Thursday, November 08, 2007

Confession time

Today I have a confession to make, I worked on the team that brought the Hofbrauhaus chain to the UK.

There, I've said it.

Even in a minor way I have a responsibility for those countless hours spent in holiday resorts and town centres all over the UK, numerous coach party trips to visit the psuedo German Bierkellars, sit on sticky benches, drink foul beer that was served in glasses to big to pick up properly, and pretend to be having fun when an Englishman in leather shorts stood on the stage pretending to be German and got you all to sing German drinking songs that no-one understood nor cared for.

I'm sorry, part of it was my fault.

The lighting was really easy to design in the Hofbrauhaus's, there was no lighting, just a handful of Sunflood spotlights for the management to turn on at the end of the night to persuade you all to stop fighting each other and go home.

That was my job see, designing lighting schemes for industrial and commercial premises.

Like all jobs of a pseudo technical nature it was shrouded in secrecy, to outsiders it had to appear to be a highly technical and very difficult job to do, you had to appear to be very highly qualified to do the job and of course it went without saying that you never disclosed to outsiders how exactly you calculated just how many six foot flourescent lights an open plan office would need in order for the lighting levels at desk height to comply with current health and safety laws, oh no, to explain how you did the calculations would be like a magician showing you where he hides the doves.

In truth it was really easy.

Eugene the Estimator taught me all there was to know about lighting design in one afternoon whilst ddesgining the layout for another Scamps Disco - the Star Cinema Group had a lot to answer for when they finally went spectacularly bust putting their directors in jail, Hofbrauhaus, Scamps and a twee Ye Olde English Steak House chain, I digress.

Eugene the Estimator taught me all there is to know in one short sentence - measure the room, find out what lighting level the architect wants, use these tables in the Thorn Lighting handbook to find out what they recommend, then put some more lights in to be on the safe side.

His advice never let me down, for no-one complained when a room was too bright but everyone would bitch and moan if it wasn't bright enough.

And if you still didn't feel too confident then never forget that Thorn Lighting had a free lighting design service where their own (proper) lighting engineers would do the design for you, for free, on the briefest of promises that you would use their lighting equipment on the job.

Eugene the Estimator and I blagged our way through the job for two years until he moved on to blag his way through another job leaving me to do his job on my own, two years in which I probably smoked as many cigarettes as he did, even though I didn't smoke, for the small office never had a moment when at least one cigarette wasn't burning in the ashtray, two years in which I learned just how much beer a hard drinker has to drink to be a hard drinker, two years in which I learned the skill of driving drunk (its not big and its not clever children), because quite simply Eugene the Estimator, his pals who were some of our site foremen, and me would spend every evening after work in The Bridge pub over the road from the office, or a randomly chosen pub anywhere within the environs of West Yorkshire depending on where his pals were working that week - one of the main reasons why the petrol bills were so high at our workplace was not because we travelled far and wide to supervise the work on the building sites, but because we travelled far and wide to visit random pubs after work.

It all ground to a tragic halt one day though.

Eugene the Estimator's very best and oldest pal was Tony Callaghan, TC, a tall, roustabout foreman electrician, sideburns and big moustache in the style of the times (circa 1975), he wangled an invite to the grand opening of Star Cinema's new Hofbrauhaus/Multi Screen Cinema/Scamps compex in Blackpool - so off we all went to Blackpool after work for a midweek night out and huge, free, pissup.

Eugene the Estimator drove the company Triumph Toledo, a dog of a car that got its own post somewhere on this blog and we reached Blackpool in record time from Leeds, most of which was spent travelling sideways down country roads - TC followed in his Hillman Avenger into which he had shoehorned a Lotus Cortina engine, "shit off a shovel" is the phrase that comes to mind when describing his Avenger.

After a long, long night of drunken-ness, all for free, and a half hearted attempt to pull some birds in the disco, said birds not being at all interested in drunken bums from Leeds, we set off back home in the dark, a 70 or something mile journey on country roads so as to avoid the motorway police and their cursed breathalysers.

I rolled into work late the next morning dosed up on paracetamol and alka-seltzer to find Eugene the Estimator slumped over his desk and a sea of sad faces standing in the doorway of our office, peering in.

Hanging my coat over the back of my chair I professed my suffering of hangover from the night before which had only ended but a few hours earlier, Eugene the Estimator looked up from his desk, cigarette in one hand, black coffee in the other, still dressed in the same outrageous 1970's fashions that we'd gone out in the night before, he hadn't been to bed, and he'd obviously been crying.

After dropping me off he'd gone home to find his wife waiting up for him with a message - somewhere between Blackpool and Leeds the beast of a Hillman Avenger had left the road and hit a tree, two of our electricians lay seriously injured in hospital and TC was dead.

And he wasn't the only friend who would die in road accidents at the time and he wasn't the only person I knew that died in road accidents while drunk for some years later I heard that Eugene the Estimator had met the same fate.

I'd raise a glass to them all today but I hardly touch the stuff anymore.


Grannymar said...

Sobering Post!

The younger generation, most of them anyway, seem to take a more responsible attitude to drink and driving nowadays.

Gary said...

Very true, I do quite a lot of driving at night thanks to two daughters who need me only as a taxi service now and the standard of driving at night is far better than it is in the day, I can't remember the last time I saw someone driving who was obviously drunk, mind you, christmas is approaching...

Zoe's Dad said...

Took me a while to absorb this one. It's been just over a year since my last drink. I am very fortunate to have passed through that phase of my life (well, twenty some odd years of use/abuse)unscathed.

Gary said...

Likewise, years of living away from home with just a pub and getting drunk to do on an evening left me with an alcohol intolorance, its a pain in the backside sometimes but something I'm happy to live with when I see the result of alcohol late at night in other people.