeine, and knowing how he put himself about with any awl slapper he picked up at the 'Dope & Anchor' up in Prescot (that's where the drugs were purchased in the late 80s), concerned that the unwitting truffle-eating patrons might end up with a dose of clap by the end of the night.
Towards the end of the shift, I was the last member of staff remaining. I was starving and had been rushed off my feet. I hadn't had chance to eat all day due to all the poxy jobs I did to pay off my student overdraft and decided to pinch a sliver of cheesecake from the fridge. I think, by this stage, the cheesecake was about seven days old and had I dropped it on the floor, it would have bounced back up into my hand, but my belly thought my throat had been cut, so I demolished it.
Five hours later, I woke up with severe cramps and just about made it to the loo where I exploded from practically every orifice. I woke my mother up with the noise and she came hurtling in to accuse me of being wasted on beer. In between heaving, I protested my tee-total innocence, and she finally realised that I had a massive dose of food poisoning. The doctor was called, checked me out and confirmed it. He asked what I had eaten and I mentioned the cheesecake...
The next day, I received a rather aggressive phone call from S. Under duress, I was forced to confess that my food poisoning was probably from the lemonade I had been drinking and most definitely not the listeria-riddled cheesecake. She'd received her training from the Gestapo back in the 1940s, you know. I was actually surprised she hadn't docked my pay packet for the dessert - perhaps she considered I had got my just deserts* instead.
Considering this was the pub which had been shut down by Health and Safety a few years previously for dishing up mouse pie, their standards of hygeine hadn't particularly improved. Within a few weeks of them starting to serve food, a mouse had accidentally fallen into the meat filling of the quaintly termed Cronton Pie (the filling was made from Scousers, footballers' wives, wellies and used condoms - probably). The pie was cut at the table of the unsuspecting diner and there, peering out at him (if a dead mouse can peer), was good old Mickey. The story was considered newsworthy and that fount of all local gossip, The Widnes & Runcorn Weekly World ran it on the front page.
My mother's friend, who used to clean for the pub, swore she once unwittingly saw S and her now deceased husband** getting jiggy atop the polished wooden bar top. I cannot verify this as Mrs X was a terrible gossip, but it made for a great tale and was soon all round the village. Allegedly, all S was wearing were two Christmas baubles dangling from her little fingers. It sort of gave a new meaning to 'bar meals' in my eyes.
Anyway, two years ago, I stopped in at the pub for a drink and was at the bar chatting to some local residents whom I knew. I was stood by the bar hatch and was asked to move by S as I was in the way. There were only about four people in the whole pub, so the staff weren't exactly rushed off their feet and needed urgent access. However, polite to a fault, I did move. I asked her if she remembered me from my waiting on days and she peered at me. She remarked that I obviously hadn't impressed her much as she couldn't recall me. I smiled and said, "You haven't lost any of your charm, have you, S?" I was promptly told to clear off. I considered whether to finish my drink and then turned to her and said, "You'd better keep this and re-sell it. At the rate you lose customers, you're going to need to save as much money as possible" and I walked out. A bit of a lame come-back, really, but I simply couldn't be bothered getting into a slanging match with such a completely egregious woman.
They are still doing business....just. The carpark is rarely busy and most people drink and dine at the other pub which has been taken over by a chain and knows how to treat its patrons. If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Cronton, don't go to the white pub - go to The Black instead...
*And I have spelt that right - check it out if you don't believe me: it's from the Old French 'deserte', to deserve. Don't tell me I never teach you anything on this blog.
**Maybe he'd eaten the food as well...