Friday, 25 January 2013

Ye Olde Bell

Ye Olde Bell
25 January 2013

In my misspent youth I had loads of fun working in a pub.  It became a home away from home.  And alcohol aside, it felt like an extension of my parents lounge.  Or actually, maybe because of the alcohol it did.  Not that they were the biggest drinkers, they were just social drinkers.  Most people are.

Even before my working days, we were patrons of the pub.  Regulars if you please.  Ye Olde Bell was THE PLACE to be.  Where simply everyone came to hang out.  The owners were friends and fabulous people.  Making all feel welcome, at home and like they were friends too. 

I learnt more about psychology during my stint at Ye Olde Bell, than during the three years I spent studying it at Varsity.  I learnt to listen to people.  To hear what they were really saying.  That everyone had their struggles and their problems.  But that they had their joys and accomplishments too.  That you couldn't judge a book by its cover.  And that there were many, many lonely people out there.

Those that frequented the pub often, and were regulars became each other's families.  Many lasting bonds were formed.  Many friendships made.  Bonds and friendships that have stood the test of time.

People came there not only for the alcohol.  They came there for the company too.  For the people they found there that cared about how their day went.

What would they have done without the pub?  Gone home lonely and sad?  Drinking in solitude there too?  Surely the option of company is better.

There were some genuinely nice people that came there.  Family people, who didn't hang out there all the time.  People that knew when to call it a day.  Alcoholics don't hang out in pubs.  They hang out in the bottom of glasses of alcohol.  Pubs are not filled with drunk people.  Oh they are there sometimes, but they form the minority.  Pubs are filled with lonely people.

And during my sabbatical at the Bell, I met some great folk.  Many I keep in contact with to this day.  I started off waitressing at first.  Then got promoted to bar lady at night.  And finally, I got the bump up to day time manager.  I was however also the only member of staff during the day.  Except for the cleaning lady.  So perhaps not such a manager after all.  More a day time bar lady.  Though the responsibility of ordering liquor and such was mine.

There is a very "special" and unique smell that welcomes you when you are the first person to open up a pub in the morning.  It is a smell that only those that have experienced it will know what I'm talking about.  It is not the same smell as your home, the morning after a heavy party the previous night.  Firstly the volume of alcohol and resulting leftover dregs remaining in glasses and bottles is great, giving off their own unique aroma.  And secondly those were the days before smoking legislation was set into place.  There was no designated smoking area.  The whole place was a smoking area.  Do you know how many people put their cigarette butts or stompies in the last little bits of alcohol in their beer bottles?  How the stuffy smell of cooped up alcohol and way too much stale smoke can hit you in your face like a physical presence? 

The jol always ran too late the night before to even contemplate cleaning up.  In any rate it was not the night staff's responsibility.  That pleasure was mine.  I went in at 10h00 every morning.  And Mathebe, the African lady and I spent two hours each morning rectifying matters.  Washing, cleaning, stocking the fridges, etc.

And more often than not, when I opened the doors at 12h00 someone was already eagerly waiting outside.

During that time, especially when I was still working the night shift, I worked on opposing ends of the same spectrum.  Because while I wiled my nights away earning money at Ye Olde Bell, I wiled my days away working at The Lady Phillip's Tea Garden.  This was a very, very posh establishment on a beautiful wine farm.  It was a five star restaurant and extreme care was taken with the small little details.  The 100% cotton serviettes had to be folded just so.  Everything had to be polished and gleaming.  The sets and sets of cutlery next to each plate had to be put in exactly the correct manner.  I suspect that most of the clientele didn't truly know which of the three sets they had to use for which course either.  Standards were exacting.  The chefs were all top class.  The menu's changed constantly to incorporate current trends and allow for variety.  Everything of the very best always.

The irony is that I met nicer, less pretentious, more genuine people at the pub.  They were probably more well off too.  I would go to my "posh" job wearing a pencil slim black skirt, pristine white shirt, not a hair out of place, feeling uncomfortable the entire time.  Rush home after my shift.  Get home at about 17h30, jump into a pair of jeans, shirt and comfy shoes and hoof it off to the pub just down the road.  Ready for the start of my shift at 18h00.  Feeling so at home and relaxed from the second I walked in.  Hardly like it was work at all.  The irony is of course that on my off nights, we ended up going to the Bell too.

I earned way more money at the pub.  And had way more fun doing it.  It is the venue of Albert's first ever solo gig – a milestone in his career.

I sort of had a gap year after getting my degree.  And spent that year working at the pub.  Eventually one of the regulars offered me a more "respectable" nine to five job.  One that didn't involve serving liquor.  And though I was excited at the prospect of a new adventure, I knew it was the start of a new era too.  Real life was about to begin.  The holiday was over.  It was time to get on with it and make my folks proud.  They had not spent three years of expensive tuition and textbook fees (an expense they could barely afford), for me to just work in a pub.  No disrespect meant to the pub.  I also always knew that it could not last forever.  I would eventually have to become an adult and face the real world.

Thank you Wayne and Anita for giving me my wings.  I somehow simultaneously managed to find my feet.  Under your care, my self-confidence grew.  I learnt to make snappy retorts to leery remarks.  To sidestep wandering hands.  You had faith in me and gave me, an inexperienced spring chicken, naïve and sparkly eyed, a chance.  You trusted me. 

I will forever cherish my memories of wonderful times.

I am also forever grateful for all that I learnt during that period of my life.  The people I met.  The experiences I garnered.  The perspective it gave me.  Those very same lessons carry me through to this day.

And what is more, for the rest of my life, I will never forget the petition that every single loyal, regular patron signed after I left the pub.

A petition simply called,

"Bring H back". (Everyone called me 'H' back then)

Few things in my life have touched me more and made me feel more loved and appreciated.  Because even though on the surface I just poured them their drinks, I was their psychiatrist, their psychologist and their therapist too.  But even more than that, I was their friend and their family.  And I loved them for it.

And do to this day.

Ye Olde Bell Softball team - I think about 1994.  This was our Year-End/Christmas/Team Building exercise and what fun we had.  Back row:  Wayne, Andrew and Robin.  Middle row:  Anita, Ali and Claire.  Front row:  Nikki and I
Me, Eric and Claire - way back.  When we were still young, skinny and ridiculously goodlooking.
In this pic we're cheating on The Bell.  We went to Talla's in Gordon's Bay.  Andrew, Moi, Grant and Paul.
We used to have the most awesome themed Member's Evenings - a fancy dress for selected patrons.  On this occasion I went as a hippie and Grant was a mechanic.
The hippie
Predictably my Dad went as a Blues Brother
My Mom and Katrine
The old Ye Olde Bell.  Sadly the pub burnt down a few years ago.  It has been rebuilt and now sports a completely new look.  Ownership has also changed hand a few times.  I wouldn't be surprised to find some of the same people from years ago, still sitting in the pub right now.

1 comment:

  1. Hey H!! You have moved on, and you have made us proud!
    It certainly was an extention of our lounge.Special bonding times.