Cake, Tea And Something Bitter: Bedfordshire Pub Joins And Illustrious List Of Rude Landlords
ANORAK has a soft spot for miserable landlord of cafe owner upset by the state of their clientele.
Bedfordshire pub the Black Lion in Leighton Buzzard has put up a sign offering to nail people’s unruly children to their table. It suggests staff would “happily nail it [your child] to your table… to avoid accident or injury” to the child.
The pub’s manager, Nikki Brodin, said she did not want screaming children running round. The pub encourages customers to talk to each other over board games.
“We certainly didn’t want to ban kids, we just believe in traditional values. It’s just a bit of fun. It’s not to offend anybody – we have children ourselves.”
That’s the little Brodins sitting smartly at table playing Cribbage. No iPad perched on the Cath Kitson tablecloth. No twitchy legs. They can sit for hours wihout moving. Years, even.
Regular readers will recall Nice’s Petite Syrah café, which offered customers the chance to get a discount on their coffee. Asking for a “a coffee” will set you back €7. But “a coffee please” is €4.25. “Hello, a coffee please” is a bargain €1.40.
Of course, this being France, anyone speaking in an English accent will be ignored. But why does the Petite Syrah stop there? Why not extend the offers to all manner of manners?
In 2007, Brighton’s Tea Cosy instituted a set of rules. Then owner David Daly forbade anyone from resting their elbows on the table, insulting the Queen, handling sugar cubes and sipping from teaspoons, which must never be allowed to chink against the cup. Said Mr Daly: “I am just keen to teach people of the joys of a civilised cup of tea. People have to obey the rules in my tea rooms and if not they are asked to leave.”
The wonder is that anyone should know that and want to go in. One rule states: “Hold the saucer under your cup while you sip your tea (lest you should spill or dribble).”
Those of a vintage will recognise the name John Fothergill, mein host at The Spread Eagle in Thame in the 1920s and 30s, writer of the Innkeeper’s Diary, dramatised for BBC2 in 1981:
The fellow said, ‘I’ll never come here again,’ to which I replied, ‘Yes, but will you give me another undertaking: to tell all your friends not to come?’”
* Fothergill was the contumacious dandy for ever locked in combat with ‘clients’ who fell short of his standards, a man prepared to track down and rebuke a brigadier-general who, with his wife, dropped in to the Spreadeagle to use the lavatory without a please or thank you. Sharp-eyed in his white jacket and buckled shoes, he was quick to challenge those who aspired to use his premises for unhallowed coupling. (Client: ‘You think you can ask everyone who comes here if they are married?’ – ‘Yes, if I want to.’)
And there was Kim Tickell, aka Kim Joseph Hollick de la Taste Tickell, who ran the Tickell Arms outside Cambridge until his death in 1990.
* After parking carefully you approached the front door, on which was posted a long handwritten list of house rules – No Long-Haired Lefties, No Tee Shirts, No Trainers, No CND-ers and so on. The Squire himself usually presided over his empire in 18th century style attire including knee breeches and an eye glass. He was spectacularly rude, usually for no good reason, and was prone to outrageous behaviour. He once poured the ice bucket down a customer’s trousers because his shirt had come untucked and he was therefore “undressed”. A large pair of scissors was kept behind the bar so he could snip off any ties which offended him. Should a customer not have parked sufficiently neatly, he would call out their number plates through a megaphone, demanding they adjust the vehicle now. The walls were adorned with large weapons which he sometimes used for chasing people out of the building.
Classical music, generally Wagner, blared out but both the interior and garden were entirely charming (as they still are). The real ale, served from unmarked porcelain pumps, was Adnams Bitter, mostly warm and with bits in. The food tended to excellence so long as, for instance, you didn’t mind finding pieces of shot in your pheasant.
All marvellous stuff. Today such places would be called theme cafes…