Grey Days, Sport & Pubs…
Posted on February 26, 2013
I often wonder how a country where the weather can be so grey and unforgiving could possibly have been responsible for so many exports around the world. This island, cut off in the North Sea, has been responsible for the most recognised spoken language on the planet, it has produced scientists such as Alexander Fleming and Isaac Newton, explorers like Cook and Walter Raleigh, writers, Shakespeare and Dickens, musical culture from The Beatles and the Stones and iconic sportsmen such as Bobby Moore, Fred Perry and Mark Lawrenson.
Perhaps, because it is so damp and cold for so much of the time, it has historically compelled individuals to get up, explore, invent and create physical sports to keep warm, because there was never much chance of spending the afternoon bathed in sunshine chewing a daisy whilst dozing on and off in a hammock. Football, invented in Britain, is now played by just about every nation on earth from the might of Brazil and Germany to the minnows of the Faroe Islands and Scotland, whilst cricket is played by virtually all the former colonies and rugby is being played by every nation with a male population that has a fetish for ramming themselves up other man’s anuses whilst running a very real risk of getting their heads snapped clean off.
I watched the England versus France game on Saturday, it was so compellingly brutal to view that I can’t begin to imagine the physical state of the players once they reach their 40’s; I spoke to a physiotherapist a few years back who told me that they often have to treat top level rugby forwards like car crash victims directly after international matches, so it’s hard to claim like some do with footballers, that they (rugby players) don’t earn the riches that come with being a modern day sportsman. It is hard to believe that it was not until 1995 that Rugby Union became professional, that is fully one hundred years after Rugby League split from Union to do so. Of course a lot of the English players were wealthy public schoolboys with ‘jobs for the boys’ but there were exceptions like Mike Teague of Gloucester, the son of a pig farmer, who had to work as a builder during his time with England in 1985-1993. Take a look at Rugby players from the 70’s and 80’s and compare them to what’s out there now, the difference in physique is quite incredible.
The New Zealand ‘Haka’ Pre and Post Professionalism
I am glad to read that Mike Teague has forged a life for himself as a landlord of two pubs, one in Gloucester and the other in Cheltenham (two Rugger towns) both called Teague’s (that’s original) which leads me nicely on to another quintessential part of being British and that is the art of being a host or should I say landlord. As someone who has spent probably too much time in pubs, I am always intrigued by individuals who decide to either manage a pub or take on the freehold with the soul objective of seeing how inept they can strive to be at customer service. There is no middle ground with landlords, they are either hospitable and naturally customer orientated, which is quite rare, or as is more often the case, totally hopeless at any form of social interaction.
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of experiencing both ends of the landlord spectrum, firstly at The Gun in Keyhaven, then at The London Tavern in Ringwood. I have been treated like a leprosy victim in The Gun before, so I should have been better prepared really and it begs the question, why did I bother? When we walked in there, the Landlord simply grunted something that sounded like “yes” not “Yes please?” or “How can I help?” In his eyes, he was somehow doing me a huge favour by taking my money from me in the middle of the worst recession since the 1930’s. It got better still, because my Dad was yet to arrive, so I asked if I could pay for the drinks once I knew what he was having. If I had requested to stand on the bar and urinate, I wouldn’t have got a much worse reaction; by asking this very basic and reasonable question I was made to feel that I was somehow taking the piss out of his authority.
I felt a bit for my Dad really as he paid for the lunch which was edible but felt like we were being transported back to 1975; I was half expecting George and Mildred to walk in and order the scampi and it is some time since I have witnessed anywhere that still serves gammon and pineapple, in fact it might have been a Hurst School dinner. That’s the problem with pubs in catchment areas you see…Keyhaven is a pleasant little yacht harbour (well, not on Saturday it wasn’t, it was freezing) and it’s (The Gun’s) only real rival for business is the Keyhaven Yacht club which is pleasant enough if you are lover of the Queen and have general disdain towards anyone from an ethnic minority… like Basingstoke for instance. The landlord of The Gun knows he can be as rude as he wants because much of the time his custom features hikers or cyclists who are only likely to visit once, especially if they have audacity to go in there and asked to be served.
However, all is not lost, because the London Tavern in Ringwood is an outstanding, busy pub, with a landlord who is genuinely pleased to see people walking through the door without showing any signs of being overbearing, which, bizarrely can be nearly as off putting as someone ignorant. I think I have been in their four times so far and on each occasion the greeting has been slighter warmer than the last, culminating in him offering us a drink on Saturday as we walked in…How decent is that? There are always events going on there and he is the type of guy who will try different things in a bid to maintain interest from existing and potential new clients. As a customer you can’t help but be impressed by that and it has you willing him to be successful as well as being keen to return.
The London Tavern in Ringwood
The general rule of thumb is that if you enter a pub or a restaurant for that matter, all you want is a slight nudge of appreciation for your custom and nothing grander than that. As customers, we are not looking for a spontaneous round of applause or lashings of praise for bestowing ourselves on to the premises of a landlord/landlady, just the odd “Yes Please?” or a “Thank you” rather than a grunt or semi-abusive mutterings under the breath.
At The London Tavern they achieve that, at The Gun, they fail in spectacular fashion.