Jun 09

THE PUB SEVEN DEADLY SINS: 6: Over Aggressive Table Grabs

FT + Pumpkin Publog15 comments • 701 views

Just as there is a thin line between love and hate, or strong ale and LOOPY JUICE, there can some times be not much between excellent pubcraft and pubtwattery. One man’s smart land grab for a table in a pub is another’s aggressive take-over bid. So instead I shall describe a scenario and see if you feel this fulfils sin or is actually impressive work. Note, this is in the PUB DEADLY SIN section so it is clear what I think.

I was in a pub with a friend watching the cricket. The nature of this pub is that the table was close to the TV, so the best angle on the cricket was from one end of the table. The other end of the table was bookended by the window in the pub. Nevertheless we had happily shared this table with a French couple having a slightly disappointing Fish And Chips. Who left after being slightly disappointed. To be replaced by a couple of Finnish women who asked if the end of the table was free. Yet again, showing excellent pub manners, we assented. They were joined a few minutes later by a third blonde Finn. Now the nature of this table was that it was designed to hold four square on. By placing ourselves at the end, square on, we had probably extended that to six. So when the first Finnish man arrived it reached what we assumed to be capacity. And then they kept coming. Surrounding us. Singing Finnish drinking songs. TRYING TO GET TABLE SERVICE FROM THE POT MAN. And then the crazy one, possible sensing our good natured, stiff upper lipped irritation, started talking to us.

Now I work with a large range of people around the world. I can be garrulous, but I also know how to be polite but brusque. Polite but brusque was cutting no mustard here. Before the hour was out she will have insulted my accent, my companions Middlesbrough accent, the entire nations of Sweden and Russia, cricket and rubbed spilt beer on her hands dry on my jeans. All the while the stream of Finn’s seemed unending (eleven) drinking the pub dry of pineapple Bacardi Breezers, and England lost the cricket.

There are a number of pub deadly sins in the behaviour above, but the shameless land grab of two women into THE ENTIRE NATION OF FINLAND is surely the worst. There are times then a little bit of intimidation by numbers works, and I have done it myself. But when two people are clearly watching some sport (even if it is one you don’t understand) you must know that you are unlikely to win. And two to eleven is audacious even for a bunch of Scandinavians (hey you insulted me, I’ll insult you).

In the end we skulked out at the end of the game avoiding the loony woman, dejected and ready to start a war. Which is not what pubs were invented for.


  1. 1
    Erithian on 17 Jun 2009 #

    Now let me get this straight Pete. You’re in a pub and are joined by three Finnish women, one of whom is rubbing her hands along your leg within an hour of meeting you, and you’re COMPLAINING ABOUT IT?! Let me know where the pub was and I’ll happily take your place…

  2. 2
    Tommy Mack on 17 Jun 2009 #

    I used to live with a Finnish girl. She was an unhinged, unholy terror. One of her college mates told me all the Finns there were just as bad. Conclusive proof.

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 17 Jun 2009 #


    And she was crazy. And 49.

  4. 4
    Tracer Hand on 17 Jun 2009 #

    There is a related thin line regarding pub table grabs. It is when, in a semi-crowded pub, you see some people in the first stages of getting up to leave. What do you and your five friends do? It’s a tricky business. You want to stake your claim, which requires physical proximity. But who knows how quickly they’re actually going to leave? There is a pleasure in that last linger, patting your pockets for your keys, having a last sip, coming round to the point you’d forgotten, etc and it’s no fun having six people standing grimly over you as you do so.

  5. 5
    Pete Baran on 17 Jun 2009 #

    Ah, you are describing “the hover”.

    It is a tricky one, and requires co-operation between the leavers and the hoverers to go smoothlty. Of course if there are more than one set of hoverers it can go terribly wrong. The method I use is as follows:

    Acknowledge the leavingness of the group a little two loudly, as if to say to all others that it is already yours. Also they should hear you and hopefully give it up to you.

    Send a few people over to physically hover. They should joke about their presumptuousness, perhaps ask if they are going. I find using the phrase “I’d steal the pennies from your eyes too” is suitably disconcerting to make most people shift.

    However if rival hoverers have more people, or a pregnant lady, you fancy them, other rules kick in.

  6. 6
    ledge on 17 Jun 2009 #

    “There is a pleasure in that last linger, patting your pockets for your keys, having a last sip, coming round to the point you’d forgotten, etc”

    LEAVE! HURRY UP! GET OUT! Actually if you’re still sat down with drinks it’s ok, it’s when people start to stand up and put coats on and still take five minutes to clear the bloody area is when I get antsy.

