Unemployed in Old London town

It has been a while between dispatches but I thought this was a story worthy of note.

I have been in Old London town for a couple months now. Like many an Australian before me I landed myself a job slaving behind a bar for board and minimum wage.

My pub gig at the Dick was a bit of a weird one. A franchise operation in Greenwich in which every penny was counted and every spillage noted. The general manager, Henry, is your typical, middle-aged English whinging twat, with a nasty streak to boot. The floor manager, Billy, is a Welshman, a former coal miner with shot knees and a massive drinking problem. I liked the grumpy old bastard on first sight.

Henry and Billy passed their days and years playing a game of cat and mouse where Henry tried to catch Billy out on his constant drinking (which by proxy was theft because he never paid for a drop). Billy was forced to go to extreme lengths to hide his drinking – I once caught him pouring the contents of the bar drip trays back into the lager barrels (needless to say I never drank the lager again).

The staff quarters were located above the bar on the first and second floors. Access was via an internal stairway. The rear courtyard was fully enclosed with no laneway access meaning that the only legitimate way in or out of the pub was via the front doors which – trustworthy though I am – I wasn’t given a key for.

It was an arrangement that proved to be quite inconvenient. In order to sleep in your bed you had to be home before the pub closed (11pm). There was also a strictly enforced “no guests” policy.

Two months had been spent trying to make a dent in my credit card debit, Thursday through Monday pulling pints, Tuesday and Wednesday labouring.

It was fair to say, my London life was starting do my head in. It was time to rattle the cage. I made some calls. Enter Honest Joel and Master Shackleberry. Two likely lads all the way from the antipode bush.

Being the site of London’s old docks, Greenwich has a pub on every corner. Our goal was to sample the fare of as many as we could in one day. A good old-fashioned pub-crawl:

10am, at the the Dick for breakfast pints. 11:30am, next door to the Union for brunch pints. 1pm, to the Mitre for bangers and mash for lunch washed down with a pint. High tea (pints and crisps) at  St Christopher’s. Up the hill to The Hill, to join the masses for “knock off” pints. And so it continued. The exact details of the night are a little hazy but at about 11pm Shacks caught the tube back to his digs in Wimbledon. I convinced Joz to crash on my floor back at the Lion, I had removed the dead bolts from the window in my room so it was simply a matter of scaling the front of the building and climbing in.

The night continued in earnest until we found ourselves in some dingy club that charged eight quid a drink. Realising that all the punters looked as if they had been smashed in the face by a shopping trolley we called stumps.

We wandered drunkenly back to the Lion. Joz gave me a leg up, allowing me to open the window and tumble in. Joz was about halfway up when I got a feeling in my waters. The night was about to take an interesting twist.

A “Rees, I think we’re nicked” from Joz confirmed as much.

Two Bobbys, on night patrol, deemed that it was their obligation to enquire as to the rationale behind a 3am climb into the first floor window of a pub by two piss-wrecked Australians.

It was my place of employment and abode, I explained.

Unconvinced, they sensibly asked why we had opted out of using the front door.

I outlined the complicated constraints of my accommodation arrangement at the Lion.

They understood but explained that were required to confirm my story with the manager.

I explained that would most likely cost me my job.

They understood but explained that were required to confirm my story with the manager.

I gave them Henry’s number.

They called.

A brief discussion ensued then Henry poked his head out of the second storey window.

He unleashed a frightful tirade.

I responded in kind.

In no uncertain terms, he told me that we would sort out our differences in the morning and he told Joz that the Lion’s doors weren’t open to lads of his sort.

This turn of events left Joz in a bit of a pickle. It was 4am on a cold, damp London night and he was a long way from his bed. Opting for the only sensible option, he decided to lodge an application for a night in the warmth and comfort of the holding cell.

Joz began his impromptu interview by conveying to Henry his initial impressions of him. He then proceeded to share his impressions of the two Bobbies with the entire neighbourhood. He capped this virtuoso performance with a fly kick to the back of the Bobby mobile.

I was impressed. I even think Henry was impressed. Unfortunately, the two Bobbies weren’t and to show this displeasure they decided not to arrest him. Instead, leaving him to the London cold.

Disheartened, Joz wandered off to get a minicab (so he said) and I closed my window and began to pack.

At 8:00am Henry and I briefly resumed our discussion from the previous night. At 8:08am my employment at the Lion was ceased by mutual agreement.

I bid farewell to Billy and made my way out.

Walking up the street I called Joz, he had slept in the train station elevator down the road, not as good as a holding cell but cheaper than a minicab.