Watering the Mild and Other Wheezes, 1955

Running a pub has always been a matter of margins which can encourage dodgy behaviour, from watering the beer to serving up slops.

Tom Berkley’s 1955 com­ic mem­oir We Keep a Pub is either a gold­mine or com­plete­ly use­less depend­ing on your view of the semi-fic­tion­al James Her­riot school of writ­ing.

It tells the sto­ry of Bill and Irene Day, appar­ent­ly stand-ins for Berkley and his own wife, who return to Britain from colo­nial work in Malaya and decide to run a pub. The brew­ery they approach sends them out on a series of place­ments to learn the trade and the book is an account of the char­ac­ters they meet and cus­toms they observe in a string of Lon­don pubs.

For exam­ple, in one pub, Bill and Irene become fas­ci­nat­ed by the snack counter which offers two items: veal-and-ham loaf and Melton Mow­bray pie. What is the dif­fer­ence between the two? They look iden­ti­cal. Irene decides to find out by order­ing a slice of each, and Bill observes that “the snack girl gave her a nasty look”. It is only when they see a cus­tomer order Melton Mow­bray (pre­mi­um) but receive veal-and-ham (cheap) that this gen­tle fid­dle becomes clear.

The behav­iour in the cel­lar of the land­lord of this pub, a Mr Law­son, also goes some way to explain­ing the decline of mild in the 1950s. He explains to Bill that mild ale, being unfined, is eas­i­er to adul­ter­ate: “You can’t put noth­ing back into the bit­ter.”

[He told me] that if waste beer were put into fined beer it turned it cloudy, but that a rea­son­able amount did not harm to bright beer.… [All] beer col­lect­ed in drip cans was invari­ably poured into the mild ale, and not, as I had naive­ly imag­ined, thrown away, or even returned to the brew­ery as ullage as so many peo­ple think. And at the Gor­get Hotel the same was done with the fil­tered dregs from bar­rels of fined beers, and the lees of bot­tled beer and used glass­es. It did not mat­ter to Mr Law­son what kind of beer it was: bit­ter beer, light ale, brown ale, Bur­ton: accord­ing to him it was all fit to go into the ale.

Bill won­ders if any­one ever notices this jig­gery-pok­ery:

Mild-ale drinkers nev­er notice noth­ing – not if you don’t over­do it; and that reminds me: when you was pulling up mild-and-bit­ters last night I see you giv­ing ’em half-and-half. That’s no good. All you want is a drop o’ bit­ter at the bot­tom o’ the glass and fill up with mild. Mild’s cheap­er than bit­ter. See? You got to watch the stocks.”

As well as the unof­fi­cial meth­ods of recir­cu­lat­ing waste beer there is also the brew­ery’s own pre­ferred approach, the uti­liz­er, “a sort of chi­na buck­et that hung from a hook in the ceil­ing”:

[Waste] beer from the var­i­ous bars drained into the uti­liz­er, whence it was sucked into the pub­lic bar by a lit­tle aux­il­iary pump on the beer engine at a rate of about a spoon­ful per glass…

(Fur­ther read­ing on p.112 of this 1923 paper on pub cel­lars.)

The next pub, the Block & Anchor in the East End, is a sim­i­lar­ly grot­ty, pen­ny-pinch­ing place. The staff pay for their own drinks by short-chang­ing cus­tomers. When Rosie the bar­maid­’s cig­a­rette ash drops into a cus­tomer’s beer she apol­o­gis­es, tips it into a drip can, replaces the pint, and then serves some­one else the beer from the drip can lat­er in the shift. The man­ag­er, Mr Grainger, tips three buck­ets of slops into a half-emp­ty cask of mild. Perce the Pot­man is sup­posed to clean the lines every Sat­ur­day but evi­dent­ly nev­er does.

I noticed that the bot­tles had been put on the shelves straight from the box­es with­out being pol­ished; that the shelves were dirty; that the pewter was tar­nished a dull dark-grey colour. There were pud­dles of beer on the counter; glass­es were cloudy and smeared with fin­ger marks. The elec­tric-light bulbs were spat­tered with fly spots.

Pour­ing slops into the mild is bad; is let­ting down beer with water bet­ter, or worse? We sup­pose it depends on whether you pri­ori­tise hygiene or intox­i­ca­tion. One of the best pas­sages in the book con­cerns Mr Grainger’s furtive­ness over this illic­it activ­i­ty:

I’d bet­ter do the cel­lar today,” he mut­tered, with a side­long glance at the clock. “You ain’t got time to go down there today. See?”

