Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Beer Party?

I have just received my ballot paper for the European Elections (how I wish we could get out of the damn' thing, then we would have less exploiticians and less bother voting) and was startled to see how many parties were fielding candidates. Really, we are fast becoming a Banana Republic!
I was a little disappointed, however, to find that there was no Beer Party candidate standing. If there is such a party I hereby offer myself as a candidate for future elections.
My manifesto, if elected, is to try all beers throughout Europe (at taxpayers' expense) and send back reports via this blog to the beer-drinking public.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Girls Allowed

Further to my previous article, about the "gentleman's buffet", the last bastion of male chauvinism was once the workingmen's clubs.
In my local club in Primrose, Jarrow, ladies were only allowed in the "lounge". All other parts of the club were banned to them until government regulations forced changes to be made.
Oddly enough, the consequence has been a deterioration in the behaviour of the "gentlemen" and much more trouble than in former times.

Friday, 22 May 2009

The "Gentleman's Buffet"

One of my regular readers, themaninthemoon, asked me recently if I knew what a "gentleman's buffet" was. You can still occasionally see this legend engraved on the glass doors of some of our oldest pubs.
Well, it was room in which men could talk "freely", as women were barred. Not possible nowadays, of course, with all our equal opportunity legislation.
In effect, it was a room in which "man's talk", replete with the most colourful swearing, could be enjoyed.
Actually, I think it originated in pubs which catered for commercial travellers, who were renowned for their dirty stories and coarse sense of humour. Those of you who saw the T.V series Pennies from Heaven may remember scenes where the salesman Arthur and his friends met in the gentleman's buffet to swap jokes etc.
Bar managers used to make sure that only their fiercest, most experienced barmaids served in the gentleman's buffet, battleaxes who had heard it all before.
Got that, you f***ing c*nts?

Monday, 18 May 2009

Was this a Rum 'n Egg Bar?

I have been informed by a friend of mine that the premises now used as McNulty Offshore's Offices was once a Rum 'n Egg Bar.
Certainly it is in a likely location, being along by the River Tyne and in close proximity to what was once Readhead's Shipyard.
But when I went to look at it and to take photographs, I could see only one doorway.

The long thin frontage WAS indeed very reminiscent of the Rum 'n Egg Bar I remembered seeing in Howdon during my wild and demented youth (see my previous blog), but I couldn't get away from the fact that there was only one door.

But look again at the second picture (below), taken from the other side of building. Is that the hint of a bricked-up former doorway in the left hand side of the frontage? Look at the curve of the wooden boarding above.

I rest my case.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Rum 'n Egg bars

During Tyneside's heyday as a shipbuilding area there were a number of Rum 'n Egg bars near the shipyard gates. One still existed in Howdon in the 1950s and was pointed out to me by a pensioner who remembered these historic institutions very well.
Apparently these pubs had a long thin bar fronting the street with a doorway at either end. By tradition, you entered at one end, progressed along the bar and exited by the other door.
Lined up along the bar were rows of glasses of strong dark rum and a (peeled) boiled egg on a saucer. This was breakfast for the shipyard workers, who began work so early in the morning that they had merely bundled out of bed and rushed off to work with nothing in their bellies. It must have been very invigorating for the workers as the neat rum hit their stomach - a real awakener!
The old bloke told me that the barman watched like a hawk as the shipyard workers dashed through, each slamming down a tanner (sixpence in old money) on the bar before throwing down the rum at a gulp and departing, munching on their egg. It was all done on the run, no-one lingered or even stopped at the bar or the flow would have been broken.
How I would like to experience a Rum 'n Egg bar today!
It was part of a whole world of working-class culture which has been forgotten.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Fleet at the Gunmakers

My son Stonch, who runs The Gunmakers pub just off the Clerkenwell Road, was very excitedly telling me recently that he had heard the Fleet River rushing through a drain near his pub.
There had been heavy rain in the preceding days and the old river, now well and truly buried beneath London's streets and part of the Victorian sewer system, was swollen to a noisy rushing subterranean flood.
Over the centuries, this venerable river, to quote Barton's "Lost Rivers of London", had declined "from a river to a brook, from a brook to a ditch, and from a ditch to a drain".
Rising on Hampstead Heath, it formed a tidal inlet to the Thames as much as 600 feet wide at the time of the Romans and ancient anchors were discovered in its bed when it was enclosed by the Victorians. In actual fact, its name is taken from the Anglo-Saxon word "fleet", which means a tidal inlet capable of floating boats.
Nowadays it carries much used beer down to the Thames and that certainly floats my boat, my friend!

Monday, 4 May 2009

The Robin Hood, Primrose

Last night I was summoned to The Robin Hood to see my brother and many other prime boosers of the family. The Robin Hood is an historic pub which stands on the old turnpike road from Newcastle to the coast on the south bank of the Tyne. There has been a pub on this site since Elizabethan times at the latest and it sits in a quite picturesque dip of the land beside the River Don. Nowadays it is run by the Jarrow Brewery and, until recently, they brewed their beers there before transferring all brewing to The Maltings, their new premises in South Shields (see my previous blogs).

Anyway, I sank a few really first class pints of "Rivetter", a blonde, hoppy beer with a great head and lovely aftertaste while my brother regaled us with jokes which he had picked up in the prison service. Before he retired a couple of years ago, he was a Deputy Governor at The Scrubs. I know from a previous life, when I was the bar cellarman at The Duke of Cornwall opposite Brixton Jail, that lots of jokes originate in prisons where the guys have nothing else to do but make them up. The Prison Officers who frequented the bar in those days could keep you laughing for hours until your face ached. I had to ban joke-telling on a few occasions when I could stand no more of it!