Back to poetry index
Previous poem

The Pub Landlady

by Jan Price

I walked into the bar one rainy morning
There were fag ends lying stamped into the floor
There was something that was squashed
And the glasses were unwashed
There was chewing gum on the handle of the door.

I pulled aside the crimson velvet curtains
I used to think them classy but they're not
The sunshine tried to shine
On the dregs of curdled wine
And I knew I was unhappy with my lot

I owed the brewery lot and lots of money
They threatened to stop the dray the following week
There's the tax and there's the vat
All the bills are on the mat
Where can I find the help that I must seek?

I caught sight of my reflection in the mirror
Of the girl that I once was there is no trace
It's true my looks are going
My black roots are darkly showing
And the lines are marching square across my face.

It's no wonder that my husband up and left me
Marriage doesn't thrive when you both drink
It's hard to keep your vows
As the customers watch the rows
As you always end up crying in the sink.

You get up very early to clean the toilets
Someone's taken all the bulbs and toilet roll
So you scrub out all the sinks
And top up all the drinks
And wonder if life's better on the dole.

Men say their wives don't understand them
They have their stories and they tell me what is wrong
They can really bore for Wales
While I have loads of tales
But they never let me talk for very long.

I knew I had to open in an hour
I open every night and every day
I wanted gin or brandy
But settled for a shandy
And vowed to find the guts to run away.

And now I know we are a dying breed
When did anyone see a landlady last?
Counting up the stock
In her cheap and shiny frock
I'm afraid that all the glory days are past.

All the pubs are closing in the town
There are more of them almost every day
Pubs are now for scoffing
And the last nail in the coffin
Was the smoking ban that somehow came to stay.

My customers were old and mostly miners
Who came here for a chat and pint and smoked
And now they stand outside
A fact I can't abide
On the pavement in the cold and getting soaked.

Where will they go when my door finally closes
And the windows boarded up and it's for sale
When all the people want is nosh
In a restaurant that's quite posh
Paying £3.00 for a pint of watered ale.

If I play a bit of music for a party
I've got to pay for that, there is no doubt
There's the bill for heat and lights
And of course performing rights
It makes you wonder what it's all about.

By midnight you are coming to the finish
But they want an extra drink served with a smile
Their faces all are beaming
But you know you will start screaming
Because all you want to do is run a mile.

There were good times in the past I'm not denying
There were parties, balls and tastings every week
With my sleek and coiffured tresses
And my shiny satin dresses
I was fabulous and really at my peak.

Now I'm hoovering the beer sodden carpet
Wiping nicotine off the pictures in the hall
I just feel old and spent
And I cannot pay the rent
I am desperate and my back's against the wall.

Down the road they have opened up a Weatherspoon's
It's enough to make an honest person weep
It leaves me quite bereft
All my regulars have left
Because their food and beer's so very cheap.

Now in comes Tom and other alcoholics
To share my life of fun and wine and beer
So I summon up a smile
And all the bloody while
I try to hide my misery and fear.

NOTE: Jan Price speaks from experience. She was landlady at The Swan Inn, Aberkenfig; The Tylers Arms, Llangynwyd; The Bear, Llantrisant; and the Jeffreys Arms, Mountain Ash. Her experiences are told in her book My Life Behind Bars which can be found on Amazon.

                                                                                                  Next poem