Of course Bill for­gets and does go into the cel­lar where he dis­cov­ers a fun­nel jammed into the top of a cask of mild, half full of water, with two more buck­ets of water at its side. Fear­ing he has been rum­bled, Grainger becomes tense and knocks back sev­er­al gins.

Mr Grainger worries
Car­toon by ‘Starke’.

Even­tu­al­ly, he con­fronts Bill.

You know, a man can’t be hon­est in this line,” he blurt­ed out, gig­gling fool­ish­ly to cov­er his embar­rass­ment.

I decid­ed to help him.

No, I sup­pose he can’t,” I mum­bled com­mis­er­at­ing­ly, “not with his staff guz­zling all the prof­its.”

No,” he said sad­ly… After a silence last­ing sev­er­al sec­onds he he glanced up at me, and I saw tears in his eyes.

He cleared his throat.

A man’s got to try and make it up some­how, or else get the sack,” he mum­bled.

Lat­er, dis­cussing the busi­ness with Irene, Bill makes two fur­ther obser­va­tions:

  1. It is use­ful to know that cus­tomers won’t notice six gal­lons of water in thir­ty gal­lons of ale, and “thir­ty bob a buck­et for water is not so bad”.
  2. Grainger chose his water­ing hours care­ful­ly: after all, which excise offi­cer ever worked after mid­day on Sat­ur­day?

The pub that fea­tures in the third act, the White Lark, is a respectable place with decent man­agers, the Han­dens. Mr Han­den is proud of his beer and holds the view that it is bet­ter to sell two casks of good clean beer than one of the dirty stuff:

I’m proud o’ my bit­ter; that’s what makes your name – and you don’t want to muck around with your mild too much, either. All mild-ale drinkers ain’t dumb, though there’s many as thinks they are.

But even they are wink­ing­ly dis­hon­est in var­i­ous small ways. For exam­ple, Mrs Han­den always accepts a drink when offered by cus­tomers; if they’re poor, she takes a Guin­ness, and drinks it; but if they’re well off, she accepts a neat gin, takes a sip, and hides what remains beneath the bar to be sold to a cus­tomer lat­er, thus being paid twice for the same drink.

The dirty tricks aren’t all on the pub­li­cans’ side, though, and Mr Han­den clues Bill in on one of the brew­ery’s bits of sly­ness: they send in spies (Slimy Grimes, one is nick­named; the oth­er Mephistophe­les) to check that staff aren’t drink­ing to excess, that things are being run prop­er­ly, and that open­ing times are being observed. You’d call these mys­tery shop­pers now, we sup­pose.

And then, worse, there is Mr Green, the brew­ery’s inspec­tor, who turns up with shak­ing hands, accepts a run of free and dis­count­ed drinks, asks for the loan of some mon­ey (a bribe) and leaves hav­ing decid­ed that there’s no need to actu­al­ly go down into the cel­lar, up to the kitchen, or look at the books.

Of course all of the above has to be tak­en with a pinch of salt. As with oth­er of these We Ran a Pub mem­oirs there’s a streak of class dis­dain run­ning through the whole thing. The authors are gen­er­al­ly of the offi­cer class, regard work­ing class peo­ple as filthy brutes, and the pub­li­cans as worse again because they have the nerve to believe them­selves respectable.

Being fic­tion­alised, there’s no way to know what real­ly hap­pened, whether it hap­pened to Berkley him­self, or whether this amounts to a col­lec­tion of trade mythol­o­gy.

But, any­way, it’s worth a read.

Now, when is the first We Ran a Craft Beer Bar mem­oir due?

Pub Life: Hit & Run

Stink-eye bar-fly.

A man of indeterminate age, somewhere between 30 and 50, strides up to the bar: ‘Shit, man, have I had a rough day.’

The baby-faced, slight­ly sleepy bar­man blinks and smiles.

Yeah? Sor­ry to hear that, man. What can I get you?’

The cus­tomer mounts a high stool and starts to unload his tobac­co pouch, ancient mobile phone and var­i­ous oth­er nick-nacks, con­struct­ing a nest.

Half a San Mig.’

The bar­man pours the lager and places it on the bar.

That’ll be–’

Tell you what, I’ve had such a shit day… Sod it – give me a sam­bu­ca, too.’

