Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I was fifteen when I first dabbled in the sinister world that is known as 'The Pub Trade', and despite many attempts to break away from the scene, over the years I have found myself dragged back in, sometime literally kicking and screaming.
Being an ex-licensee and the owner of an NLC certificate has meant that many a time I've been asked to help look after other people's pubs when they've been otherwise incapacitated or in need of a night off, and as I've never ripped anybody off or razed a pub to the ground, I've often been asked back by happy publicans that can relax, safe in the knowledge that they can leave their business in my capable paws.

So. A few years ago a friend of mine was running a pub in West Ealing and found herself desperately short of barstaff and a cleaner, and so I stepped in to help out with both jobs.
I'd get to the pub at 09:00 hours everyday, let myself in and clean the place from top to bottom while my friend got a well-deserved lie in after the busy nights before.
I'd been there almost a week when Sunday rolled around. I got in at the usual time although the pub wasn't due to open until 12pm, as there's always extra cleaning to be done following a Saturday night.
My friend came down to say good morning and got me a coffee while explaining what extra bits and bobs that needed doing, and also, to my delight, paid me for the week's work.
I'd just about finished all the cleaning when I heard a tap-tap-tap at the window by the back door, and looking out I saw a couple of men, both in suits and looking rather 'dodgy' to say the least.
The first thing that went through my head was 'bailiffs', but as far as I knew my friend's business was doing well, so I signed at the chaps outside to wait for a minute and called my friend to ask if she knew anything about them.
Turned out that they were her two new 'chefs' who had turned up to do the newly advertized 'Sunday Lunches' and so I let them in and showed them where the coffee machine was while we waited for the boss to come back down and show them where they were supposed to be.
While they were waiting I asked them how come they were wearing suits when they'd come to cook lunches, and it turned out that they'd originally planned to go out to a pub a couple of hours the night before, but the couple of hours had turned into an all-nighter at a club up in the West End, hence the incredibly crumpled suits, exhaustion and raging hangovers.
They'd not even had a chance to grab a coffee let alone get changed, bless 'em.
Anyway, cleaning over I settled down with a final coffee and put my paws up to chill for a while before the journey home.
My rest was interrupted by one of the chaps coming up to me asking if I'd ever done any catering, and was I in a hurry to go anywhere as they were running way past schedule and really needed a hand with preparing the vegetables and so.
I was swayed into saying yes by the offer of twenty quid, and so I rolled up my sleeves once more and went to join them in the kitchen.
I asked what needed doing first and was told that the carrots needed chopping. I asked them how they wanted me to prepare them and was met by two blank looks and the reply 'chopped'.
Trying to clarify, I asked how they wanted the carrots chopped, ie: fluted, julienne, sliced, diced, etc, and again, they stared at me as if I'd asked for a lightly grilled stoat on toast. It was at that moment I figured out that they were definitely not 'chefs', but had somehow managed to blag their way into convincing my friend that they were.
The 'junior so-called chef' showed me how he wanted them chopped and I set about the pile of carrots.
A very short while later, the 'so called head chef' remembered that he hadn't told me anything about safety in the kitchen, and warned me that the knives were very, very sharp and to be very, very careful while using them in case I cut myself.
I thanked him for the warning and got stuck back in with the chopping.
After a while, the chaos managed to settle into a more of a routine and all was looking good for the lunches getting served on time, when suddenly, the 'head chef' screamed.
Despite his warning me about the perils of knife usage, he obviously hadn't listened to himself as he'd managed to slice his hand from the base of his left thumb, across the palm and up to and including his little finger.
There was blood everywhere, but staying calm I found the first aid kit and patched him up. Fortunately it wasn't a deep cut and only needed a couple of butterfly strips and a bandage to stop him leaking, and a little while later we were back on track with the prep.
The 'junior chef' couldn't resist ribbing the other guy about his lack of knife skillz and despite some strong language and threats of a knife demonstration on the junior chef's private parts, he wouldn't stop laughing and teasing the chap about his misfortune.
Karma must have been paying attention as next I knew, the junior chef also let out a loud scream.
Yep, he'd also managed to cut himself with a knife; not quite as badly as the other bloke, but still it was rather a nasty laceration and once again I got out the first aid kit and staunched the blood with a couple of waterproof plasters.
When I'd finished I couldn't resist telling them that they really should have listened to themselves when they'd warned me about safety in the kitchen, and after a laugh we carried on with getting the food sorted.
We were nearly finished and the junior chef began to start on the washing up, and all was going well until once again, he screamed.
Now, the first thing you get told if you go on a Health and Safety course, is that you do not put sharp knives into a washing up bowl or sink that is full of bubbles, as it makes spotting said knife difficult, and you will more than likely get cut by it.
Obviously, this chap had never been on a Health and Safety course as he managed to find a knife by grabbing it by the sharp end and cutting himself on the other hand.
Sighing I went to get the first aid kit again, while the 'head chef' fell about in fits of giggles as he berated the 'junior chef' about his stupidity.
Karma must have decided to hang around for a while as next I knew, the 'head chef' had turned a delightful shade of white and his face was stricken with shock.
While he'd been laughing and not paying attention, he'd somehow managed to knock one of the largest knives off the counter and it had landed, pointy end through his shoe and impaled his foot to the floor.
The junior chef took one look at the scene, and everything must have been all too much for him as he fainted, taking down my carefully prepared carrots as he did so.
It was lucky that my friend chose that moment to come and see how the lunches were coming along as she had her mobile with her and was able to call for an ambulance.
Both so called 'chefs' were carted off to the nearest A&E while I finished off the food prep and stayed for the rest of the afternoon to serve up.
My friend said that the chaps were welcome to come back to work for her on the provision that they both took a Health and Safety course ASAP, and most importantly passed the exam.
Me? I still giggle when I think about it.
Is that wrong?