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A Year Behind Bars

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A Year Behind Bars

( George East )

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A Year Behind Bars is the 'prequel' to the Mill of the Flea series, and tells the story of one man's attempt to create the perfect pub. Having spent most of his free time in inns, taverns and good old-fashioned boozers, our fictional hero (who is quite like the author!), persuades his long-suffering wife to buy him a pub of his own for Christmas. Now, he thinks, he will be able to drink at cost price, and relax while entertaining customers and friends in his front room. Predictably, the scheme does not quite work out as planned. Along with the diary of a memorable year of rude awakenings, near-catastrophic incident and continual farce, the book also contains a number of brilliant cartoons illustrating the funny side of pub life, a host of fascinating facts about the Great British Pub, and a fun quiz for readers to check out if they may be suited to a life behind bars. A must for everyone who has at some stage thought how nice it would be to run a cosy little pub


 Extract

On Careful Cash And Credit Control:

The bank manager called this morning to observe that we are continuing to attract a remarkable range of international celebrities to our little pub. Quite apart from the promisory notes I found in the cash register from Messrs M. Mouse and A. Einstein, it seems Mahatma Ghandi has chosen to use the Leo as a clearing house for his personal cheques. I promised to talk to the staff again, and tore up the IOU from one Mustapha Pint that our head barmaid Twiggy Bristols accepted in good faith last night.

On Pub Entertainers:

What is it about pub singers? This morning at the auditions for our new cabaret act I sat through a dozen performances of well-known songs and didn't recognise one of them. All of my would-be star entertainers spoke fairly normally, and one or two could at least carry a tune, but as soon as they launched into song they became completely unintelligible. The worst offender was a little man called Eric with a limp, an all-too-obvious wig, orange make-up and a frilly shirt open to the waist. He was also wearing a huge medallion, and when he started his impression of Tom Jones, it sounded as if he had swallowed it.

On Pub Fun And Games:

An unpleasant end to the evening with a scuffle in the public bar. Luckily the two combatants were both well over 60, so it came to nothing. The trouble started during a pool league fixture when our captain leaned over to make the vital stroke and win the match. As he lined up for his shot, his false teeth fell out and struck the cue ball, and the opposition called a foul. After I had restored order, there was a long debate and it was finally agreed that the shot could be replayed, this time with our man's teeth safely in his back pocket.

On Pub Talk:

A home match for the ladies' darts team, and I continued my education in the workings of the female mind.
After the match and when the other customers and staff have gone, I re-open and tend the bar for a traditional afters session, and am tolerated as long as I keep the drinks coming and my male opinions to myself. I don't know whether to be pleased or hurt that the women completely ignore my presence during these sessions, but it is a unique opportunity to learn what most occupies their minds and thoughts.
I know that most women don't believe it, but when men gather for a session at the bar, there is relatively little talk of sex, and even less of personal performance and experiences. Work, sport, TV and cars are invariably the more important topics. With my ladies, recurring themes are the total uselessness and lack of vitality of their men, the comparative sizes and peculiarities of their sexual organs and preferences, and their universal and revolting personal habits. In a few months I have learned more about these ladies' husbands than their doctors, and perhaps even their mothers.
I have also learned that women are by far the most pragmatic of the sexes, especially when they have reached a certain age and situation. For my unsentimental ladies, their personal winning post will be passed when the mortgage is paid off and the husband has obligingly died and left them still young enough to enjoy being free of the unappetising and stultifying presence of men, and particularly their dirty underpants.

On Pubs And Smoking:

An item in the local paper reports there are moves to ban smoking in all public places, including public houses. The report said that the majority of customers do not like being in smokey pubs, and that non-smoking pubs are gaining in popularity. Staff are also said to be concerned about the danger to their health of being exposed to the deadly fumes for hours at a time.
I do not believe for a moment that only one third of adults smoke nowadays, as virtually all my customers do, and it is hard enough to persuade my staff not to light up while they are actually serving drinks. Out of idle curiosity, I once counted the stubs in all our ashtrays after a busy session, and the total worked out at nearly a packet for every customer we had served. Pubs and smoking have always gone together, and nicotine has become part of the dcor and general ambience. Our ceilings are a fetching shade of old gold as a result of the millions of cigarettes which have been smoked on the premises since they were last painted white, and there is something homely and almost comforting about the smell of stale smoke, beer and bodies which greets me as I come down the stairs each morning. I also know of at least one pub in the city that banned smoking with disastrous effect on takings. The licensee lost so much trade in a week that he had to scrap the rule, and the experience proved so stressful that he took up smoking.
I must think about the publicity value of declaring the Ship Leopard a smokers-only pub for a week. It would be compulsory for all customers to light up within five minutes of arriving, and we could have happy hours with discounts on the leading brands of cigarettes, and cheap beer for anyone with two fags on the go at the same time. Anyone not smoking would be actively harrassed by other customers, or made to stand outside in the bottle yard to indulge his or her filthy non-habit.

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