Saturday, May 16, 2015

Back in the Day when men were men

Once when I was a waiter I had a guy say 'I like chilli but I don't like it unless it's hot, is yours hot?' - this was at Joe Allen back in the day when I personally found the chilli borderline hot for me to handle - so I said that 'but I'm not good on hot spice really, it probably won't be borderline for you'.

So, he ordered it and asked me to 'ask the chef to put some extra chilli in it if possible'.

Asking the chef who was on then, a guy called Adrian who behaved as if he took a lot of many different drugs and was always pissed, asking Adrian anything at all during service, even something like 'when's your mum's birthday Adrian?' was like poking an angry bull with a stick while waving a red rag in its nostrils.

Anyway it was a saga where I learned diplomacy and Adrian added loads of chopped chilli, and onion, it was amazing to see him go to this effort, and cooked it separately in a pan, for just this one bowl which I took out to the customer who asked me to wait while he tried it to see if it was hot enough... He was on a table of six and all his friends were taking a great interest in this passage of events. He tried it with a spoon, did a little wine tasting like slurping and pursing his lips and said 'no that's way too mild would you mind maybe putting some Tabasco in it to pep it up a bit?' - I took it back to the kitchen in a state of slight amazement and did it ... Maybe 8 - 10 drops and stirred the chilli and returned to the customer... One of his friends tried it then, looked shocked and said there's no way he could have even a spoonful, the chilli fiend tried it and asked for more Tabasco. This happened again and the third time I took the bowl back Adrian took it off me, opened a new bottle of Tabasco, flicked the bit out of the top with a knife then poured the whole lot into the bowl and told me: 'stir it and give it to the fucker that'll sort him out' .

I did.

And the man tried it, said, more of a sigh of satisfaction really, 'that's MUCH better, thanks' and ate it with corn muffins and bread like it was mushroom soup.

I went back into the kitchen and waiters and chefs were looking through the pass to see the guy's reaction and everyone was looking surprised... Adrian and I became closer after that, it kind of bonded us a bit.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

DWP releases document on cuts to disabled work access scheme hours after election result

Completely predictable report in the Independent of DWP's immediate intentions to slash and burn payments to disabled people by the million.

In support of this a friend, who's a Conservative voter, pointed out:

"But sometimes the system is played badly, by people pulling the wool over the eyes of the authorities... I don't agree with everything they say (the Tories)" ... "We all have different opinions... freedom of choice... and I am not going to fall out with anyone over my personal vote. But people play the system and get away with it... and people who really need help, have to beg and sometimes get nowt!!x "

My response:

The problem lies with the fact that everyone who's physically or mentally disabled, in a bad place because life has brought that to them is characterised by the lowest common denominator: the assumption which is they are all taking the piss.

Some people most definitely do take the piss, but that's not many compared to the millions who are decent people being persecuted who certainly do not have any freedom of choice.

Freedom of choice is illusory anyway. By far the majority of people in the UK aspired to a government that's not Tory but we still get Tory. The same applied when Blair was elected. Blair promised before his election that if Labour were voted in he would invite other parties to be involved in government. The majority he got was so great he decided not to do that. That was the biggest mistake for democracy in the history of modern politics. Power made him dismiss the promise of creating a far better, inclusive, cooperative way of operating politics. Irrational one size fits all Political dogma is what screws society. Society is a complex, nuanced and hugely intricate beast. There are no simple solutions that come out of soundbites. It starts with education and no government has had the nerve to tackle the deep problems of society that begin at birth and run through our childhoods because people, adults, don't respect the people we were when we were being underserved by society when we were children. Most of us got a pretty rotten education that did nothing much more than train us how to work on production line or behind a counter. Education needs to teach people to understand the world around us and our relationship to it, and to each other, and the responsibilities that go hand in hand with the fact that life is not a soundbite from a Persil ad

Anyway no one in power is going to listen to anyone who's got practical solutions for changing society for the better.  That's not what they're in power for. They're in power to make sure that the people and corporations who own everything are protected from harm and have their rights to do whatever they want in order to secure the legitimacy of their wealth and power enhanced.  The tail must wag the dog. Forever.  That's the way the power elites have always had it and that's the way it will remain as long as politicians buy into it and sustain it.