The bar­man turns to look at the spir­its shelf. The cus­tomer drinks half of his half of lager. The young man turns back. His eyes dart to the half emp­ty glass.

Er… Black or white?’

White.’

The bar­man pours the sam­bu­ca into a thim­ble-like shot glass.

That’ll be–’

What it is, my wife – are you mar­ried your­self? – my wife, she was meant to meet me this morn­ing but her train got delayed…’

He sud­den­ly drinks most of the sam­bu­ca, chas­ing it with anoth­er gulp of lager.

…so I’ve been hang­ing around Tem­ple Meads…’

Er, sor­ry, man, but, er, I’m going to need you to pay for those drinks.’

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, of course, man, no prob­lem, yeah, yeah, yeah.’

He fin­ish­es the sam­bu­ca.

My wife will be here in like two min­utes and she’s got the cash.’

The bar­man begins to vibrate anx­ious­ly.

I real­ly need you to pay for those drinks–’

Yeah, yeah, yeah, no wor­ries, man, no wor­ries – I’ll just give her a call.’

The cus­tomer very obvi­ous­ly pre­tends to make a call on what, at sec­ond glance, might actu­al­ly be a toy mobile phone. And are his shoes… Are they held togeth­er with Sel­l­otape?

He stands up, pock­ets his tobac­co almost as if by sleight of hand, and retreats to a cor­ner, and then fur­ther into the cor­ner, and then clear through the cor­ner, out of a side door that we had­n’t noticed.

The bar­man deflates as he puts what is left of the glass of lager on the back shelf.

I’m so stu­pid,’ he says part­ly to him­self, part­ly to us, but most­ly to his own sneak­ers.

He makes sure to take the mon­ey before hand­ing over our pints.

Advice for Pub Staff, 1965, Pt.2 — Pub Life

On Sunday we ran through the beer-focused parts of James H. Coombs 1965 instructional manual Bar Service; today, we’re looking at the bits concerning people.

That means we’re skip­ping the sec­tions on cider, spir­its, wine, cig­a­rettes and snacks – they’re pret­ty dry, to be hon­est, but if there’s any­thing par­tic­u­lar you’re curi­ous about ask below and we’ll dig around.

Mr Coomb­s’s first asser­tion in ‘Part IV: Gen­er­al Bar Prac­tice’ is that ‘the Licensed Trade is a domes­tic busi­ness and is not like any oth­er trade’. What he means by this is, first, that in his opin­ion union­i­sa­tion won’t wash, just as it would­n’t in the fam­i­ly home; and, sec­ond­ly, that a lot of the work is just like look­ing after your own house – wind the clock, unblock the sink, don’t let the fire go out, and so on.

After a long sec­tion on clean­ing – which goops and types of cloth to use on which sur­faces – there comes a bit of time­less advice:

Nev­er keep a cus­tomer wait­ing – it is most annoy­ing. It will not escape you that a man quite resigned to wait ten min­utes in the Post-office for a stamp will shout the place down if he is kept wait­ing more than five sec­onds for a drink. In fact many seem to think there should be one bar­tender to each cus­tomer! … How­ev­er, should you be engaged in some job more impor­tant than tak­ing his mon­ey (if there is any­thing more impor­tant!) always acknowl­edge him and say you won’t keep him a moment.

Fifty-odd years on, this is still just about all we ask for from bar staff.

The Public Bar

Per­haps our favourite bit in the book is this frank account of the dynam­ic between new staff mem­bers and the cus­tomers in the least pre­ten­tious room in the pub:

Some staff enjoy serv­ing in the Pub­lic Bar bet­ter than the Saloon or Lounge. They appre­ci­ate the ‘earthy’ touch of the ‘hon­est-to-good­ness’ work­ing man, the quick and snap­py con­ver­sa­tion, the ever­last­ing ‘mick­ey tak­ing’… Should it be part of your duty to serve in the Pub­lic Bar you may have to suf­fer a cer­tain amount of rib­ald com­ment from the reg­u­lars… ‘’Ow long you gonna stay? ’Ad eight noo bar­men ’ere in six weeks!’ … Prob­a­bly untrue any­way. The ‘Pub­lic’ as they are called are very fond of ‘hav­ing a go’ at any­one new but you should just laught it off and not get bad-tem­pered. When they fail to get a rise out of you they’ll go back to their domi­noes.

