"Whether in the performance that is table service or disappearing into the kitchen for half-cooked chips and gossip, I am proud of the person the G&D has helped me become."Facebook/thegeorgeanddragonrowde

Perched on the sharp bend that makes up pretty much all of my small Wiltshire village, there is no doubt that The George and Dragon, or its trendier ‘G&D’ tag, is Rowde’s cultural capital. Though facing competition in varying degrees (from the ‘drinkers’ pub’ down the road, or the fashionable ‘Rowdey Cow’ ice-cream parlour), in the summer there is nowhere more picturesque than this sixteenth-century coaching inn, where patrons enjoy lobster al fresco on the sunlit terrace, framed by purple wisteria and the outrageous beauty of pink blossoming hedges.

I have enjoyed my fill of glamour in the four years I have worked at the G&D: spouting pearls of wisdom about wines I was legally unable to drink myself, serving burgers to Eddie Redmayne, or being sent by my loving colleagues to invent another backstory for our ‘royal decanter’ (on one bold occasion, the infinite number of ‘godmother’s mothers’ was extended to include even Harry and Meghan in the chequered history of this revered object).

As is, however, only to be expected from a first part-time job (which, as anyone who has worked in hospitality will well know, swiftly becomes an onslaught of unnumbered hours in that magical week of chaos known to everyone else as ‘Christmas’), these moments of glamour are constantly swept away by the sheer hard work of daily tasks. Seemingly constant under-staffing and the biting comments of impatient customers (albeit, thankfully, rare) manifest themselves in tears of exhausted frustration at the end of long shifts.

"Now, finding myself, for the first time in four years, at home without the G&D, I realise that these intervening weeks were among the most formative of my early adulthood."

Even the extremes are, often, preferable to the otherwise gross monotony of the job. From guided tours of the famous ‘vaulted tunnel’ (which certainly does not lead to Salisbury) to having Bertie’s Butcombe ready on the bar for 12pm, the days blur together in the hot-water-and-vinegar cutlery bucket and the scented candles, lit to mask the distinctive odour of a certain regular.

These blurred months form their own curiously liminal temporalities from which I emerge into pockets of activity more marked in my mind. The 40-hour weeks provided the financial backdrop for ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences: my ‘dream’ course in Contemporary Dance (which soon shattered into an unexpected gap year), trips around the world, and five Cambridge terms. These were the things I was working for: the motivation to return for another ‘10am start?’

And yet, while in Cambridge, I treasure the hours spent in the G&D. Its constantly evolving sitcom, religiously narrated to my family at the end of every shift, leaves me with laughter that lasts the long eight weeks. The weekly phone calls relating the unfolding drama of the kitchen and the owner’s latest tornado of ideas also add some much-needed perspective and G&D sparkle to a sometimes bleak term.

"Sometimes, in a busy Saturday night service, a certain corner of the bar catches me with a memory of my first shifts."Atlanta Hatch

Now, finding myself, for the first time in four years, at home without the G&D, I realise that these intervening weeks were among the most formative of my early adulthood. A constant frame of reference to which I inevitably return, the regular customers and staff of the G&D have been an invaluable sounding-board for my aspirations and disappointments in those transitional years between school and university.


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Whether in the performance that is table service or disappearing into the kitchen for half-cooked chips and gossip, I am proud of the person the G&D has helped me become. The place and its staff have taught me more about making mistakes and taking responsibility for my actions than all my years of education together. Admittedly, starting a fire overnight while the owner was abroad was not my finest moment, however, I have never felt as authentically ‘myself’ as I have in those days spent running between tables, when it seems nothing has ever mattered more than learning to hold your own against the ruthless kitchen banter.

Sometimes, in a busy Saturday night service, a certain corner of the bar catches me with a memory of my first shifts. As the residual traces of childish discomfort collide with my new ease and genuine love of the place, the candles and the crowded bar coalesce into my various cutlery-polishing selves who have stood there over the past four years.

At home without the double-edge of laughter and frustration that is the G&D, I catch myself looking from the other side – up into the windows every time I pass, hoping to catch a light that might promise some sort of activity resuming inside. I realise that, with all its charms and flaws, the quirky world that exists within the white building on the corner of the road has been a real anchor for me – a symbol of a past that is continually evolving into my present self, and something that feels like home in its truest sense.

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