My First Job: Author Blake Morrison was a bartender

'An ex-ballerina would put away the gin and tonics'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The best scene in the movie adaptation of his memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father? is when we see him learning to drive on a Welsh beach and skidding happily all over the flat sand, says Blake Morrison.

A certain amount of cinematic licence has been taken ("It was one sentence in the book"), but it is true that Morrison did pick up the basics in north Wales.

"When I was 15, my parents bought a static caravan overlooking the sea on a site in Abersoch. The virtue of the site was that it had a club, and clubs were the only places where you could get a drink on a Sunday in Caernarfonshire in those days."

Seven-days-a-week drinking meant seven-days-a-week serving the drinks, an opportunity that young Morrison and a friend from school leapt at in their summer before university.

The setting was scenic and the clientele were interesting, including Tony Waddington, the Stoke City manager, whom the two lads tried to impress, without any success, by kicking a ball around when he was within sight.

There was also a rather refined ex-ballerina who would come in with her husband and put away an impressive number of gin and tonics. On several occasions, she demonstrated how she was still sober at the end of a punishing lunchtime by a trick that is hard enough to pull off when sober, putting the outside bit of a matchbox on the ground, kneeling down with her hands behind her back and picking it up by spearing it with her nose.

The mental agility required by bar folk was in the same league. "I couldn't do it now," says Morrison. Serving nonstop at weekends in the packed bar, he would have to remember a whole string of different drinks in different orders.

He learnt to be agreeable, which was how he got tips – the convention was that you didn't have a drink when invited to have one for yourself, but added the price of a half-pint to the bill.

His less sociable friend was less successful on the tip front: the priggish lad once refused to serve a rather flash lady on the grounds that she was having it off with the local plumber during her husband's absence.

Morrison could have got into bigger trouble during the following summer, when he worked instead at a nearby hotel. "There was a guy who knew that my father had a speedboat and said that there was a dead-cert way of robbing a supermarket that was accessible from the harbour. I didn't want to seem snooty, so I made a lame excuse about not being able to use the speedboat." He didn't get a tip.

' And When Did You Last See Your Father?' is out now on DVD

Comments