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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

'Comfort,hospitality and friendliness are our mottos at the Shit Inn'

I used to love Sundays.
Just lately though, Sunday seems to be bringing out the worst in people.We had a particularly nasty complaint the week before last which exploded spectacularly on Twatadvisr and this week was no better.Whatever happened to the good old days when people used to come out for their dinner and if they didn't like it just didn't bother going back???
Everything used to be so much more simple..
When I were a lass everything was closed on Sunday.
All you had to look forward to was the morning visit to mass followed by a lovely home cooked roast prepared by your Mam or Granny,the only bit of drama coming if they forgot to stick the pan of cabbage on the boil at 9.30am ready for lunch at 1pm,resulting in the meal being delayed by at least an hour and cutting into the weekly broadcast of Savile's Travels…
All good wholesome fun eh?…
The smell of the cabbage would permeate every room in the house and linger threateningly for at least three days the fug only finally clearing by the following Saturday ready for the weekly re infiltration on Sunday.

Things are so much more complicated now.
The world and his wife go out for Sunday lunch,if you aren't fully booked on a Sunday then you've got to be doing something drastically wrong.
Everyone it seems strives to recreate the idyll of the family meal but without the effort of cooking it themselves,so they trail around the Metrocentre with kids and infirm Grannies in tow until wound up to breaking point then debunk to the local pub where they they allow the kids to run off their frustrations,then get annoyed and try to keep them quiet by stuffing them full of bread before the meal arrives.
And hell hath no fury like a mother whose offspring can't eat the meal she's forked out good cash for..
Sounds wonderful doesn't it?As a backdrop to all this just imagine how soul destroying it is to hear repeatedly in an audible aside 'thats not how I'd do it at home'
One of the biggest headaches on a Sunday is managing the tables to maximise numbers within the allotted time period,all the while not letting the customer know you've rebooked their table in an hour and a half so they'd better encourage Granny to get a move on,hiatus hernia or not.
To be honest,an hour and half is usually long enough for for all concerned before tempers become irrevocably frayed and the bill is frantically signalled.
There's always one to spoil your plan though isn't there?
The 12 o'clock tables are usually the least popular so what you'll find is that these will only be taken in desperation and are invariably the last booked out.
One of today's 12 o'clocks was a party of ten.They'd only booked the night before and we'd only accepted the booking on condition they vacate the table by 2pm so were keen to get the order promptly.
On arrival they expressed a desire to have a drink in front of the bar first which caused a bit of surreptitious eye rolling amongst ourselves,the last thing the kitchen would be wanting was a delay on one of the first tables causing a backlog before prime time 1pm.
I pointed out the menu, nodded encouragingly and was blanked completely.
25 minutes later the place was beginning to fill up and they were still milling around the in bar.
Sunday Girl attempted to get the order.
No joy.
With the time pressing ever forward I steamed over.
'Are you ready to order?'
I was surprised by the force and visciousness of the response.
'We were told specifically when we booked that we have the table until 2pm,so we're going to enjoy our drinks for a while longer ,then we'll order our food when we're ready,at least another 10-15 minutes'
This would have taken the time to 45 minutes after the time they'd been booked in for.
Direct action was needed.
'Yes, you do have the table until 2pm but you were booked in for 12 o'clock and its now getting on towards one o'clock and if I don't take your order now you may have a long wait for food and not very much time to eat it'
'Five more minutes'..
During the next few minutes hordes of people began to pile in and things became pretty hectic,so much so that we momentarily  forgot about the problem table and went about getting orders from the tables which had politely turned up on time and were happy to order within their allotted time slots.By the time I remembered them I could see the leader looking agitated that they'd been left in the lurch and was making her way over to the bar to place her order in person with the barman.
On my next visit to the kitchen there was a bit of a commotion going on with the order which had just been checked on.
They'd asked for extra Yorkshires.All ten of them wanted THREE each.Thirty Yorkshires for a table of ten people, some of which were children.
'You're having a laugh aren't you,what do they think it is a fucking Toby Carvery??' said Chef without even looking up as he dished out yet more veg in identical position on the neat rows of plates and well on the way to his usual Sunday afternoon repetitive strain injury.
I sighed.
'Don't bother giving them any they probably won't eat them anyway,its not as if you're exactly tight on the portion size..'
We only cater for 100 on a Sunday so only cook 100 Yorkies.It's quite enough to fit in within the 3 hour lunch period,so once you factor in a few veggies theres always a couple of spare Yorkshire's knocking around in case the odd person asks for extras,but certainly not a surplus of 30..
Chef runs a tight ship.
Surprisingly,when I took the food out there was no mention of the missing optional extras.I hovered around just in case I needed to deflect any complaints but none came.

