Life Behind Bars
Probably the only reason I became a licensee was that it was one of the few jobs we had heard our father talk about as children. All the local news came from the village pub, in the village nearly ten miles away, where my father would cycle at the end of each month when he received his salary cheque. We lived at the end of the world on the edge of a cliff, and the five of us were known collectively as the lighthouse children. Life Behind Bars relates the years following my return to Ireland at the age of twenty-one. Living a life behind bars was in total contrast to my childhood and early teens. After a short time working behind a bar in Dublin I was off again, to answer an advertisement for bar staff in Jersey, the larger of the Channel Islands. In Jersey I met my wife-to-be, who was a nurse in the Island hospital. Her name was Susan Teed. We married in March, 1969, exactly ten years after my compulsory exit from my world of lighthouses and raging seas. We settled in Guernsey, her island home, where I pursued my quest to be a publican and Susan carried on with her career in nursing at the local hospital. In the subsequent years we had three beautiful daughters named Michelle, Gaynor, and Laura. For the next twenty or so years we worked very hard bringing up our girls. My wife worked the night shift at the hospital and I worked days repairing electric domestic appliances, and worked in bars and restaurants on my wife's nights off. During this time I trained hard to fulfil my dream should the opportunity arise. I became head steward at the Guernsey Yacht Club and later the tenant of a pub called the Prince of Wales, by which time I had a good basic knowledge of the business side of beinga landlord In 1987 I left Guernsey on my own to take up what at the time seemed like the chance of a lifetime; a position in Hertfordshire as a pub manager for a large brewery. Once I had settled in I sent for my wife and children, but my eldest girl Michelle, who already had secured a job in the news media, stayed behind to fulfil the ambition she had held since she was a little girl. It wasn't long before my dream of being a licensee started to turn into a nightmare, as my training as a publican did not address drugs. I'm not sure whether it was my naivety or arrogance that made me believe I could turn a beautiful local pub back to what it used to be-I had deluded myself into thinking I'd be able to alter something that was shuffling for a space in the pub leisure business. By the time I became aware of the problem, it had already taken a firm grip on the recreation clientele in the UK. My first job was to convince those who used my establishment and were involved in the drug trade that it was not my policy to judge them, but to uphold the law as far as drug use inside my pub was concerned, and I made it clear that it was also my family home. But saying that, it wasn't all doom and gloom; out of my pig headedness regarding the drugs issue there came a minuscule amount of respect for me and my family and we enjoyed the company of some lovely people-people who appreciated what we were doing for their local. They enjoyed Susan's good food and the free entertainment. They at least seemed to be oblivious to the dark shadow that hung over us. At weekends my youngest daughter would help me to collect glasses, and if she saw anything that smelt remotely like a joint she would say loudly, "Ifmy dad sees you smoking that he'll do a mental." And the reply would sometimes be, "Don't get your knickers in a twist, Laura, we're going outside."
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