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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