Just then I noticed a middle aged couple who had just been seated at table 6.The woman was up and wandering around touching various chairs.I noticed Sunday Girl going over and helping to swap a chair from an adjacent table.
'What's the craic there? I asked as we passed on the stairs en route to the kitchen.
'Something about a high backed chair..I just swapped them over for her.'
'Uh? ok'
This is a new thing.
In addition to people now having very specific and detailed requirements in terms of the tables they sit at,diners now seem to be equally interested in the chairs which they park their backsides on.Only the previous night I'd taken a call for a booking where the person had asked what sort of chairs we had.I was taken aback at first then replied:
'We are a pub,some are benches, some are chairs,all are wooden with assorted backs,some wheel back,some straight,non are armchairs..'
There was silence.
'Would you like to go ahead with the booking??"
'Well,um yes... ok we'll try it'
I digress.
A few minutes later I saw the same woman up and wandering around again making the place look untidy.I went over to see what the problem was.
'Its this chair,it won't fit under the table..' She was pointing at the chair which she'd just selected in preference to the original chair and trying to force it under the table.
'No' I replied 'it doesn't fit under the tables for two,it has a wider base'
'Oh,well I need a high backed chair with a narrower base which will fit under this table'
She was already off again browsing other tables.pulling chairs out searching for a non existent hybrid chair which met her very specific requirements.
Enough is enough.
I thought I'd better spell things out.
'Look I'm sorry, we only have two types of chair,the narrow seated ones with lower backs (which fit under your table) or the high backed wide seated ones which don't fit'
I allowed a brief pause to allow time for the information to be absorbed and digested.
'Which chair would you prefer?'
I was unprepared for the answer.
'Can we sit at that table over there with the high backed chairs?'

'No I'm sorry you can't because its a table for four people and you are only two people..'

I briefly pondered suggesting she came back at a later date with a couple of friends.

Unbelievably the original chair was returned to the table and she finally sat down.
Sometimes there is method in our madness y'know..

I asked Sunday Girl to hold the fort briefly whilst I went to the cellar to quickly slit me wrists..

Just then I was beckoned over by the Blonde.
There was a problem with the ladies loo.
As there's always safety in numbers,we both inhaled a deep breath before cautiously pushing open the door and going in to investigate.
It was indeed well and truly BLOCKED.
'Not again' I groaned.
There is a very useful piece of advice which you need to keep in mind should you ever decide to do anything so barmy as taking over a pub.Its a bit of information which I wish to God someone had told me.
What you need is a spare trap which thus allows you to do that motorway services thing and stick an OUT OF ORDER sign on the door in the event of emergencies.
We decided to try a few mop buckets of bleachy water launched from a height into the pan to see if it would shift the blockage.
Six buckets later and I was working up a bit of a sweat and becoming a bit despondent watching the bleachy bubbles subside slowly revealing the blockage still wedged firmly in place.
'What shall we do??"
'Lets just try one last bucket' I said hopefully.
God loves a trier.
The gentleman seated at the table just next to the loo and looking mildly amused by the whole sorry debacle watched me struggle back with yet another loaded mop bucket,smirked and quipped to his partner..
'I think someone must have given birth in there judging by the amount of water and disinfectant going in'
Everybody loves a bit of Schadenfreude..
The last bucket was launched with vigour but alas to no avail.

'It's not a shit, its a flaming periscope..'
'What now?"
'We'll have to break it up'
'I suppose by 'we' you mean 'me'?' said the Blonde.
''re better at this sort of thing....'
'No I'm not'
I could see it was going to take more than a cheap bottle of Pinot Grigio to sort this job out.

Anyway,I didn't get where I am today by poking around in other peoples shit.
Well,not literally anyway.

'I'll get a stick' said the Blonde,heading off to the garden..I suppose this is what's meant by living in the sticks..
'Make sure it's a willow,strong but flexible and unlikely to break during the work' I said helpfully.
'Don't push your luck Biff' warned the Blonde.
We had to place a chair in front of the door to prevent people from entering,there was a constant stream of women desperate to relieve themselves,one even had to go outside and use the mens netty.

By this time things were getting a bit confused out front,the last thing you want during a busy service is to be two strong members of staff down,otherwise engaged..
I left the Blonde with the task of hacksawing the blockage in half,sending in Sunday girl for moral support.
Not even the Sunday the lunch din managed to mask the squeals of horror escaping from the loo at periodic intervals.