I have voted Green, and known that I was 'throwing away my vote', in the last three elections because no mainstream parties are providing the policy and strategy that People, and the Planet, need. The Greens are the only credible party as far as I'm concerned, even though they are characterised by unhelpful mainstream voters who clearly know everything about our ecosystem and the global economy as 'loony lefties' and they have no hope of winning seats or power. My vote is a tiny indication to the local Labour party who always get in no matter what is happening elsewhere, that there are views that are not toeing Capitalism's line. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Jolly Old British Boozer Has Not Had Its Day


I went to a talk this evening with Jonathan Meades and Jamie Sutcliffe. Not sure who Jamie is but Jonathan Meades is the man as far as I'm concerned when it comes to the British and the built environment and cultural change.

We had brief correspondence in 1997 over the beer tie and what pubco's are doing to pubs after he wrote disparagingly about 'the Giga Brewers' homogenising Britain with their bland brand beer and bland Pub roll outs steering everything to be the same, characterless and expensive, from John O'Groats to Land's End, in a Sunday Times piece.

He said he would be interested in covering the tie if I could get half a dozen other high profile tied publicans who've been flagged up with mainstream press awards to speak out against the rents and beer prices as I was telling it. But of course, I couldn't get anyone to go for it. Worried about being totally screwed and put out of business at next rent review. Etc.

Anyway. Tonight's discussion was about the randomness of what happens to cities as they grow, develop and pass through history.

I got a question in about what's happening to pubs at the hands of profiteering private equity on the back of pathetically weak planning protection (I really did get that alliteration in) to the extent that the Carlton Tavern (clearly, from the audience reaction, most people there knew about it) being demolished... And how these kind of events are accelerating and impacting on society now in a way that is reported as being randomness of development pressure but really is a scam that's eroding our culture in ways that are leaving scars in our traditional and historical time line...

Ergo is Jonathan Meades concerned about what's happening to pubs?

Yes. Was the answer. Important thing.

Briefly I spoke to Jamie Sutcliffe afterwards and he said he'd follow up by emailing me with some writing he's done about pubs and we maybe can have a chat.

Never know might go somewhere.

This reminds me that the poet laureate Carol Anne Duffy has written about pubs and might under the right circumstances take a bit if notice.

I believe we have to take the discussion about pubs to the academics and intellectuals. That is where we publicans who know so much but are perennially sidelined, patronised and ultimately ignored, will find our voices heard. No one else can see the pubs crisis for what it is. They're all too busy or too self important to be bothered about pubs, or they're profiting from the demise of the jolly old British boozer that's had its day.

It really is a crisis. MRO is going to have a massive impact. The pubco's are going to be combine harvesting the tied pub sector into oblivion in their uniquely spiteful and vindictive ignorant corporate way.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Punch Taverns braces for end of beer tie

The pub owner has not ruled out taking legal action over the breaking of the tie

Article in the Telegraph by Ben Martin @Benjaminwmartin on 22 April 2015

Steve Moxon has it. Wake up Britain!

OUR pubs are being flogged off by fly by night companies set up to profiteer from the beer tie. They don't even OWN 'their' pubs. They have NEVER 'owned' 'their pubs'. They bought the pubs with borrowed money, they've burned their shareholders, they've burned their bondholders, they're burned their publicans, and their boards of directors earn bonuses for selling hundreds of 'under-performing' pubs every year, reducing their estates to a rump of what they once were, with no strategy for the future other than to continue flogging off their estates.

Check out their annual accounts, the size of their estates, their debt levels, their interest payments, how many pubs they sell for alternative use every year for the clear picture.