In oth­er words, don’t feed the trolls. Appar­ent­ly speak­ing from bit­ter expe­ri­ence Coombs goes on to say that they’ll con­tin­ue to watch the new­bie wait­ing for a moment of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty:

Wrong change rates three roars all round the bar… pulling up Mild instead of Bit­ter rates two roars… Short mea­sure is good for five min­utes hol­ler­ing and hoot­ing.

Lon­don­ers in par­tic­u­lar, he observes, liked to lay the slang on thick as a kind of pow­er move: ‘Pint o’ Diesel, an apple frit­ter and a Tom Thumb.’ This leads to a nice lit­tle list of col­lo­qui­alisms:

  • Ale – Mild, Ale, Dou­ble, XX, Diesel, Splosh, Hog­wash
  • Bit­ter – apple frit­ter
  • Scotch whisky – pim­ple [and blotch], Hooch
  • Gin – nee­dle [and pin], Vera [Lynn], Moth­er’s Ruin
  • Rum – Tom Thumb, Nel­son’s Blood, Black Jack
  • Brandy  – Coconut Can­dy
Con Tricks

This chap­ter, enti­tled ‘The Crooks – and Some Tricks to Catch You’, runs over famil­iar ground but with a few new bits of busi­ness. It begins with a gen­er­al warn­ing (slight­ly edit­ed by us for weird punc­tu­a­tion):

If two strangers are found in the bar at the same time and have tak­en up sep­a­rate posi­tions, be very much on your guard, more espe­cial­ly if one of them engages you in close con­ver­sa­tion – the oth­er one may be up to a lit­tle ‘mullarky’. Any­thing portable is fair game to pub­lic-house crooks, the Blind col­lect­ing box, the lighter fuel box, the Christ­mas stock­ing, the Spas­tics Bea­con, even chairs and tables – any­thing they can lay their thiev­ing hands on.

Sandra Gough pushing over a pile of pennies, 1965.
San­dra Gough (Irma Ogden in Coro­na­tion Street) push­ing over a pile of pen­nies col­lect­ed for char­i­ty (i.e. ‘the Spas­tics Bea­con’) at The Bowl­ing Green, Stock­port. This was a big thing in the 1960s.

Among the spe­cif­ic tricks described, after the short change con and a ver­sion of the ser­i­al num­ber wheezed described in Lil­liput, there’s a move with a touch of the Der­ren Brown about it:

A man stand­ing at the bar wait­ing for ser­vice has a five-pound note spread out on the counter in front of him. He pass­es some remark about it to the man stand­ing next to him – a com­plete stranger, prob­a­bly… The stranger agrees and the man has made cer­tain he has drawn ample atten­tion to the five-pound note… As he is being served, how­ev­er, he switch­es the fiv­er for a fold­ed one-pound note. A lit­tle lat­er he will insist to the bar­man he received change of £1. He calls on the stranger as a wit­ness and he, of course, affirms that he saw a five-pound note hand­ed over – which, of course, he did­n’t! Heigh, ho! Anoth­er four quid up in the air!

Next, there’s a con in which the perp claims to have bumped into the land­lord in the street who has autho­rised the cash­ing of a cheque. Not all that sub­tle this one, although the con­vin­cer is that he does­n’t need the full amount – just £15 for now and he’ll col­lect the rest that evening when he sees his old pal, the guv’nor.

There are stock cons, too, where a cus­tomer buys a bot­tle of whisky to take away, return­ing moments lat­er to say, sor­ry, my hus­band wants a dif­fer­ent brand, but the returned bot­tle is actu­al­ly a dum­my filled with water. Or, alter­na­tive­ly, a cus­tomer claims to have won a case of whisky in a raf­fle and sells it to the licensee at a pound a bot­tle, only that’s all water too. In this case, the licensee, hav­ing bro­ken the law, can’t go to the police. (You can’t con an hon­est man and all that.)

Final­ly, there’s some­thing that sounds quite implau­si­ble, out­side of an Eal­ing com­e­dy:

Watch for the gen­tle­man, per­haps not too well dressed, who walks about with an umbrel­la or walk­ing-stick. Some­times these have a handy spike on the end and can be used for spear­ing cig­a­rettes off a shelf behind the bar… Some­times paper mon­ey is kept in a glass beside the till on an adja­cent shelf. Make sure it is not in a mug with a han­dle because the same umbrel­la or walk­ing stick can be used to hook it up.

