This item I will confess I have run before. It also appeared in the Vancouver Sun back in 1981.
If we were to get our priorities right, we would do away with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, group therapists and others in the ‘healing’ trades, and replace them with genuine English barmaids. At least those genuine English barmaids of my recall.
An understanding that came to me when I lived in England for a year in the early nineteen eighties was that a couple of blissful hours at the pub would do more to relieve the cumulative pressures of a day or a lifetime than any hundred psychoanalytical breast-beatings and primal screams. And the beer was only a minor part of the therapy.
Like royalty, dog-racing, stiff-upper-lips and page three girls of certain newspapers, the buxom barmaid is a traditional and distinctly English institution. Other nations, including Canada may have comely lasses purveying potations behind the beer taps, but hey are pale colonial imitations of the real thing.
The true barmaid (at least as she was, and I presume still is) is a combination Wife of Bath and Sigmund Freud, with a liberal dollop of Dolly Parton thrown in. From the good Wife we get the life-experience, from Freud, the understanding, and from Dolly the sense-of-humor and the bodacious cleavage. There is no question that the cleavage and that which makes the cleavage are both essential. All barmaids from eighteen to sixty-five have cleavages. But, the cleavage should not, and indeed must not be construed lewdly. It is merely part of a general bearing that suggests the ideal blending of the bountiful earth-mother with the subtle eroticism of that which may be admired but not touched.Sort of a vestal Pam Anderson.
Think of lovely Bet Lynch on Coronation Street if you want an archetype.
That is not to say that barmaids are never ‘touched’ in their private domains, but it would be construed as a frightful breach of form to make such an attempt while she is in the line of duty. She belongs to all patrons, friend and stranger alike, when she is working. Even barmaids’ husbands and boyfriends are cognizant that they are no more important than any other customer who is ordering a drink and hoping for a kind word.
I recall a pub I visited in Exeter in beautiful South Devon during my English sojourn, and it provided the perfect example of a barmaid who understood her role perfectly. I was a stranger to the house, having just arrived from a road trip. The few other guests on this chilly February evening appeared to be regulars. As I approached the bar I noticed that the barmaid — a pneumatically vivacious and very pretty thirty-ish lady called Mandy — was being chatted up by a patron who was devoting his time to caressing her hand as he chatted with her. He had the appearance of a traveling salesman, bad suit and surfeits of lonely drinks over the years. Mandy was smiling tolerantly, appearing to be listening to his tales, and granting him the time because nobody else was at the bar
I approached, and as I opened my mouth to give my order, Mandy smiled at me and asked, “Would you like to hold the other hand?”
You see, even though it was the first time I had ever paid a call to that particular hostelry she was not about to have me feel that I wouldn’t get the same service as anybody else. Needless to say, I graciously accepted her kind offer.
So, there you have it. Even though she will not sing for you or give you a bath — at least not in the pubs I have visited — the role of the English barmaid is not unlike that of the geisha. Her duty is to make the paying customer feel that for those few moments that it takes for her to draw his pint that he is the only person in her life, and she will see to it that he is well cared for. As she chats she will refer to the customer as “love,” or “dear,” or, in ever-to-be-savored instances as “my love” or “my darling.” Could such personalized, even possessive endearments mean that you are uniquely special to her? Was there not a hidden message that flashed from her eyes to yours at that moment? The answer is negative to both queries.
She will move on to the next customer and verbally fondle him in exactly the same way. But, such is her expertise at her trade you will finish your drink and go home firmly convinced that there indeed was a special frisson happening and that you now have a warm little secret tucked in your pounding heart.
If you avail yourself of her services often enough, you may be able to
throw away your pills and get out of group therapy, because your ego will be bolstered and your loneliness abated. You will not feel the need to go up on the roof and spray the street with an automatic rifle because everyone you’ve ever known in you life has rejected you; for just that very night a barmaid has called you “my love.”