Chasing Graveyards

Einstein’s theory of relativity, in layman’s terms, states that time moves faster or slower depending on the observer. He spent ten years trying to prove this.

He could have saved himself an awful lot of time and thought by standing behind the bar of a local boozer on a hot Tuesday afternoon serving Boring George.

Boring George is a metaphor for a particular type of drinker and anyone who’s ever worked the graveyard shift in a pub will know at least one.


He trudges far

Searching for space

The empty bar

His favourite place


If he looks in the window and sees a crowd he’ll move on. He doesn’t wish to interact with fellow customers. They can walk away, turn around, tell him to shut up.

It’s you he wants: the captive of the counter. He wants you all to himself. He knows you can’t leave; can’t get away. He knows you’re unlikely to tell him to fuck off.

He knows that you’re his. His to bury with anecdotes and well rehearsed tales; his to educate with proffered wisdom; his to correct and criticise, and improve with advice.


He spies his prey

And shuffles in

You’re his today

Shall we begin..


You groan when you see him. You know what’s coming, but you’re professional enough to smile and thank him when he pays you for his pint.

Over the next hour or two your bar becomes cleaner than it’s been in weeks.

Every glass gets washed. Twice.

Every shelf gets wiped and dried. The back bar is arranged. Then rearranged. Then put back how it was before you rearranged it. But all to the droning soundtrack of The World According To Boring George.

There’s no escaping George. If you happen to nip out mid-anecdote to change a barrel (and believe me, there’s many a phantom barrel change when George is holding court) then he will continue as soon as you’re back in his sights.

He doesn’t want you to reply, merely to listen. He uses you because nobody else will stand him for longer than they possibly have to, and you, stuck behind the jump in an empty bar, have to listen.


A story here.

A moan there.

Another beer.

Another stare.


And all this time you try and think happy thoughts, think about the good things about your job and try to resist the urge to set off the fire alarm.

You look outside and every person walking by in the July sunshine is, to you, happy, rich, sexually satisfied and returning from a lunch of utopian quality.

And you’ve just spent two hours with George.

Two hours that seemed like eight, yet to him it’s flown by. He’s achieved his goal. He got to say what he wanted to say to someone who didn’t argue with him and, most importantly of all, listened.

And that’s when it hits you: The realisation of how lonely George is. How much he craves the attention. How rare it is for him to interact as he just has and just how much he needs the empty stage and the single audience of the graveyard shift.

And the feelings of relief at his departure vie with feelings of guilt and of pity.


At last he goes

With a parting groan

A reminder of woes

And again he’s alone.




Calmer Police

Pubs are a slice of life. They’re for more or less everyone. There’s no hard and fast rules for repeated admittance other than those that the lawmakers state and the authorities uphold, but even some of these are deliberately overlooked by most publicans.
Imagine if the police were called every time we knew someone was carrying weed, or we patrolled the toilets to such an extent that we caught every punter seeking personality through a rolled-up tenner.
What kind of world would we be living in if a good local pub couldn’t deal with the odd bit of aggro in house and had to call the law every time?

We don’t. Why should we? We try, as conscientious hosts, to keep a lid on things and we deal with offenders by having a word, kicking them out or barring them depending on a few factors.

This is where pub law becomes relative and often selective. There are different punishments depending on who you are and what you’ve done.

If we don’t know you and you come in shouting your mouth off then you won’t last long, but if one of the regulars has had a bad day and acts similarly then our reaction is different.
It’s all about percentages.
The newcomer has been a dick for a much higher proportion of his time spent in your pub.
In short it’s a money spent/being a dick equation that all landlords calculate and all of the drinking classes know whether they realise it or not.

This may seem a little mercenary and I’m sure many people vehemently opposed to drugs, violence, sexism, racism, theft, piracy, drink driving, and anything else that gets extracted from the post mortem of society will be tutting the most English of tuts and shaking their heads, but this is the real world; pubs are a playground for all and we only turn a blind eye in the same way that most people do with their friends, family and colleagues.

Having said that, all of these things are (in a good boozer at least) discouraged, frowned upon and kept to an absolute minimum by not just the management and staff, but also by the clientele. Society polices the country much more effectively than the police ever could and the ‘done thing’ is generally the thing done, but to stop all these things completely; to run a completely clean house; to be whiter than a Britain First march would be not only fiscal suicide, but also fucking boring.

People who love running pubs – people who love drinking in pubs. People like me. People like my customers – love the diversity of pubs. We love that you can see a copper and a shoplifter vying for service on a Saturday night. We love seeing someone we know has an attic full of skunk buying a pint for a solicitor – fucking hell, sometimes it’s the solicitor growing the skunk and the copper is a known wife-beater. That’s life!

Being a publican involves regular, almost constant judgement calls and often the policing makes the crowd
I’ve heard pubs that are well decorated and with nice furniture described as shitholes. Conversely I’ve been in many pubs with threadbare seats and graffiti-smattered toilets that are brilliant.

At the end of the day, it’s the customers that dictate how good a pub is, so if you drink in a great pub then take a bow; give yourself a pat on the back. You’re part of the success, but always remember that it’s us publicans that gave you our licence.