Richmond, Longer ago than I care to divulge: Let me, if I may, take you back in time. I was a student then and working the bar part time at a local pub. I got the job because my Dad used to get pissed most nights there and knew the landlord well. That landlord, Charlie Winch, by name was gargantuan. ‘Winch,’ I thought, was an ideal surname for him, as, in a perfect world, this surely would have been his chosen mode of transportation. The scope of his various chins supported a Lilliputian like face, which, I guess, before he grew so big must have been in proportion with the rest of him. The pub itself was a complete tip; a filthy hovel based next door to a smelly council yard.
The public bar was barren to say the very least. The toilets, the like of which had not been seen in Western Europe in the last couple of decades – and that includes France I might add – were shocking. No amount of bleach could minimise the smell of urine that saturated your skin and clothing should you have the misfortune to need a pee. As for the ‘shitter’ – as it was affectionately known – the story is best left untold, although, oddly, there was never, on the odd occasion Charlie sent me in to check for damage, any graffiti there and even the lavatory door had a lock on it that, unusually, even then, no-one had tampered with. Maybe, the hideous pong, being what it was, nobody ever plucked up the courage to use it? Certainly, my theory is supported by the fact that just after closing time one Friday night Charlie beckoned both me, and his bar manager, a prematurely aged, bin man by day, named Ted ‘Earholes’ Smith (on account of his big, protruding ears) to the urinal in order that he could vent his spleen toward sympathetic ears (so to speak in Ted’s case). To Charlie’s disgust someone had left a ‘turd’ – a large and perfectly formed one at that – in the urinal itself rather than use the ‘proper facilities’. To me that merely confirmed that whoever perpetrated this abhorrent act of defecation simply couldn’t face using the ‘shitter’. In the alternative the reason that there was human faeces in the urinal might just have been that Charlie never put any toilet paper – or even old newspapers – in that ‘shitter’. One will never know.
Whilst I was always consigned to the public bar, the omnipotent one that was Charlie would hold court from the cosiness of his chosen barstool in the saloon bar during opening times. Given that Charlie was uncompromisingly huge he didn’t, probably couldn’t move around a great deal. His wife, a short, blubbery, snow white haired, pink fleshed, wretch of a woman whose name escapes me was stone deaf. She did have a great big, salmon coloured monstrosity of an aid affixed to her cranium but it was either inoperative or without batteries. To communicate with her you either had to bellow like Thor with a toothache or write things down. Her love in life was her French poodle, which she spoilt with food, but never walked. Reluctantly, she undertook preparation of any orders for nourishment from the odd customer who deemed the predominant foodstuffs on offer, such as plain crisps – the ones with little blue bags of salt in the packet – or salted peanuts as somewhat insufficient.
One Friday lunchtime when I happened to be on duty, a dustman, no doubt armed with his weeks’ pay, ordered a sausage sandwich. The kitchen was situated at the back of the public bar, and, good fortune had it, that Mrs Winch was in there feeding her dog. With my face in hers I managed an operatic baritone connection sufficient to ensure that she understood the customer’s request. After about ten minutes the dustman asked me what had become of his order. I popped into the kitchen to find our erstwhile chef, Mrs Winch, picking up from the filthy cracked tiled floor, two slices of bread that she had dropped. Both were buttered side down. I cannot recall in my time at the pub that the cleaner, who basically just emptied ashtrays and wiped them out with a dirty cloth and polished the pumps a bit ever touched the kitchen. The floor was bacterium central. I could barely believe my eyes when she simply picked up the bread and thereafter placed a pair of now fried and sliced sausages twixt the doublet, thus forming the sandwich. Now, poodles have hair, which, some would say, are akin to human pubic ones – especially so brown coloured poodles. That is certainly what the dustman vociferously intimated when, picking from the few front teeth he had left, a number of ‘short and curlies’, which had wedged therein following his first bite. I didn’t like to point out that some he had missed still remained in situ. There was no dental floss readily to hand – I don’t actually think we had ‘dental floss’ back then!
“There’s fucking pubes in my sandwich”.
I must admit that, to the uninitiated, the items extracted from his gnashers did have the look of exiled tenants of the pubis region about them. What could I say? I thought the truth best, even though my client was spitting presumed genital cast-offs as well as feathers at me – like it was my fault! I humbly pointed out that to the best of my knowledge, the hairs in question – those in his sandwich that is – were likely from the landlady’s poodle. It shows just how much times have changed, as the bloke was not at all fazed that he had dog’s hairs between his teeth as well as lounging in his lunch. It was at that moment he uttered the most amazing words, “That’s alright then.” He even looked relieved. He then proceeded with an examination of his sandwich, picking out any stray strands of canine coat, had a go at his teeth one last time, and then asked for some Daddies sauce! I remember thinking how can he get offended by the thought of pubes but not dog’s hair? How can that be? Dogs are prone to roll in excrement! Would it even warrant a mention in passing to the missus when he got home that day? How could he not get the complete raving hump? With a gun to my head, if forced to choose between the two I simply couldn’t. Both would make me throw up. Maybe he once had had an unfortunate experience muff diving a rancid whore from the back of beyond – one, perhaps, with crabs! Who knows?