Sunday, 22 June 2008

Another lethal device

Many years ago I had dealings with another temperamental Ascot water heater. This one was in the rear kitchen of a small Independant Off-licence where I used to work in Brighton. The kitchen was a small narrow space, often containing numerous boxes of wine, as well as packaging, advertising boards, ullage and the like. It had a small sink at the near end, right by the door. The hot water was provided by one of those dreaded Ascots, and this one was more temperamental than most. When it was turned on, the gas would hiss alarmingly for a few seconds before ignition took place, and the longer the gas hissed, the greater the bang when it finally caught.

One morning, when I was working with A, he went out the back to wash his hands after taking the empties down to the cellar and sorting them, as I was out in the shop. I heard him turn on the Ascot and I waited for the bang. There was a long pause, and then a cry of "Oh Bugger!" followed by an almighty explosion and a clattering of metal. Trying not to laugh too much, I edged my way towards the door. A was standing there. looking slightly shell-shocked. The ignition had been so long delayed that when it happened there had been a large amount of gas in the flame chamber, and the resulting explosion had blasted the metal lid off the unit and sent it flying across the kitchen. Needless to say, for some weeks after, whenever we needed to use that water heater, we would turn it on and beat a hasty retreat either back into the shop, or to the other end of the kitchen and the toilet.

Thinking about it, explosions were not uncommon in that shop. One day, when A and I were again working, we had just re-stocked the shelves that held the litre bottles of fizzy soft drinks, mostly made by the R. Whites ("I'm a secret lemonade drinker") Company. We were both behind the shop counter when there were a couple of loud bangs and lots of breaking glass. Two bottles of lemonade had exploded and sent shards of glass and a couple of litres of sticky sugary liquid over the shelves and surrounding area. It took us a long time to clear up, and we eyed those bottles with suspicion every time we had to bring more out into the shop. It could have been very nasty.

But not as nasty as when the owner and three of us who worked there were enjoying a Chinese take-away in the back of the shop after we had closed for the night. Suddenly there was a sound of running water, and we looked up to see a drunken man peeing through the letter box in the shop door onto the mat below. The owner, M, was not someone to be tangled with when she got angry, and she flew out of the shop, chasing him up the road and calling him all sorts of names, finally catching him at the bus-stop, throwing his own take-away into the road, and calling him a "dirty b*****d!".

I rather enjoyed my 11 years working in Munnerys Wine Stores.

This was the card I was given when I left in 1982 to start my theological training, signed inside by all the "staff" and lots of regular customers - even by the lads who went on to become "Peter & the Test-Tube Babies" who used to come in to buy Merrydown cider!

1 comment:

  1. What a brilliant drawing! Not only does it feature, intentionally or unintentionally, excellent depictions of the late Princess of Wales, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Presiding Bishop Catherine Jefferts Fiore and Hilda Ogden (of blessed memory!), it also centres on a slim, athletic, mustachioed figure riding a bicycle. He is the mystery figure - and someone I do not recognise!

    Who is this man?