November 5, 1981: Guy Fawkes Day in London. Bonfires at night and “A Penny for the Guy.” Kind of like trick-or-treating, but not as sweet -- that is, it’s not a candy holiday like in the U.S. It’s just a remembrance of civil disobedience where kids ask for small change and burn “the Guy” in effigy annually (his eternal reward for trying to blow up The House of Lords). So English!!
Ahh, so. My first non-music job in London was “pulling pints” at a pub on the King’s Road in Chelsea. I was right chuffed (quite pleased) at getting a job so easily (relatively) and quite relieved to not have penury be the wolf at the door.
I got there for work and squeezed into a space behind a bar that took some maneuvering, even for a size two person (me at the time). And as it was Guy Fawkes night, even though just a Thursday, the place was VERY packed. It seemed to get busier and busier, and the place filled up with boisterous, no, make that obstreperous young people, mostly the kind of obnoxious type.
Worst of all: I could NOT understand what about 80 percent of the customers were saying! It was like I was underwater and in the land of big fish, making weird indecipherable noises like “Mmpph!! Errrrgh! Roff-roff-ROARFF -- roight NOWWWW!”
Welcome to true culture shock. When faced with a crowd of yobbos who had very thick and diverse British accents (Geordies, Mancunians, guys from the Humberside, Liverpuddlians, Cockneys, you name it!), I was a fish out of water and then some. They wound up barking at me and lobbing insults; I kept going, “Eh? Pardon. Eh? Pardon. . . “ But I just couldn’t get it. I was also unfamiliar with the many types of beer because I really don’t drink it.
Once the shift was done, I don’t recall if I quit or was fired. (Just for the record, I generally try to quit before I’m fired, as a rule.) But it was most definitely NOT the job for me. Besides, the Brits don’t tip much at the pub and the money was disgraceful. . .
A few days later, I returned to the King’s Road to find employment at a place that might be a better fit. I walked into a winebar called Blushes, and spoke to the manager there, another nigh-incomprehensible speaker of the mother tongue but a sharp guy, perceptive enough to see I’d be a good worker in the right environment.
“Look, luv, we have a member’s club across the way and if you go there now, you could speak to Roger or Kevin. . . “