The difficult woman who wanted to draw up her own timetable and fuck up the whole lunchtime for everyone else declined to have her pudding order taken,looking me straight in the eye,unsmiling.
'We will wait 15 -20 mins before having our pudding order taken,and then a further 10 minutes before being served'
The trouble with this sort of customer is they're always brolly wielding harridans with enough facial hair to stuff a mattress or live undiscovered in an Amish community and not the sort you dare give any backchat in case you cop a swift backhander..

Bitch,you'll order pudding when I come over and get your order..
I smiled a sincere smile.

Eventually the toilet crew emerged,job done blockage(which was reportedly a similar length and width to six tennis balls) cleared.
By this time I'd been missing in action and absent from the kitchen for around 40 minutes which is a long time for me during any service,never mind Sunday lunch.
'Where've you been?' Said Chef
'Someone shit a brick' I said picking up the last of the roasts from under the lights.
'Not again' said Chef without looking up from his furious meat slicing'I don't know why we don't just cut out the middle man and fling this lot straight down the pan'

After service as we were sipping on a little glass of something which in some way helped to soothe the earlier unpleasantness,Sunday Girl piped up.
'Biff, I might need some time off this week'
'What for?'
'Well, its the trauma of that turd,there are some things which are just too painful for the eyes to see…'

None of us could manage any lunch…

Later that night I came across an old menu which once again had me reminiscing about Sundays in the good old days.

12-1.15pm what a great idea!!!
'Look at the Sunday service time-12-1.15pm' I said to Chef  'how great would that be??'
'1.15's a funny time' said Chef with half interest
'Well it was Sunday licensing wasn't it?Everyone had to clear out by 2pm...I wonder how many lunches we could knock out in that time period?'
'Well today it would have been none wouldn't it?' said Chef wearing his 'I told you so' face.
'What d'you mean?'
'Well,thats about the length of time you spent in the bloody bog today '...

There's always someone to rain on your parade isn't there..

Monday, 1 September 2014


I learnt a new phrase on Saturday night.
The Dentist had cleared meals from a table in the conservatory and reported back that a complaint was being made about the meal.
'Do I need to go over??"
'Yes I think so'
Sods law dictates that when anyone's making a complaint they will be sited on the only table that is in close proximity to another table.These two were walk ins who were seated at a table that we'd quickly separated into two twos.
I took one look and realised there would be no discreet cover up,might as well sing out loud so the table next to them could hear the whole bloody lot.
I'd already had a quick deeks at the offending rib that had just been cleared and duly noted that only 3 slices of beef from a 1 kilo joint remained uneaten.
I enquired as to the problem.
As is usual the woman made the complaint quite forcefully whilst hubby sat quietly.
'That rib was awful,very poor quality,I couldn't eat it'

Knowing full well that they'd eaten most of the rib I thought I'd use a bit of reverse psychology ..
I  explained that it was very unusual to get a complaint about the beef as we are very careful about sourcing and using a correctly aged product.However,every animal if different and I accepted that on this occasion the cut fell short of expectations,apologised and as they'd BEEN UNABLE TO EAT IT I offered to make a reduction on the bill.
The husband looked a bit shifty,they paid and left.
Presently, the couple of very lovely gentlemen(you know what I'm saying?)cheerily ploughing through the cocktail list,having the type of evening I'd aim for on a Saturday night out and seated at the table adjacent to the problem table gestured me over.
'Well... that was HASHTAG AWKWARD..'
He did that funny inverted comma finger sign as he said it and I couldn't help laughing.
I've never heard this term spoken in general conversation,is this usual down sarf??
'Very well handled dear,but just wanted to let you know those two were arguing before and  throughout the meal.He wanted to order a rib and she didn't.We could hear EVERYTHING they were saying.It was really HASHTAG AWKWARD..and actually I think the beef here(wink) is very good indeed'

The weekend continued in a similar vein with more HASHTAG AWKWARD situations including me chasing a shrew around the bar at regular intervals to various amused and some horrified feedback.
'Look there's a mouse!'
Me :'No its ok! its a shrew!'
Timothy is getting quite brazen now, even crawling nonchalantly over someone's shoe as they were paying the bill on Saturday night.
I'll be surprised if we manage to keep this one off Tw*tadvisor as none of us can catch the little fucker.
This place gets more like Fawlty Towers every day..
Extra protein

