Learning from the Landlord
Posted by Paul Levy
I recently got locked out of my house and spent the morning in our local greasy spoon, ‘The Hanwell Cafe’, and the afternoon in our local pub, ‘The White Hart’, affectionately known in the area as ‘The Dripping Blade’. It’s an old style London pub that hasn’t been gentrified. I took Trueman in there on his recent trip. He was terrified; constantly looking shifty as if he’d walked into a Gospel Coalition committee meeting. On another visit recently with a minister friend it took us 15 minutes to convince a man under the influence that we weren’t the ‘Old Bill’. In a pub like the White Hart policemen are not the most popular of people.
The previous landlord of the White Hart used to say to me: ‘You know what the problem with this pub is?’, at this point I shrugged and he gesticulated with his arms and said in an exasperated tone ‘The locals!’. He had a point in some ways, but, although having a fair crack at running the pub, with an attitude like that it was never going to be a roaring success. In a traditional English pub you go partly for the vibe.It’s the same faces, telling the same jokes, enjoying each other’s company. In the words of the Cheers song ‘You wanna go where everybody knows your name’. For a time darts was banned at the White Hart because of the potential danger and pool cues could only be obtained when asked for at the bar, it didn’t make for the most congenial of atmospheres.
The new landlord and landlady are Polish and not particularly adept in the art of pulling pints but both are delighted to be there. The pub food is still as bad; an English breakfast cooked badly with Polish sausage is no fun. It’s a man’s pub. There’s rarely a woman in there and when she is I would have thought she would instantly regret it.
Having spent an afternoon in there being quizzed by locals about why I had a Bible and a lap top it struck me there are lots of similarities between running a local pub and being a minister. I know the obvious differences. I’m not proposing that we start pub church and all that kind of stuff, but there is a sense where a landlord must be warm as toast, hospitable, tough, hard working, able to talk to people, working ridiculously long hours, willing to take the criticism and moans of regulars, being able to accept whoever walks in the door and try and engage with them, having the guts sometimes to ask people to leave. I wonder whether part of ministerial training should involve working in a pub?