Meanwhile the ONLY way they survive from being wound up is by inexorably aggressively putting up rents and their wholesale supply prices and forcing their lessees, the people who earn ALL the money these pubco's declare as profit, their thousands of renting publicans, into business failure. This happens to each pub again and again (called churn) and ultimately leaves pubs so chronically dilapidated through lack of investment they become unfit for purpose as catering businesses - by which time no one will lease them and the pub company flogs them off for alternative use. Job Done. If anyone doubts this cycle of events: to keep the churn underway Punch, Enterprise Inns, and others like them, now even lease pubs directly to Tesco; a match made in private equity heaven.

Punch is a zombie company that in any rational circumstances would have been wound up years ago.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Barge Poles and Toxic Lease Assignments

Fancy Running Charlton's Bugle Horn Pub?

ON The Charlton Champion blog:
Pic credit ChrisWhippet640 Charlton Champion
Chris, you are absolutely right about Punch.

And there is a change in the law coming, it’s called the Market Rent Only option for Tied Tenants and I’m one of the people who helped make that happen. I’m also one of the people on the White Swan steering committee. We were stymied by Punch selling the WS freehold, apparently ‘as a going concern’ to get around the Asset of Community Value strictures which I am absolutely sure would have been open to legal challenge if we had any resources other than voluntary to put into the pot before we began fund raising for the money to put an offer in on behalf of the Charlton Community.

The White Swan as it is certainly is NOT a going concern – with a Holding Company operating it it’s absolutely clear that a Coach and Horses has been driven through the legislation that is supposed to protect pubs in these circumstances and allow the locals to ‘save’ them. What kind of company would buy the White Swan as a ‘going concern’ without expecting to shut it and then spend at least half a million quid on it making it fit for purpose as a pub again? Scepticism aside there are precedents for a pub company taking on such a pub in such parlous state and making it work properly – the Tulse Hill Tavern is one recent such foray; Was Enterprise Inns' tied leased, run into the ground, tenants defeated, Enterprise put it on the market for a couple of £million and Metropolitan Pub Company ( aka Greene King) bought it and turned it round into something half decent although their long range of ales is extensively odd… IF they are the people who bought WS then HOORAY but I doubt it somehow. It just doesn’t smell right. Something fishy is going on there I reckon. Hope to be proved wrong.

As for the Bugle Horn? Now there is a Pub with ENORMOUS potential. If it were not tied it would be a very different situation. Their ham eggs and chips are great value by the way. The family who’ve owned a lease on the pub and run it for a very long time don’t deserve to be in the situation they’re in. But like thousands of publicans before them and all over the country they had the misfortune to be caught up in the work of a bunch of asset stripping white collar criminals who don’t give a toss about pubs or anything other than money. There’s possibly even more pent up potential at the Bugle Horn than there is at the White Swan but as a toxic Punch Taverns’ lease assignment? Barge Poles. Punch is poison.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

There is too much going on to recount

As one of the People Who Knows What's Going ON with Pubs I can tell you: There is too much going on to recount. The short report is this:
The Duke of Marlborough, London SE5 emblematic of the Great British Pubco Scam
The rate of pub closures is speeding up. The aggregate is not being reported. It is private equity greed converted to scorched earth policy. They are exiting the tied and leased pub sector and moving the money they've stolen into other things. It is an avalanche of repugnant moral abuse. We are witnessing a massive, pernicious cultural crimewave taking place that will resonate across Britain's Regions, Cities, Towns, Villages, Hamlets and Countryside, Landscape, Sense of Place and elemental cultural psyche for generations... We are "Losing the Last of England" there's little time to take action. And the action has to be significant and definitive and powerful.

The pubco's are being vindictive, they are being bastards, they are selling off everything they can. They are throwing toys out of prams. They are run by people who should be exiled, banged up, the key thrown away. They have proven they have no right to be the custodians of OUR Culture.

Red Dwarf Star Slams Calculated Demolition of Kilburn Pub
The Carlton Tavern, Kilburn