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19-04-2011, 22:48
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It was a dark and windy winters evening. It was Friday and one would expect it to be busy in the pub, but at the end of a long West Cumbrian valley even weekend nights are quiet. We were not expecting to do more than four or six covers and if the GP on the beer sales paid for the barman to be there I'd have been very shocked indeed. We staffed appropriately.

At the time I smoked, and was still allowed to do so in my own home that happened to be a pub. The kitchen was sort of ready, myself and the small staff team had already resigned ourselves to settle in the bar, I had rolled a tab and was just entering that Hamlet moment content in the knowledge that it would be an easy service and I would shortly settle into a gentle evening of drinking. A fine and polite gentleman entered the bar, asked if we were doing food and proclaimed that there was a huge group in the Youth Hostel for the weekend who would be shortly attending for dinner.


There was a short Basil moment when my realisation that I'd be run off my feet, and an early beer was not going to be for me, as I curtly enquired why they had not given me any nice. "We cook from fresh here you know, no zip and ping here, we might not have enough fresh meat in stock" sharp retort from Ann sent me scuttling into the kitchen ready to cook for these kindly people.


It was all running nice and smoothly in the kitchen. At the time the menu was reasonably simple and we had copious amounts of Cumberland sausage in the freezer, handily individually prepared straight and proud, not these silly curled up versions that seem to have an inbuilt coyness. They cook much easier from frozen than the curled up type.


I had a kitchen porter/waiter who was a great Aussie Bloke. A Proper Bloke, the type who would fit in well in A Fosters advert. He was starting to return to the kitchen, having delivered a number of fine 18 inch long local schlongs (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=schlong) to some appreciative chaps. "They are all a bit weird" he reported "One of them is dressed as a Sheila"

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WXR66dIOIas/Ta33VpdLd1I/AAAAAAAAA2Q/hiU2ZZw10Zc/s320/Gender3.gif (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-WXR66dIOIas/Ta33VpdLd1I/AAAAAAAAA2Q/hiU2ZZw10Zc/s1600/Gender3.gif)Hmmmm, that'll shock the local bigots I thought, after all, this isn't a pub in Soho. Still, they are probably just on a stag do or something. Little did it cross my mind that the guy in question regularly liked to dress up as a woman. "A lot of them seem a little camp" reports my Antipodean pot sanitation operative. But I thought nothing of it, he seemed to have a view that English rugby players were all of dubious gender, so I just got on with cooking.



As the checks came to an end, I decided, as I often did, to carry the last order out and leave the kitchen cleaning to the other staff. There was something of a touch of irony in the fact that the rough guy from the outback was being left in the kitchen wearing apron and marigolds.


A huge length of meat in each hand, carefully arranged provokativly on the oval plates complete with juicy gravy, two veg and a good dollop of white mash. "Two Cumberland Sausages" I called out as I walked into the bar; there was no order and our normal table number system had gone by the wayside on this evening long ago. "Oooh, yeesss, that must be mine" one bloke called in the most pleasant of camp voices "Just put it down there dear" to which an amorous observer felt the need to comment, with equal, if not greater femininity. "Oh, what lovely sausage you have there Nigel" OK, so perhaps the KP had a point, many of these men were gay, and extremely happy with the fact.


We had one of the best nights of our time at the pub. I even got chatted up, but of course, being totally comfortable with my own sexuality, Ann's insistence on reminding me of the fact has never bothered me. Not once has it bothered me. Really. Indeed, it was Linda, it turned out, who had decided to hit on me; the guy, all 6 foot plus of him, who was dressed in a very fetching dress, high heels, and wanted a man to treat him as a woman, whatever that means.


None of them kissed. Or perhaps they did, and I didn't notice. Perhaps I was too busy trying to explain to Linda that she wasn't my type. I think I let her down gently enough. I suspect I wouldn't have been offended if any of them were kissing, unless Linda had tried to kiss me. Perhaps it would only have been Crocodile Dundee who might have been upset, although I'm fairly sure he was seeing the funny side of everything anyway.


But, it's not Soho up here. There are people who would find it obscene to see two guys snogging. I would have had the right to eject anyone from my pub, without reason, providing it was not on any grounds of prejudice.


We have had same sex couples staying in our rooms. To be perfectly frank, they have simply been the most polite and agreeable people. I suspect we've had many more staying who have been more coy and not been open.


The worst thing about taking a booking for a double room, from a hoteliers point of view, and finding that the customers are same sex, is checking that this is what they want and that in fact we haven't made a huge mistake. To do that without drawing attention to the fact is somewhat interesting. Ann is significantly better than me at checking that without causing embarrassment.


It does seem completely daft that in the heart of what is generally considered the most liberal district of our country two gay men can be kicked out of a pub just for showing a little bit of affection. Moreover, it shows that in the majority the general population find it abhorrent that anyone can be ejected from a pub because of their sexuality (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-13103647). I'm sure that 20 years ago the attitudes of the general public would have been quite different.


Having said all of this, there are still people who are genuinely offended by same sex affection. Thankfully they are few in number and I suspect, and hope, these people will vanish completely at some point in the future.


There is an underpinning principle of operating a licensed premises that permits the operator of the establishment to eject any person without reason. Indeed, it is often advised that reasons are not given to avoid accusations of prejudice. The need for this is very simple and permits the licensee to prevent unpleasant situations occurring.


I'd be surprised if anyone in Soho would be offended by a little bit of kissing, but what if the pub had been in a reserved area and someone was offended? Should a licensee be permitted to ask someone to leave if another customer was offended?


Despite the fact that I support the continual removal of bigotry, I worry that there has been little mention in the mainstream press of the importance of the licensees right, and indeed necessity, to sometimes ask people to leave a licensed property and the fact that anyone who fails to leave when asked is breaking the law. It would seem that Jonathan Williams was somewhat confrontational during the incident when he was asked to leave.


Having said all of that, the publican in this particular case clearly did not handle the situation well and I suspect is having a huge amount of regret right now.
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