Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The best barman in the world?

Big Nige, an old friend of our laoban JK back in his tour-guiding days, has for the past few months been working as an occasional 'relief barman' down at my beloved 12 Square Metres.

Now, good times are almost always to be had at this wonderful little spot, and I enjoy hanging out there with JK and his Mrs most nights. But when Nige is on.... well, sometimes it just goes to a whole other level.

The big guy and I share a number of uncanny affinities (I was a trifle spooked to learn a few weeks back that his two favourite spots in Oxford were The Black Swan Irish pub and the Hi-Lo Jamaican Eating House - places dear to my heart too, though well off the beaten track: I had the good luck to live in that city on and off for a decade, whereas Nigel was but an occasional visitor), especially in our enthusiasm for music. We can both hold forth for extended periods in appreciation of the genius of Tom Waits (he's just lent me a DVD documentary on the great man); and the other night we were sharing recollections of Hereford's (the city of my birth) finest, Mott The Hoople. JK's standard playlist - 80s-riddled and very middle-of-the-road (Hansen???!!!) - invites frequent derision from the handful of regulars. When Nige is on duty, the selection tends towards the heavier end of the spectrum (his knowledge of 80s British heavy metal is dauntingly compendious)..... and, occasionally, towards playfully obscene lyrics.

When the place is busy, he'll rein in his natural exuberance and avoid playing anything that might upset someone of a sensitive disposition. But he usually works Monday nights, which are often pretty dead. So..... we few, we happy few.... can occasionally let our hair down a bit: customer song requests are encouraged, the lights may be dimmed at particularly emotional moments, and singing along - or headbanging along - is apt to break out frequently.

Last night was a particularly good session: we were all having so much fun, he stayed open an hour or more later than usual - even though there were only three customers left. Thanks, Nige.

[It was all the more welcome for being such an unexpectedly good end to a long and miserable day. I'd had yet another gippy tummy episode the night before, having to get up in the middle of the night to throw up. Then my electricity meter had unexpectedly run out of pre-paid credit, so I'd found myself without air-conditioning, and couldn't get much more sleep. I'd had a gruelling day, rushing all over town in 95% humidity and clammy drizzle, and having to forsake lunch in order to recharge my electricity card. After all that, I was strung out, exhausted, not in a great party mood. Chaotic service at Blue Frog rather undermined enjoyment of their two-for-one burger deal. And a couple of other bars we tried were both completely dead (a drizzly Monday evening: what should I expect?). And premium lager wasn't sitting well on my still-tender stomach. No, I had a very flat feeling yesterday, wasn't enjoying my evening much at all..... until I managed to inveigle a few friends into joining me at 12SqM for 'a nightcap'.... a 'just the one' that ended up lasting the better part of four hours!]

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