Close-up of a chapter heading in the book.
A Final Round of Golden Rules

This part of the book, which comes after a lot of dat­ed and dusty mat­ter about wages and licenc­ing law, is a kind of mis­cel­lany of stuff that did­n’t fit else­where, and is great fun:

Before you go behind the bar make cer­tain you enquire about the dog (if any) and where it is kept… If some­one from the kitchen is kind enough to give you a cup of tea in the bar have the decen­cy to wash up the cup and saucer… Buy an alarm clock… Turn out the dart­board light when play is fin­ished… Keep a sharp eye on tramps, dirty-look­ing peo­ple, hawk­ers, or any­one with an obvi­ous dis­ease… It is ille­gal to take snuff behind the bar… Avoid those cus­tomers you know will want to engage you in con­ver­sa­tion for the rest of the ses­sion… Pick up any loose crown corks on the floor – don’t kick ’em about!

(Some small edits for ease of quot­ing in that chunk of text, by the way.)

This book, unlike some oth­ers, gives rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle time to mat­ters of gen­der rela­tions but does have this of-its-time advice:

It is one of the time-hon­oured fea­tures of the Eng­lish pub­lic-house for the ‘reg­u­lars’ to have a bit of fun with the bar staff – espe­cial­ly with pret­ty bar­maids. You will be expect­ed to take this in good part – and even to join in. The pur­chase of a Brown Ale, how­ev­er, does not enti­tle any­one to take lib­er­ties and you should see that the con­ver­sa­tion nev­er degen­er­ates below the lev­el of pro­pri­ety.

If some­one is con­stant­ly harass­ing you, Coombs says, don’t fall out with them but do tell the boss.

There’s lots on eti­quette includ­ing some reminders that the pub was not quite a respectable place: don’t address cus­tomers in any way that might tip strangers off that they are reg­u­lars, for exam­ple, and avoid say­ing things like, ‘You back again?’ when a cus­tomer who was in at lunchtime returns in the evening with com­pa­ny.

Then, much as with Mrs Mullis, Mr Coombs seems to get more unhinged the clos­er he gets to the end of the book, final­ly let­ting his annoy­ing cus­tomers have both bar­rels a few pages from the end:

The drink­ing pub­lic from every sphere, you will soon dis­cov­er, are the most obsti­nate, ill-informed and per­verse sec­tion of the com­mu­ni­ty it is pos­si­ble to find. Even if they have a ques­tion they will often refuse to accept the answer – right though it may be. Afford them an indul­gent smile and let them wal­low in their igno­rance…

Our copy of this book cost £9.30 deliv­ered – it’s rar­er than some sim­i­lar vol­umes, and less enter­tain­ing – but we can cer­tain­ly see our­selves refer­ring to it from time to time which makes it a worth­while addi­tion to the Arthur Mil­lard Memo­r­i­al Library. (That is, our back room).

Bar Staff on the Fiddle, 1944

The December 1944 edition of Lilliput, a ‘gentleman’s magazine’, includes an article about – or maybe an exposé of – bar staff in London pubs.

It’s cred­it­ed to ‘Lemuel Gul­liv­er’ and is enti­tled Gul­liv­er Peeps Behind the Bar imply­ing a con­nec­tion to the satir­i­cal tra­di­tion of Jonathan Swift; with that in mind, it’s per­haps not the stuff foot­notes are made of, unless care­ful­ly word­ed. Which is to say the author might well have just made it all up, or at least used plen­ty of cre­ative licence in writ­ing up mate­r­i­al from var­i­ous sources, although there is the ring of truth about many of the details. Here’s how it opens:

You’ll get thir­ty-five bob a week,’ said the bar­maid duck­ing through a hatch in the mahogany counter, ‘a bit more if you’re lucky.’ Her per­ox­ide head popped up again in the frame of the orna­men­tal bot­tles and frost­ed glass at the back of the bar. ‘You live in,’ she said, ‘and you exist for one half-day out a week, from eleven in the morn­ing til eleven at night.’

She went on to detail the var­i­ous ways bar­maids in Lon­don pubs com­pen­sate them­selves for their mis­er­able lot, name­ly ‘fid­dling’.

Go on with you,’ said the bar­maid. ‘You know what fid­dling is, mak­ing a bit on the side.’ She gave a mas­cara wink.

First, there was the bar­maid who took addi­tion­al com­pen­sa­tion in the form of drink, ‘a bot­tle of gin before break­fast’, the emp­ty being refilled with ‘bulk gin and pale sher­ry’ to cov­er her tracks. The cus­tomers, starved for booze by wartime rationing, did­n’t notice or care.

