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Salmagundi Blog: 21 January 2008


Being a barmaid to the Boulevard Blues
The best thing about being a volunteer barmaid is that you don't have to take shit from belligerent drunks. So when a certain gentleman, somewhat squiffy on too many brandy and Cokes, ordered me to fetch the ice from the other end of the bar, I snapped, 'I'm busy, get it yourself.'

I really was busy. Following my surprise success selling V's Pimms at a village get-together, I stepped smartly up to the plate when volunteers were called for to man the bar at a local's birthday party on Saturday. It was held in a barn on a nearby farm, and all the stops were pulled out for it. There were café-style tables and chairs, food, a live band, straw bales, dancing, hijinks and shenanigans, and of course a cash bar.

Hundreds of people came, and I ran my feet off from 7pm until the late-ish hours of Sunday morning. And I did it for the fun of it, so Squiffy Gentleman ordering me to fetch him the ice bucket from the other end of the bar didn't have a prayer. Not that he listened. 'Hey!' he shouted. 'Get me the bloody ice!'

'Hey back!' I screamed over the ear-bending music, juggling beers and glasses and ice. 'I'm busy! Get it yourself!'

He was not to be ordered about in this manner by a mere barmaid. (But then he was not to know that I was a volunteer, and that in my real life I am a superhero who saves cats from reservoirs and swoops down to pluck children out of the path of runaway trucks.) 'I asked for ice!' he screamed, banging on the bar counter.

As one, the party-goers lined up waiting for their drinks yelled back at him: 'She's busy! Get it yourself!' (Love this village!)

It was one lovely moment in a series of them - some flirtatious, several very funny, many extremely bizarre - and it made me realise that if I ever want to stop being a superhero and get a real job, I might just go ahead and run a pub.

(I'm still puzzling, though, over the well known local wine-farmer/maker who ordered a glass of white and for whom I poured same in the accepted classy fashion, ie, about three-quarters full. He stared at me with icy eyes and said, 'Hey, I paid Ten Ront for this, I expect it to be filled right to the top.' I took a moment to stand very still and fix him with a supercilious look. 'Reeeaaallly?' I said. (Surely he should know better?) He faltered very slightly but quickly recovered. 'Ja, really!' he growled. So I turned around, plucked the wine bottle from the fridge, and filled his glass so that the meniscus was visible over the rim of the glass. 'There you go, then,' I said. He walked off looking as if he'd just proved a point. Which quickly lost its charm when he came back and I insisted on serving him, and ostentatiously overfilled his wine glass again. 'Hey, you don't have to do' he began, and I gave him a wide smile and said, 'Yes, I do. You paid Ten Ront for it, remember.' The next time he came back I elbowed a fellow barmaid out of the way. 'He's mine,' I said, and overfilled his glass again. Mr Wine Farmer laughed uncomfortably and said, 'I didn't mean-' 'Yes, you did,' I said. 'You paid Ten Ront for it, didn't you?' By his fourth return to the bar he was skulking around the sides, trying to avoid me. But I have a gimlet eye. I served him the entire night, and not once did he leave the bar without a glass he had to hold as if it contained mercury.)

The Boulevard Blues (which grew out of the Blues Broers, which South Africans of a certain vintage might remember with fondness) played that night, and Dr John, the lead singer, astonished me and everyone by producing the most magnificent range of power and soul out of a very compact frame. The drummer was sexy as drummers as supposed to be, the guitarists had the cutest curly hair in one case and was just yummy in the other, and the harmonica player blew heart and hormones into an already charged party. What can I say? They rocked that barn.

Driving my hormones into a furiously lustful frenzy, however, was Ari, the sound engineer, who I glanced at when I had a moment (a total of three times but it was enough). Finally, towards midnight, I excused myself from the bar and went to have a word with him (six words, actually: 'Well, I think you're just gorgeous').

But was I given a moment alone to flirt? Was I hell. Within seconds Valley women began finding excuses to come and 'talk' to me - 'Hey, Muriel, how's it going, who's that you're talking to?'; 'Muriel! Introduce me to your friend!'; 'Mur, darling, don't you want to come and have a dance with us - and bring that person you're talking to-'; and the killer: 'Muriel! Get back to the bar! People want drinks!'

So I never did get to practise my entire repertoire of pickup lines with Ari. Which is probably just as well, because I kind of think I shot my load with my opener.

Posted by Muriel at 1/21/2008 09:44:00 AM

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