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Diabolical Liberty's

29 December 08 words: Alison Emm

Alison Emm came to Nottingham to sample our vibrant and eclectic nightlife. But before that, she worked at the very crucible of Binge Britain...

“Re-rewind, when the crowd say bo-selecta”   

If there’s one line of a song I never want to hear again, it’s that one.  “Craig David all over your boink”. Oh, fuck off, Craig. It’s not his fault, but that song is the soundtrack to the worst job I have ever had, in the worst pub in Nottingham. Yes, that one. Having moved to Notts in December 1999, the plan was simple; take advantage of the massive wage deals to work over the millennium during Christmas and New Year to pay January’s rent, whilst having the days to get my bearings. Flawless plan. Unless you were me; nineteen, a bit dippy and unaware that in Nottingham a pub with American road signs = townie shithole.

My interview, with a 'Marco off Eastenders' wannabe, started well when I was asked if I could pull a pint. Actually, he should have asked if I could open bottles, seeing as I pulled a grand total of three pints while I was there. Having confirmed that I was capable of basic motor skills, I was hired. Next priority was the uniform. He asked what size I was, and I told him. When he said “No, I mean your bra size”, alarm bells started ringing. When he then told me that it didn’t matter because it only came in one size – small – the alarm bells caught fire and melted into a charred hunk. Then he told me I was only to be allowed one until I had worked there at least a month. Hm: three consecutive twelve-hour shifts + zero washing machine in my house = rancid.  Sod it - I wasn’t there to pull, and the smoky tang of the place suggested that I could soak it overnight in tramp’s piss without the threat of nasal detection.  

As the manager walked me out of the office, he proudly pointed to a picture on the wall of him stood next to a topless Lindsey Dawn McKenzie, who was grabbing her nipples like they were something off a climbing wall. So, my new boss was an out-and-out sad bastard. But who cared? I was now gainfully employed for minimum wage (£3 an hour) with the promise of double time for Christmas Eve and treble for New Year’s! 

Training comprised being shown where the till lived and, er, that was it. Between 7 and 10pm, there was the classic offer of two bottles for a pound. Consequently, the queue was never less than five deep and some people just refused to leave the bar, maybe as that would have involved moving, having friends to talk to, or losing sight of me in my tiny tee. The clientele - middle-aged loners, alcoholics who talked to themselves, boys in pastel shirts and women who seemingly either boil-washed all their clothes or borrowed them from their little sisters – seemed to assume that being elbowed in the face was all part of a great night out. At 10pm, ‘Happy’ ‘Hour’ ended, and the prices were jacked up to a whole British pound for a blue-coloured beverage, which meant I was now screamed at by everyone that I’d only given them one bottle when it should be two.  The only successful response seemed to be pointing at one of the millions of posters that clearly said the promotion ended at 10 - possibly because they couldn’t read and didn’t want to look any more stupid, or because following someone’s finger would make them throw up or fall over.  

By the end of my first shift I had seen three pairs of breasts, too many bare arses to count and had been asked for two blow jobs. However, only one person had puked on the floor and no fights had started, so apparently it was a successful night. Cleaning down the bar wasn’t as grim a job as I’d expected, mainly because nobody bothered; you upturned the drip trays, restocked the fridges and then went home. The mystery of why I’d nearly lost my shoes to the floor throughout the night was now solved. 
As it was Christmas time, every day was like a Saturday.  Each morning, we’d have a staff meeting where the manager told us which staff members had told him to stick his shitty job up his arse, and the new door code, which had been changed in order to prevent said ex-employee coming back with their brothers to kick his head in. While this top-level confab was going on, we’d be distracted by impatient pissheads who were already banging on the window and forlornly gazing in like kids staring through a toy shop window. I in turn would be forlornly gazing outward, already regretting my career move.  

By the end of the first week, I had seen the manager fighting with one of the staff and other people walking out mid-shift. I’d been groped by men who thought I wouldn’t notice or that it came as part of the price of the drink and I’d heard that Artful Dodger track at least six times a night (one time it was played twice in a row. Why?). The final straw came on Christmas Eve, whilst we were all in a post-traumatic daze and waiting for taxis. Like a lecherous St. Nick, the manager presented the most attractive girl with a bottle of champagne and then told her she’d be going home with him. She wasn’t having any of it - so he fired her, told her she could walk home, grabbed his bottle of champagne back and shoved her out the door. As he left to get in the first taxi like the true gent he was, he let us all know that there would be no special rate for the shift we’d just worked, or New Year’s, and that he’d see us on Boxing Day. My jaw was pretty much stuck to the grotty carpet at this point, more so because everyone else was carrying on as if nothing had happened. They were obviously as stupid as the people they served.  

I received a phone call from the manager on Boxing Day wondering where I was. He went on about how I had promised to work the New Years Eve shift and that I couldn’t just leave. Tough shit. I already had. His parting words to me were “You’re barred”. Somehow, I managed to get over this crippling blow to my leisure options. Still haven't forgiven Craig David, though.