The cover of Lilliput, December 1944.

Then there was a bar­man who was in the habit of slip­ping coins into his waist­coat but was found out because his pock­et was wet: ‘Don’t you know that mon­ey tak­en over the bar is always wet with the the spilt beer?’ Because of the preva­lence of this kind of thing, accord­ing to Gul­liv­er’s infor­mant, most pubs banned bar staff from hav­ing any mon­ey in their pock­ets at all.

There were var­i­ous meth­ods for fid­dling the till. First, there’s the sim­ple wheeze of tak­ing orders for mul­ti­ple rounds but only ring­ing up the price of one – easy, but risky. Alter­na­tive­ly, they might work with a friend pos­ing as a cus­tomer on the oth­er side of the bar: ‘Every time the accom­plice buys a drink he gets change for a quid.’ A third more elab­o­rate approach sounds pos­i­tive­ly inge­nious:

Why at one place I was at they bored a hole in the floor of the bar… The peo­ple in the bar used to drop the mon­ey on the floor, shuf­fle it down the hole and the cel­lar­man used to catch it in a beer fil­ter.

She explained that such dis­hon­est bar staff worked in gangs, mov­ing around to avoid the police, and alter­nat­ing so that some worked while oth­ers laid low. They found new jobs using forged ref­er­ences, ‘six­pence each’.

The arti­cle con­cludes with details of a clever cus­tomer-side con trick that’s new to us:

The most famous trick is called ‘Ring­ing the Changes’. It’s worked by two men. One comes into the saloon bar, orders a drink and offers a pound note. Imme­di­ate­ly after, the accom­plice goes into the pub­lic bar, orders a drink too, and pays for it out of a ten-bob note. When he gets his change he says that it was­n’t a ten-bob note he had, it was a pound. And, to prove it, he gives the num­ber. When they go to the till, they find the pound note because it’s the one the accom­plice had just hand­ed in. Well, when that hap­pens, the land­lord has to pay up.

Can any­one who works in a pub or bar tell us whether that still hap­pens today, or have CCTV and the death of the mul­ti-bar lay­out out done for this (ahem) fine old tra­di­tion?

The main illus­tra­tion above is signed ‘Vic­to­ria’ which we think means it’s by Vic­to­ria David­son, 1915–1999.

Definite Scope: Dodgy Draymen, mid-1960s

Old advertisement: men loading a dray with casks.
An ad from the wrong time peri­od (1929) and wrong city. So sue us.

On our travels round the country over the last few months we’ve been seeking out small press local history publications like Mike Axworthy’s A Garston Working Life (2012), which we found at Liverpool Central Library.

As well as being a keen fre­quenter of pubs Mr Axwor­thy also worked as a dray­man (beer deliv­er­ies) when he was a teenag­er in the mid-1960s, and gives us this glimpse behind the scenes:

I soon learned why our wages were so poor­ly paid, because the com­pa­ny knew we made them up on the fid­dle. I am ashamed to say that no one was safe, the com­pa­ny were robbed in many inge­nious ways, like putting extra crates on when the check­er was­n’t look­ing. These we would sell cheap to bar­men at a low cost cash price. Then often we would walk out of the bar with some of their stock in emp­ty box­es, or with bot­tles of spir­its up our shirt. We jus­ti­fied this thiev­ing by our low wages, but real­ly it was just greed…

I was def­i­nite­ly not guilty when a big rob­bery took place in the ware­house. Inside ‘Kings of the Bot­tlers’ ware­house there was a strong room that con­tained the spir­its… [It] had a steel door and a 2ft thick brick wall. One morn­ing we came in and a hole had been knocked through the wall and most of the spir­its spir­it­ed away. No one was ever caught for the theft but we all had an idea who it was but grass­ing was def­i­nite­ly out in our cul­ture.

Pre­sum­ably this kind of thing does­n’t hap­pen today, or is very rare, what with elec­tron­ic stock con­trol and CCTV and so on… or maybe we’re being naive?

We’re post­ing this in response to some­thing on the same top­ic that appeared on, and then dis­ap­peared from, Ron Pat­tin­son’s blog. When it turns up again we’ll add a direct link. UPDATE 29/5/2016: And here it is.

PS. There was no blog post yes­ter­day but we did update this 2014 post on The Bri­tan­nia Inn at the 1958 Brus­sels Expo with new infor­ma­tion and pic­tures.