Dottie: ‘Where are you from?’
Me: ‘New Zealand.’
Dottie: ‘Good, why don’t you go back there then?’
Meet Dottie, once high society MBEr (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) and now progressively losing her marbles, ripped fur coat wearing, I would deem alcoholic pub regular.
In fact Dottie is so much of a regular at our pub, her bottle of Pinot Grigio is labelled and kept in the bottom left of the wine cooler for when she visits.
And she visits almost every day (and even more so since she was banned from her other local), meaning my fellow bartenders and I, along with the rest of the regulars, are subjected to having the same conversations with her day in, day out – she truly has the memory of a human goldfish.
Apart from the daily ‘where are you from?’ jibe, there are seven other conversations with Dottie worth noting:
1. Dottie: ‘Do you like England?’
Dottie: ‘Well you should, England did a lot for the colonies.’
2. Dottie: ‘Rachael, do you know what you look like?’
Me: ‘No Dottie.’
Dottie: ‘A Jew.’
3. Dottie: ‘You’re quite common aren’t you?…I’m quite posh.’
4. Dottie: ‘Rachael, do you know I made being gay acceptable in England?’
5. Dottie: ‘Rachael, I would like a bottle of your finest New Zealand wine… I do like to support the colonies.’
6. Dottie: ‘Rachael, do you know I’ve met the Queen on six occasions?’
7. Dottie: ‘Did you know I spent a fortnight with Prince Charles?’
Despite my heart sinking every time she walks through the door, I am strangely sort of fond of Dottie and there was nothing quite as sobering as watching her face light up the other day when Loius Armstrong’s ‘Wonderful World’ came on and she sat facing the wall theatrically slurring it to herself.
Of course Dottie’s by far not the only colourful regular at our pub – considering the English treat their local like we’d treat our living room.
Other notables include the Cockney twins, one of whom is possibly the world’s worst long drawn out going nowhere storytellers, Driver Dave, who despite always ordering a pint of coke and a plate of wedges never complains when I regularly give him a glass of coke by accident, the American Colonel Sanders’ lookalike who always leaves us a generous tip, the tortured eccentric artist dripping in diamantés who likes to drop into conversation he has a yacht moored in Cannes, and the old Irish chaps who spend their days trying to get my phone number and have one-liners including – ‘where have you been all my life’ to which I usually reply – ‘I don’t think I was alive for most of it.’
But hands down my favourite is Disco Joe.
Disco Joe dresses like Crocodile Dundee and comes in to disco dance to his own music blaring through his headphones early on a Friday or Saturday night.
But you meet some real dregs of society working at a pub too, like the guy who complained about how long it took to get his pint after the glass randomly shattered in my colleague’s hand seeing him bleeding profusely on the floor, the girl who spewed down the front of the bar at 3.30pm on a mentally busy All Blacks’ test match day, the druggie who left her needle right next to the toilet seat for someone to stand on and the fat butch lady from a lawyers’ Christmas Party, who clicked her fingers at me, slapped the bar and yelled ‘excuse me’ to which (quite over her moaning about possibly everything that night) I snapped back, loudly barking – ‘excuse yourself, I am serving another customer, you wait your turn.’
But despite the niggles I strangely enjoy pouring pints, it’s ‘character building’ – or at least that’s what I tell myself, especially in the mornings when I’m getting up close and personal cleaning the men’s urinals, or when I’m hand ringing out the mop because I didn’t realise it came with a detachable squeegee, or when I find myself accidentally giving a customer a gin-less tonic, or a Guinness topped off with cider, or when the Mac’s Gold keg runs out without warning squirting foam at eye level and I loudly exclaim ‘how come it always explodes all over my face’ – which as soon as it’s out of my mouth I realise is about as bad as frustratedly shouting – ‘how come I never get the cock?’ in forth form badminton.
Safe to say being a bar wench, a bit like anything that requires logic and common sense, does not come naturally to me.
Just ask pub regular John, who watched me for a good two minutes the other day trying to fit a coffee mug under the coffee machine before losing it and yelling across the room – ‘Jesus Christ woman, it’s not going to fit.’
He was right.
On that note I should really mention John, one of my favourite regulars, who introduced me to the likes of Slinky Dildo on You Tube in retaliation for introducing him to Can’t Hug Every Cat – which coincidentally pretty much sums me up at the moment, as I find myself purebred cat-sitting this little rascal and her sister for my cousin and his girlfriend over the Christmas break.
I went as a princess and while I didn’t find my Prince, I did get pulled aside by a regular and told I should seriously consider moving to Orlando Florida to get a job as Alice in Wonderland at Walt Disney World, which I know was meant to be a compliment but I took a bit like the Flight of the Concords song lyric – ‘you’re so pretty you could be a part-time model.’
But the best thing about working at The Castle is the people I work with, especially my fellow pint pourers Ollie and Freddie, who have resorted to calling me ‘Keisha’ in retaliation for me occasionally mixing up their names and Castle owners Cate and Aaron, who among other things, upped my shifts after I quit Winter Wonderland, let me live upstairs in the spare room for the first three weeks I worked here and accompany me on bike to the bus stop after my late shifts to save me from being accosted by the neighbourhood weirdos.
Case and point – the lady who pooed between two cars opposite the pub in broad daylight a couple of weeks ago.
And I can’t end this blog without mentioning our Mexican chef Ernesto, who calls the gigabytes on his iPod ‘jigabites’ and when the 12th of the 12th and 12:12 rolled around excused himself from his kitchen lair to come downstairs and excitedly proclaim – ‘it’s the ‘apocalypsis.’
But the only ‘apocalypsis’ that came was news that our much loved pub will be closing for good on New Years’ Eve, thanks to the local council voting in favour of developer’s plans to knock it down to make way for a four-storey apartment block.
So as much for me as for you, here is the 360 degree panoramic view of The Castle from how I see it – and will remember it – from behind the bar.