    Recently was at a pub with some friends, about eight of us, a friday evening but it wasn’t too crowded. A couple who were sat on a large table in the middle of the room left, and we decided to nab their table as it was further away from the annoyingly loud loudspeaker. A barmaid came up to tell us that they had ordered food and would be coming back. We expressed scepticism, after all they’d left none of their belongings behind as indication of their claim. The barmaid started to remonstrate with us, “how would you like it if this happened to you”, etc. Perhaps she had a point but a) we didn’t appreciate her attitude and ii) you can’t just abandon a table on a friday evening and not expect it to get taken.

    So anyway they did come back, but not before the pub had filled up a bit and all available tables were gone. So they had to eat their food at the bar, ok we felt a little guilty at this point but it was only finger food and they seemed happy enough. But the barmaid came over and whispered harshly to us, “they’re eating their food STANDING UP!”

  7. 7
    Erithian on 18 Jun 2009 #

    I was with a group in my local in Barnehurst last Thursday, at a table, and there’s a couple on a comfy sofa next to us. Minding their own business except for asking me about one of the questions in the pub quiz (we were taking part, they weren’t), and more interested in what the Americans would call “sucking face”.

    After a while they got up, the bloke asking me to keep an eye on their drinks on the table, and went off towards the beer garden. I prevented the staff from removing their drinks but they didn’t come back, and over half an hour later I spotted them walking happily across the car park. What can they have been doing all that time…?

    BTW Pete, my best friend of ten years’ standing is Finnish, loves London pubs and will fall about laughing when she reads this.

  8. 8
    CarsmileSteve on 18 Jun 2009 #

    i suppose the important point now is WHAT WILL BE THE SEVENTH DEADLY SIN???

    (and will we write about it in the next seven years????)

  9. 9
    Ewan on 19 Jun 2009 #

    Doing a quick search appears to reveal that there are two deadly sins numbered 1 (making seven in total), though by different people. Presumably this is some kind of confusingly named similar series?

  10. 10
    Pete Baran on 19 Jun 2009 #

    The spurious second No.1 is by Emma and is a Publoggers Deadly Sin, ie a sin committed by a publogger, namely NOT DRINKING.

    For completeness sake:
    THE PUB SEVEN DEADLY SINS: 1: Jukebox / MTV combo’s
    THE PUB SEVEN DEADLY SINS: 2: Stainless Steel Pissers
    THE PUB SEVEN DEADLY SINS: 4: No Smoking Areas (Possibly obsolete now)
    THE PUB SEVEN DEADLY SINS: 5. Menus On The Table
    THE PUB SEVEN DEADLY SINS: 6: Over Aggressive Table Grabs

    So I think we need one more sin, and possibly a replacement for 4.

  11. 12
    greatlondonpubs on 21 Jun 2009 #

    remarkable victory on pubs by you in writting

  12. 13
    NGJ on 28 Oct 2009 #

    Might I suggest as a deadly sin the seemingly innocuous but in reality horribly aggressive act of Ordering Coffee At The Bar? Especially when there’s something of a crush developing. How the heart sinks when I hear dialogue akin to “What can I get you?”/”Do you do coffee? I’ll just have a coffee then.” Why exactly have you come into a public house? Yes, I know they all do coffee now so why can’t it be ordered but this, as we all know, is simply the misguided dream of marketing execs. Put coffee in pubs if it fits your branding – but for God’s sake don’t encourage or even allow people to actually buy it. IT’S A TEN-MINUTE TRANSACTION.

  13. 14
    NGJ on 28 Oct 2009 #

    And while I’m at it here’s another one – The Irritating Addendum. Scenario: there’s something of a crush at the bar. Folks are getting twitchy. There is mild jostling afoot. You’re up to be served next if only you can catch the barman’s eye – just have to wait until they’ve served the person beside you. But wait – who’s this? They’ve just been tapped on the shoulder by a friend. It seems two more people have arrived and want drinks. So this gets bolted on to the order (possibly EVEN AFTER MONEY HAS BEEN TENDERED) and on and on it goes. People lower down the pecking order are now being served but you’ve thrown in your lot with the current transaction… and here comes that friend again to announce Sally has arrived and wants a blue WKD.

  14. 15
    Pete Baran on 28 Oct 2009 #

    Hmm, both excellent contenders…

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