* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our outlook is always international, as evidenced by this week's contributor, Catherine Batac Walder. If you've ever wondered how English pubs differ from American bars, belly up to Ms. Walder's first piece for us...

Posted On A Pub Notice Board

By: Catherine Batac Walder

As much as we’re a public house and it feels just like home, this is not a family pub. We don’t have a children’s menu simply because…we are not a family pub. And please bear in mind we are not a chain. As far as I know there is no other pub with a name like ours, but if you find another one in Sussex, I assure you we’re not related. So if you have had a bad experience with them, we could only offer you our commiserations.

1. It has come to our attention from a recent study that it doesn’t make a difference whether you are hit on the skull with a full or empty beer bottle. Since either may fracture the skull, make sure to start a fight when you finish drinking and the bottles are empty, so nothing will go to waste and it’s easier to clean up afterwards. (We respect this study’s groundbreaking results, but are not happy that the researchers used Feldschlösschen Bier to prove their point. Seriously, Feldschlösschen Bier, what were they thinking? Though I guess to get results they had to break a bottle of something.)

2. Please take note of the emergency exits. One right beside the dart board as you enter this room. The other one next to the snooker table as you walk to the room behind the bar. Note that the door to the garden doesn’t exist anymore. It hasn’t since Lady Augusta moved to the village in the ’70s and built Toad Hall next door intending to put us out of business (haha guess who was put out of business). If you get hit on the skull but are still sober enough to get help, run to the nearest police station, which is just down the street. I repeat, down the street, not after the first roundabout two miles from here. Do not trust the map of the village in the foyer. That was drawn two centuries ago and everything has changed, except for our pub.

3. We are aware that the pub gets too crowded from 10pm onwards. I acknowledge your requests to have an extension where Toad Hall used to stand, which land we now also own. An extension is not impossible but difficult. I’d like to tell you how long it took us to get planning permission for the additional toilets at the back of the pub but I might get emotional.

4. Please mind your heads. Two of our tall patrons have been hospitalized for concussions recently when they banged their heads on the low beams (see, blows to the skulls even without the help of a beer bottle; no they weren’t even drunk at the time). One of these beams allegedly put Admiral Laugherty into a coma during his visit here in the 17th century.

5. We’d like to dispel the rumor that the Inklings used to hold their meetings here. We are The Happy Mantis and Sprog. You mistake us for The Eagle and Child. Neither is this that feisty crime novelist’s watering hole. I think it’s the only pub he hasn’t visited in this area and we take pride in that.

6. There have been complaints that some of our waitresses are too young to even serve beer. They just look young, but they are of the right age, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to work here. If you ask a waitress, “What ales do you have?” And if she answers “Is Foster’s an ale? Or Budweiser?” report them to us as there might have really been a discrepancy in their birth certificates.

7. Because of a previous complaint from a regular customer that we are serving home-cooked food whereas his intention was to get away from home cooking, from now on we can assure you that all foods will come from a Tesco food pack. Sorry, we will not deviate from what’s on the menu. Spare ribs, scampi, everything, will come in a pack. Rice goes only with curry. If you are one of those who cannot survive without rice and want that instead of mashed potato with your lamb shank, pay for both curry and lamb shank meals. On the bright side, we know you love the pastry of the steak and kidney pie from Tesco because it’s buttery. We have a new name for it, steak and kidney shortbread.

8. We are not allowed to open until 11 a.m. (read: we serve drinks as early as 9 a.m. but we don’t serve food until 11 a.m.). You will hear us shout “Last orders, please!” shortly before 11 p.m. Considering that we are breaking the law for you in the morning, you should take closing time seriously. By last orders we don’t mean we make the rounds at tables and take your last-minute orders. We won’t ask what you’re having even if we see that you’re famished. Come to the bar (the term “bar” in Britain means the counter at which drinks are served) to get your drinks, let us know of the number of your table if you’d like food to be served and pay in cash immediately. Tips are unnecessary although an occasional offer to get staff a drink is mostly appreciated. Never, ever use the word “buy” when offering drinks to staff.

I repeat, no rounds at tables, all right, because if there was anyone who should think of ’rounds,’ it should be you fellow in the corner who always waits for your mates to buy you a drink and cowers whenever you see that they are about to finish theirs. For goodness’ sake buy them a round for a change.

9. For those of you who stumbled upon our pub in the hopes of finding the typical British pub, welcome. We understand your curiosity but you might not want to drink our supply of bitter in one gulp in your search for the typical British ale. We serve chips here, which are sliced in large wedges as compared to the French-cut fries that you must know. Bar snacks are not snacks but a meal so be careful when ordering varieties or else you’ll be stuffed. It’s best to stay away from the regulars’ verbal or nonverbal pub-talks. When you see me signing to a passing stranger through the glass window, I’m not making fun of you tourists. I’m just updating my mate with football scores.

I must have forgotten something else. If you have any comments, I’d like to hear from you. I am the poor old sod occupying table number 8 by the fireplace, except during Arsenal games, as I prefer to watch football in the comfort of my abode, and not be bothered by busted bottles and skulls.

NB: Tuesdays are Bingo days, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. May we request for you to hold on to your bottles in that short span of time.

— The Landlord