Last Orders

In which The Author gets a surprise birthday present

In the Coda to my musical journey It’s Grand Oop North!, I told you of my first and last encounter with the manager of the Cambrian in Aberdare. It used to be everyone’s pub of choice years ago. The beer was good and reasonably priced, the meals were excellent, the company was convivial and the family atmosphere was a refreshing change from the faceless pubs which were starting to dominate the town centre. Needless to say, things changed a few years ago, when Janet, the landlady, retired.
Since then it’s had a succession of ‘managers’ instead. It’s an important distinction. I was chatting to Peter and Helen in the Rock Inn (Aberaman) over the Xmas holidays. They’re a landlord and landlady. Ron Roach, who used to run the Mount Pleasant back in the day, was a landlord (see Another One Bites the Dust). Martin in the Globe (Cwmaman) is a landlord. Philip in the Lamb (Penderyn) is a landlord. John in the Conway is a landlord. Lorena in the Gloster Arms is a landlady. Jan in the Llwyncelyn is a landlady. Anthony and Claire down in Mountain Ash are a landlord and landlady. If their pubs are empty, they don’t earn any money. Their entire livelihoods – even their homes, come to that – depend on their pubs being friendly, welcoming businesses with a good-sized and decent clientele.
The chain pubs don’t have landlords. They have managers. As far as they’re concerned, it doesn’t matter a toss who goes into the pub (or who chooses to stay away, for that matter). They get their salary at the end of the month. As long as they pay their rent to Enterprise Inns, or Punch Taverns, or Pubmaster, they have no vested interests in the place.
That was exactly what happened to the Cambrian after Janet retired. Each of its rapid turnover of managers has been worse than his predecessor, culminating with the ignorant bastard whom I had the misfortune to encounter on my return to Aberdare. I wasn’t the only one who had issues with him, either. My friend lives near the pub and hated him as well. Another old pal took a photo a couple of months ago, showing the ignorant bastard smoking a cigar quite openly behind the bar – which, of course, is illegal in this country. My friend Bob P. came up with a fantastic idea to get my revenge on him, but in the event I didn’t need to bother.
Last week I heard an interesting piece of gossip. Said ignorant bastard had allegedly been boasting to a friend of a friend that he made more money from ‘the girls’ than he made in the pub itself. He seemed to imply that though the upstairs rooms were being used as a brothel. Obviously I’m not in a position to confirm or deny the story, but a few people had heard it, so it must have started somewhere.
Anyway, I was walking home last night after a long session to mark my birthday, and I noticed a sign pinned to the pub door. I walked past there again this morning, just to reassure myself that I hadn’t dreamed it. I hadn’t …


When I walked past the side door (or the front door, depending on your angle of approach) I saw Ian from Elliot’s moving some stuff in. He’s taking the place over and reopening tomorrow night. He invited me to his opening party, so I think I’ll pop in for a pint and see what it’s like. The place will need a thorough deep cleaning to get it ready. I think Ian might have been a bit optimistic on the time frame, personally. However, it can’t possibly be any worse than it was under the previous, short-lived regime. Watch this space …

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