Wednesday 23 March 2011

Bacchus, steak and kid-er-ney pud

So it’s not there anymore, and for how long that’s been the case I could not say. But once there was a bar called Bacchus, in Bournemouth and they played much varied music. Friends I still have would clutch pints long drunk under hair long shortened whilst the pick-n-mix schedule meant whilst it might have been blues, perhaps a covers band, it might – and usually was – jazz then at least it was never pop. This was the 80s. Some things are important. This was so long ago indeed that in this very bar/venue I once spent the night blagging my way to be served, only to have to go back next day because I’d dropped my school bus pass there and yes, they had it. It was returned without a word.
Bacchus was a place mostly in my memory, sticky. Sticky walls, sticky pints and upstairs where at times we went for lunch sticky seats. And the stickiest of them all was our host, a man of such horrible mien that still and more than a quarter century later we still when together shudder. We still whenever faced with particularly poor service or dire food catch one another’s eye and with a sigh refresh our good will with the simple phrase, ‘steak and kid-er-ney pud.’
For our host was horrid. He was foul. He had a plaster on one tooth and tiny, doll like hands. He had a lushly thick comb-over whilst not being in the least bald. His clothing was... stained. He took our order with interest at our daring and recommended the steak and kid-er-ney pud. And then he would ask if we wished cutlery. Which when answered with a yes he would take from the pocket of his conservatively sticky nylon trousers. And then, the horror of it, breathe faintly upon each piece and polish it with a rag. Once I’m sure when he thought I was not looking he licked (just a touch) a fork. There was food and from somewhere indistinct, screams.
Then one day there was no Bacchus.
And we never did have the steak and kid-er-ny pud.    


  1. Ah, Bacchus, where to begin? Bournemouth in the mid 1980s reflected the nationwide trend for everything that was horrible about the decade. There were few places to drink until one in the morning, and of those that did exist, most wanted to be Club Tropicana where jeans were banned and cheap supermarket plonk was sold by the glass at mark ups that would leave coke dealers reeling.

    Bacchus was a sleazy dive indeed, but it was out sleazy dive and a sanctuary for the likes of Simon and I, who had yet to embrace the new decade with its shiny synth music, pastel clothes and clown-like trousers that were much baggy at the thighs and tight at the ankles.

    Serving ale in a cellar basement filled with ageing sofas and armchairs that looked like they had been bought from Steptoe and Sons, with air that reeked of dope, it welcomed everyone, and didn’t sneer at the cut of your flared jeans or battered trainers. Most nights had a band that would play covers of songs like Black Magic Woman (the Santana version) and Black Night, to a crowd of freaks and stoners, it seemed to be the only place in Bournemouth where the counter culture scene of Ladbroke Grove from the early ‘70s lived on.

    If I recall correctly, the first time I ever took you to Bacchus was on the one night where the band turned out to be a bunch of folksy troubadours playing tiddle-riddle-diddle music wish washboards and a horn that they kept honking. This, after I had assured you that you’d hear lots of Deep Purple and Cream songs. Young as you were, you looked at me with a sarcastic smile that seem3ed to say, “I’ll remind you of this in years to come.” Next Friday of course it was back to business as normal, with bands playing early Fleetwood Mac.

    The doors to the toilets were always broken (and on some nights, missing altogether) and if you used the toilet on the landing, that faced out over the fire escape, you ran the risk of someone standing on the fire escape, not so clandestinely smoking dope, looking in on you through the window. I recall one night when I was pissing into the urinal next to the window, a rather cheeky and pretty looking girl peering in at me as she stood halfway up on the fire escape. “Nice cock,” she said, with a grin as she leaned against the windowsill, having a clear view of it.

  2. It was important in that having as kids (and I there still was, and no one save Simon actually all that grown up) been aware of the idea of lowly dives and drinking holes, cloudy music and sticky air that we caught some of it before it vanished. Sure and thereafter there were other scenes similar, but they were greebo, crusty even goth in nature. This was something of the 60s and 70s, or so it seemed at the time.

  3. And it was a skiffle band.

    Having been told of the place, taken down there and primed to expect Hawkwind circa 1975 the band turned, whopped and went straight into 'Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bedpost over night'. I'm sure as you say that even then I had an Impressed Face.