I've been the Manager at The Corner House for almost four months now and no one has asked me to leave yet.
When friends come to see where I work they comment on how very 'me' the place is and I know what they mean. If I had the doors taken up I could probably wear it as a coat.
It's often described as 'shabby chic' an expression I don't much like. It's like telling an overweight woman she has a really pretty face. I'm allowed to say that because I was on the receiving end of it for twenty years. I don't think its shabby at all. Nor do I think its chic. It would be more accurate to describe it as; 'Pleasantly eccentric with a tongue in cheek approach to décor and a steely eyed determination to make every singe visitor feel as though they've stepped through the front door of a much loved but rarely seen friends house. Who has a lot of booze. And some nice cakes.' It just doesn't trip off the tongue like 'shabby chic' does it.
When I first got the job I imagined myself plumping the cushions and throwing the curtains wide. I'd always have on red lipstick and exist in a Darling Buds Of May halcyon dream of gin and cake and charming sun dappled afternoons.
The scales continue to throw themselves lemming like from my eyes.
Yes, the building has charm. It's a crooked house with beer mats keeping the tables from wobbling and unusual artefacts dotted around, the usage of which in some cases is still an arcane mystery. (There are these wooden roundish blocks that a customer recently informed us were the bit milliners used to shape the hats they made. Live and learn live and learn)
But what holds it together, what makes it inexplicably magical, is its staff. Sone of whom have been here for decades as far as I can make out. I suspect Alison may have laid the first brick. And she would have done so with great but stretched patience (this is a metaphor for how she deals with me). Without them I would be a wild eyed Miss Havisham staggering around the place pouring ribena from a tea pot and begging people not to disturb the dust.
Please don't tell them this as I'm trying to create an illusion of utter capability whilst keeping them on a knife edge of terror. With mixed results. The mission is occasionally knocked off course when I throw my arms around one of them and beg them never ever not never to leave me.
Karon (no that's not a spelling error) has of course gone and ruined everything. She has very inconveniently decided to grow a baby. I can't be certain of the ins and outs of it but knowing Karon it'll probably arrive in a three piece suit with not a hair out of place.
Karon makes everything look right. That's her job. No one that works here is just a waitress or a bar person. I can spend hours lighting candles, polishing tables and rearranging cushions only to have Karon stroll in, cast her eye across the devastation, move one table a quarter of an inch and transform the place in to a cosy paradise.
She's tiny. The size of a rice crispy with bright blue eyes and a cheeky little bob. When I ask her what's going on with her tables during a busy service I expect her to say: Table 2 is on mains, 7 on desserts etc. What she actually says is: Table 2 just met their first grandson, his name's Henry and he's 6 pounds. They really like daffodils and he's got a gippy leg as a result of cycling incident in 1976.
And then there's Ali. Ali can carry 27 plates whilst chatting about her puppy and operating the coffee machine with her left foot. She makes the inventor of multi tasking look like a rank amateur.
Interestingly I knew ALL about her puppy and its proclivities for several months before she even mentioned she had kids. In the words of the great late Victoria Wood:
Did you ever love us Mummy?
-I didn't know what love was until I bred my first Afghan.
I jest. She's really fond of her kids. Really fond. I just suspect she'd prefer them with a shiny coat and a wet nose.
Ali orders everything. To maintain an illusion of control I text her weekly on her days off and check very officiously that she has remembered to order toilet roll or cake or coffee beans. She rarely responds.
She has the look of chaotic capability about her until you take pause and really examine her features. She has the kind of classically high cheekbones you can eventually cut your wrists on when she hands her notice in.
Simon. Ah, Simon. It's pronounced Simmon by the way. It's because he's from Chile. I sometimes speak Spanish to him with a heavily accented Mexican inflection which really makes us laugh.
Simon works the bar diligently and when anyone thanks him for anything he always says 'you're welcome' in a way that leaves a lot of room for flirting.
These are the longest serving staff at The Corner House. There's a fair few more that I'll tell you about next time. And the regulars of course. And then there's the chefs, some of whom haven't seen daylight for 27 years. That's a blog all it's own.
But in the mean time you should probably come and have a look for yourself. And if you're not a cake sort of person we do have a really substantial arsenal of hard liquor that you just don't seem to be taking advantage of as much as you should.
Why don't you come Tuesday next week? I just picked that day randomly. If you can't THAT'S FINE. I'm really busy actually.
Oh, hang on. How silly of me. We have a live music night on Tuesdays. There's this really beautiful young woman called Charlotte who'll be playing the saxophone for a bit whilst we serve lovely wines and cheese boards. It's a very casual affair at the Corner House that could at a push be described as 'Pleasantly eccentric with a tongue in cheek approach to décor and a steely eyed determination to make every singe visitor feel as though they've stepped through the front door of a much loved but rarely seen friends house. Who has a lot of booze. And some nice cakes.'
Or shabby chic. Whatever.