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I haven't mentioned OCD Boy for some time.
Well that's because he did one..
Finding competent staff who are prepared to commit to the job for a decent length of time is at best a challenge and at worst BLOODY TRYING.For some reason hospitality(especially front of house)in this country is still predominately viewed as a stop gap job,not a career choice,therefore in the main applicants tend to be students,people on gap years or people generally filling in whilst applying for other jobs.Which is a real shame as the opportunities for quick progression are probably greater than in most other industries.
Anyway, OCD Boy left under a bit of a cloud due to informing us after his Friday night shift that he wouldn't be  finishing the rest of the very busy weekend due to securing a job in his chosen career.I posed the question ‘Did you not tell them that you already had a job and would need to give notice?' The response ‘Well I told them I had a bar job’  pretty much sums up the view which many have that hospitality jobs are not proper jobs and exist for the convenience of the worker,not the employer.Never mind that this ‘bar job’ had provided continuous employment for two years,along with associated benefits including free staff meals(two steaks at one sitting in this particular case) and of course requisite holiday pay.
You might just want to bookmark the following statement and deploy in any future situation where you wish to remain on good terms with an ex employer:
My loyalties lie with my future employer,not with my soon to be ex employers,albeit NICE people
The Judi Dench line from the film Philomena came to mind: ‘remember how you treat people on the way up-you may well meet them on the way down..’ 
Anyway I digress.
In  light of the above I decided I'd try a more mature applicant,now we're not talking pensionable age here,lets just say that this person falls within the fourth(or third depending on which scale you look at) group range of a demographic profile age band.
*Cough* probably around my own age..

Come Sunday morning The Dentist,Sunday Girl and myself have gotten into the habit of starting early then sitting around from 11-1.30 drinking coffee and gossiping.Oblivious but Blissfully Happy comes in later,and usually only has to give the dining room a quick hoover then she's done.
Anyway this particular morning she steamed in as usual all guns blazing just as I was about to demolish a second chocolate muffin.
'MORNING how are you all?'
We exchanged a few pleasantries before OBBH leant in towards me.
'Eeh Biff me piles are giving me jip this morning,I'm going to have a nice hot bath when I finish and cream them up.'
Lets be honest,the last thing you want on Sunday morning when you're feeling slightly fragile having consumed a couple of small vinos quite late the night before is an up to date status report and full shipping forecast on someone's Farmers..
In a knee jerk reaction I quickly covered my half eaten muffin with a paper napkin to avoid any possible contamination.
There was more:
'I didn't have them before I had the kids,did you get them after yours Biff???'
The dentists face was immediately transformed into a particularly spectacular Hollywood gurn, whilst Sunday girl sat quietly saying nothing ..
There is no right answer to this question.
Do I:

a.deny the existence of any offending pile(which  no one is likely to believe given the aforementioned precursor 'having children' being a contributory factor)


b.admit to having piles( pffft are you joking?)

In the event I ignored the question and gave out an involuntary nervous giggle which in effect had the same outcome as the above two.

I looked guilty as hell.


How we managed to hold things together until the hoover switch was flicked on I have no idea,the early morning lurkers in the garden must have wondered what the hell was going on.The Dentist was crying,I was bent double with a terrible stitch due to the amount of coffee and chocolate I'd just consumed.
Sunday Girl was still quiet.
'What's a pile?'
Which of course was the cause of much further hilarity..
'Just Google Haemorrhoids dear..'

For the rest of lunch I couldn't get the thought of the Farmers out of me flaming head.
Halfway through service OBBH appeared in the kitchen
'Biff would you mind having a quick look at the Fosters please? It just doesn't look right to me,it looks a bit DARK'
It didn't help that I had to follow her out of the kitchen, (wiggling butt and the horrors which lay beneath directly in front of me) and through to the bar where I observed a Fosters glass sited strategically underneath the Guinness font,half full with….GUINNESS.
'What do you think? It doesn't look right does it?"
I stared in disbelief at the glass and the regular customer waiting patiently for his Sunday morning tipple obviously also equally dumbfounded by the strange turn of events.
'No... it doesn't look right because its Guinness..'
Bit dark for Fosters??

The regular glanced nervously at the pint and shuffled uncomfortably.
'Its ok I'll just have Guinness instead..'
And as any fule kno GUINNESS and Fosters are equally interchangeable….
I repeated the tale to Chef when I returned to the kitchen accompanied by loud guffaws and associated crying from others who had been witness to the debacle.
'Thats not even funny' said Chef 'that can't be good for business'
But I could see the corners of his mouth twitching involuntarily…
So you see every demographic brings its own challenges..and as I said later 'I'm keeping her she's good for morale..'

*I do not have piles (please believe me…)


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