The Melcombe Arms

by Aurora

Copyright© 2018 by Aurora

: A guy is made redundant and retrains as a chef, eventually buys his own pub but has one or two problems

Tags: Fiction  

“Yes, sir, complete discretion is assured, complete privacy. Yes, it is a little more expensive than our public dining room of course, but I think you’ll find it worthwhile. You come to the door on the right hand side, the lights come on as you approach, it discourages casual visitors. Certainly sir, shall we say eight o’clock? Yes, and it’s Mr Smith; for two; certainly. We’ll look forward to seeing you. Goodbye.”

Her Loveliness put the phone down.

“It’s amazing the number of Mr Smith’s there are” she commented, grinning at me.

“We did have a couple of Miss, or was that Ms Smiths a week or two back, I think,” I replied. “That’s all four full tonight then.”

I have to admit to having been a dirty old man for ooh ... at least forty years, and since I’m a mere fifty, I reckon that I started fairly young, certainly, as you will have worked out I’m sure, and since I was ten I’ve had an unhealthy interest in all things salacious, laviscious, rapacious and downright filthy. Of course in those days it was very difficult to follow this hobby easily but if you put your mind to it it was surprising what knowledge you could accumulate. However, whilst many hobbies can be turned into a paying occupation it was, and indeed still is, difficult to turn this one into something that makes money. So rather than make a living from the sort of things that really interested me, and I had to earn a living from boring things. I tried a fair number of occupations before I eventually ended up in the marketing department of a big company. Turned out that I was pretty good at it and eventually reached the dizzy heights of marketing manager. Apart from politics, marketing must rank as one of the most dishonest trades there is, but at least, for the safety of the public, marketers have trading standards to keep us near the straight and narrow, but we were always pushing the limits. Politicians have no such restraints.

Along the way I did all the usual things, got married, bought a house, and had several children, three at last count. All this was fine until the company that I worked for was taken over by some Yanks who wanted to bring in their own people and had no idea just what making a few Brits redundant was going to cost them.

Having trousered a considerable amount of money as a redundancy package I gave some thought to my future. Since at that time I was in my early forties as far as my future in the job market was concerned I didn’t have one, unless I was prepared to work for peanuts. I may be a monkey, but ... So I decided, with my dear wife’s support, and because she didn’t want me in the house all day cramping her style, to do a short course at college and learn about cooking. This had long been a hobby and I thought I might open a restaurant somewhere, or perhaps a country pub. Who knows?

After completing the course I got a job at a local pub as a sous chef, or idjit that does all the hard work, and really learnt a lot about the trade. I’m one of those guys who will sometimes make out I know less than I do because people who do know like to tell you things. They’ll call it teaching, and there is no doubt that you can pick up a lot, but really a lot of it is just massaging their egos. Whatever, the more you learn the better.

I’d been there nearly a year when a small village pub wanted someone to take over their restaurant and I talked my way in. I was pretty successful there and I was very happy for a couple of years after which the owners decided to sell. The price was beyond anything we could afford and it was bought by a couple who, would you believe, had marketing backgrounds. Their idea was to reduce costs and instead of properly prepared food to use ‘boil in the bag’. In other words buy in the meals ready to microwave and just add some veg. This really didn’t suit me and, after a few words as to why trade had fallen off I decided that I’d had enough. But what to do?

The answer turned up quite unexpectedly. There was an old pub a couple of valleys to the west that had been standing empty for several years. It belonged to a bloke who bought it thinking he could use kidology on the locals and tell them that he could reopen it if they supported his planning application to divide off one cottage and extend to form another with the pub in the middle. He even set up a website advertising for a Michelin starred chef. I ask you, who did he think he was kidding? Now, he was short of money and I thought the right offer would buy it.

Problem for him, and any developer, was that it had to remain as a pub, and whilst the local authority had the power to change this, with the influence of the villagers they’d no mind to. Even at the lowest level politicians value their seats, and I’ll say nothing about which organisation I knew the planning officer and certain villagers belonged to. But that all might be to my advantage.

So I made an offer, which he turned down, and I sat back to wait for him to get desperate. And when he did I played hard to get, but eventually we had a deal at a very good price which left me with enough money to get the place opened again.

We had a grand opening and right from the start the place was a success. We had a bar which we kept strictly as a place to drink, snacks only, and a restaurant which served a wide range of food, all home cooked, puddings included. But being successful and bringing in enough money are not necessarily the same thing and whilst we weren’t going to go bust, we definitely needed a bit more.

We had four spare rooms, each had an en suite shower, but were inaccessible from the main part of the building without considerable rearrangement which would alter the dining room too much. The only internal access was through the kitchen and the office which obviously wouldn’t work, but they did have an external access with a path to the car park. They couldn’t be let as bed and breakfast because you would have to go outside to get to the dining room. This was a legacy from the eejit who had bought the place, done some alterations expecting that he would get planning permission. Originally these rooms had had an internal access that the public could use, but he’d screwed that up.

“Perhaps we could open a brothel,” my wife, usually know by the family as She Who Must Be Obeyed, joked, after a long a fruitless discussion. At least I think she was joking.

“That would be illegal, and where would we get the girls?” I replied. “Unless you want a new career. Maybe the girls would,” I said, referring to my daughters who, from what I could see, were intent on screwing their way through the local town. Okay, they weren’t that bad, but dads react badly to these things.

“They could bring their own,” she was now laughing.”BYO, bring your own.”

“You’re going daft! Let’s go to bed.”

Despite feeling tired the discussion had fired us both up and it was some time before we went to sleep. And it might have been that session that finally allowed the idea to form, because when I woke up the idea was more or less fully formed.

Fortunately she woke at about the same time so I didn’t have to exercise my elbow.

“You remember that idea you had last night?”

“Mmm ... I thought we worked our way through that last night, and there’s no time this morning.”

“No, be sensible. BYO.”

“What’s sensible about that?

“It’s what we are going to do.”

She sat up and looked at me. “You’ve lost your brain cell. We can’t do that, it wouldn’t be a brothel.”

“We don’t want to run a brothel, it’s illegal, remember?” I sighed.

“Yes. So what are we going to do?”

“Hire out private dining rooms. Bring your lady friend, and dine quietly in private.”

“Are you sure that’s not illegal?”

“Look,” I said, “those hotel thingies they have at motorway service areas have their rooms used in much the same way, and they don’t get charged with running a brothel.”

“What if they bring their wives?”

I do sometimes wonder what goes on between her ears.

“Oh for heavens sake! It doesn’t matter who they bring, their wives, their wives’ sisters or the woman next door or even a proper ‘lady of the night’, I don’t give a damn. They can bring their boyfriends if they want. We furnish the rooms with dining tables and a chaise longue or something and if they want a quiet meal that’s fine, and if they want to shag their brains out afterwards they can. In private, and that is what they are paying for. And the meal of course.”

“I must be a genius to have thought of that!” She giggled.

I sighed. “Yes dear.”

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