Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Friday Night's Alright for Fighting

The pub I work in is a North London prosecco-serving, 16-quid-for-a-steak, riddled-with-children-with-ridiculous-names gastro pub. It is by no means a spit and saw dust affair and often bears more resemblance to a Creche than a boozer.

This all changed last Friday. I pottered off to start my 6-close shift blissfully unaware that the restaurant section was booked for a wedding party. They'd been there since 3pm, and were all getting proper stuck in. Jager-bombs all round. Yikes. So when they were still going worryingly strong at midnight, the landlord decided to serve for another hour. This was a huge mistake.

At about quarter past midnight some drunken oaf pushed into some other drunken oaf and something along the lines of What the fuck did you call my wife/brother/mother/best mate? was just about overheard before all hell broke loose.

One of the 'contenders' was apparently some kind of local businessman, and five of his employees were drinking in the corner. They saw someone attacking their boss, and perhaps with dreams of a pay rise in mind, all jumped in to 'help'. It didn't help. What started as text-book drunk argie-bargie turned into a full-on brawl, that moved en masse around the pub knocking over stools, smashing glasses and most worryingly, at one point reaching over the bar in an attempt to grab the 16-pound-steak knives.

This was when I asked to call the cops. I've never had to call 999 before. It's really weird. Firstly, even though people were stamping on each other and stools were flying, I still felt guilty in case I was wasting police time and stopping someone else getting through - the film they showed us at school about a boy dying because of a hoax fire call is clearly rather deeply ingrained. Secondly, I have no idea how they recruit for call centre staff, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's just a night-time gig for the HSBC lot. The lady I spoke to seemed completely unable to understand the urgency of the situation, instead just commenting over and over on 'how awfully loud it was'. Indeed. 30 men trying to break each other does tend to make a bit of a racket.

I was shocked at how scary it all was. The Mary Whitehouse cliche of violence being all around us is actually pretty true: in cartoons, in movies, at school, on the news, on the street - everyone's seen a fight or two.
But when a heap of grown men are trying do each other real harm, metres in front of your face, it really is quite different. The noise of a proper punch against breaking skin is really quite sickening, and unlike on TV, if you drop an anvil (or bar stool) on someone's head, they don't get straight back up unscathed.

The police eventually turned up, but the ringleaders had legged it by then and were long gone. No-one needed an ambulance, but the next couple of days revealed two broken noses and the truly-horrible sounding 'pinning-back-on' of someone's thumb.

So, what did we all learn? That Elton is wrong, and Saturday night is no longer the choice night for a ruckus. That violence isn't big or clever.... and neither are the old ladies manning the emergency phones.


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