Modern Pubmanship 6: Jukeboxes

This is the sixth in an occasional series of guest posts by etiquette expert R.M. Banks.

Not all public houses are enhanced by the addition of a jukebox. Some do quite well with the gentle avant-garde percussion provided by a burning log or two in the grate; others lack the acoustic qualities so that the addition of recorded music brings to mind someone falling downstairs while carrying a tin bath full of squeaky dog toys.

On the whole, though, I am personally all for them. Oh, yes, you can count me as a fee-paying member of the Juke Box Appreciation Society. I am always happy to kick in a quid for the pleasure of hearing five of the gramophone industry’s finest efforts, or two quid the dozen for that matter. A well husbanded juke-box, stuffed to the coin-slots with the right stuff, brings joie de vivre where once glum silence lay heavy as suet pudding; it lifts as it brightens as it shines!

Of course there are pitfalls.

First, there is the matter of good taste. If you were to flip through my record cabinet you would likely scoff, perhaps mock, or even come to look up on the very basis of our friendship with jaundiced eye. And the reverse would likely be true. Consider, then, a public bar containing, let us say, 30 people – what are the chances that all will be equally enthused upon hearing, to pick an example quite at random, the surging of the Hammond organ at the commencement of ‘Stop in the Name of Love’? Up to a point, this cannot be helped: a jukebox containing only songs that no one dislikes would be like a hospital meal of steamed fish and boiled potatoes. The soundest advice is to avoid the deep end of the pool – songs containing full-throated Scandinavian metal screaming, dischord intended to evoke mans inhumanity to man, treated piano, laxative basslines, children’s choirs, and so on. Jukebox songs ought to elicit a tapping of the foot, perhaps a gay whistle, but oughtn’t interfere with the conversation.

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Modern Pubmanship 5: Christmas Day

A brief Christmas missive from our etiquette expert R.M. Banks.

You may be fortunate enough to find that the licensee of your favourite watering station is the splendid sort who postpones the enjoyment of a platter laden with the flesh of the fowl and the well-stewed brassica to fling open the hatches for an hour or so on Christmas Day.

If so, and you are not posted eagerly outside at 12 o’clock with a dry mouth and a fistful of the Bank of England’s finest lettuce, then you are, frankly, a foul blister who ought not to be allowed into the pub at any other time of year.

You see, the open door of a public house on the 25 of December is to the keen student of the Champagne of the grain as the ‘Battle Action Millennium Falcon’ (RRP £120) is to an 8-year-old child, and, like a fine equine specimen with a bow on top, its oral cavity ought not be given the glassy eye.

So, you have done the right thing and turned up for the midday service — perhaps in the company of one parent while the other dons the novelty apron to baste the goose. So far, so good.

Now, on approaching the bar, and after exchanging the necessary pleasantries with your host, if there was ever a time to sally forth with ‘One for yourself?’, this is it. (If you are one of those unfortunate wretches afflicted with chronic rigor mortis of the wallet, perhaps take a tumbler-full of your favourite loosener before leaving the house.)

This duty dispensed, it is a simply your mission to achieve a moderate level of jollity in the hour or so before the publican begins to send subtle signals that their own feed will wait no longer by, for example, dousing the fire with a bucket of cold water,  switching off the lights and standing with folded arms before the grandfather clock.

At this, you may return to the homestead, pour yourself into a dining chair, hold the silverware aloft, and know that you have demonstrated the true pub fancier’s spirit.

Modern Pubmanship, Part 4: Nor Any Drop to Drink

The fourth in an occasional series of guest posts by our etiquette expert R.M. Banks.

We have, as our cousins across the p. like to put it, ‘all been there’: in the pursuit of some errand of great import, you come upon a public house handsome enough to lighten the dullest eye before which resistance crumbles, and in you stride, hands rubbing together and tongue lolling in thirsty anticipation of 20 fluid ounces of something piquant and wholesome. At which, like young Harker hoofing across the threshold of Castle Dracula, What ho!-ing freely, you confront a scene of infinite horror: there is not one beer on the bar counter worth your time, your precious coinage, or the strain on the old sock which serves in place of your liver.

‘Oh, you are being fussy again, Banks,’ you say, pooh-poohing, and, I dare say, wagging a digit. Well, I tell you, I am not – the most flexible of practitioners would struggle to limbo beneath my standards, which lie as close to rock-bottom as is possible without holing the hull. (Have I mixed my metaphors? No matter. We must plough on. (Oh, bother — there’s another one.))

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Modern Pubmanship, Part 3: Broken Glasses

The third in an occasional series of guest posts by our etiquette expert R.M. Banks.

Having downed a goblet of Banks’s patented hangover cure, I find myself enjoying a moment of clarity in regard to a question that has been floating in the cranial ullage like a cellarman’s cigarette end: Should one, in this progressive age, emit a cheer when a glass is smashed by the barkeep?

‘Surely, Banks,’ you cry, haughtily (yes, I’m afraid these interjections of yours do strike me as haughty, and, there — now I’ve said it) ‘there are more pressing matters to which you might apply the newly-honed razor-like edge of the Great Brain? Affairs of nations, or matters metaphysical?’

To which I say: Many a mickle makes a muckle, and refuse to be drawn further on the matter.

Now, if you’ll only be quiet for a moment, let us away to the Red Lion, where we lay our scene: it is a busy Wednesday evening, shall we say, the usual crowd gathered around the quiz machine, and a hum of conversation almost equal in volume to the hum of the antique cheese rolls on the back bar. Then, in an instant, this idyll is disturbed: as if it were a greased aubergine, Bert the Hat’s favourite handled jug springs from the barkeep’s moist palms and onto the flagstones, whereupon it makes a sounds as of bells of gold, and retires from its long career as a vessel suitable for containing liquids.

For a sliver of a second, blessed silence falls, and then… well, what?

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Modern Pubmanship, Part 2: Sharing Tables

The second in an occasional series of guest posts by our etiquette expert R.M. Banks.

Pint of Beer illustration.

I am, in general, one of those sturdy types whose natural resting position in the public house is at a 40 degree angle against the bar with one set of hobnails planted on the brass rail, elbows on the drip mat.

From time to time, however, even I cannot resist the siren lure of a chair and table.

For the serious shovelling of peas, the sculpting of mashed tubers, and the dissection of a coiled Cumberland, the convenient horizontality of the C&T is hard to beat.

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