The Hobo Guide to Working at Walkabout
Everyone thinks working at a Walkabout is something only xenophobic, jingoistic zealots do, but my experience was different. Even though the majority of us who worked there were Australian, we sold kangaroo meat, we played Land Down Under every day and I once witnessed a rube nearly cry when he realised we had Bundy rum, it was far from Australian. Contrary to the Gumtree ad claiming that it was in “London”, it took two buses, a train and an hour and a half to get to this shithole called Bromley. Bromley is known for (I used Wikipedia for this, because in the three months I was there, I never saw outside of my house and the Walkabout) the fact that H.G. Wells lived there, and there was once a Monty Python sketch about a midget bar where all they served was spam. As I was trapped in the Walkabout by long hours, my bubble of friends, lock-ins and an escalating alcohol addiction, I missed out on the spam, midgets and end of the world.
On my first shift, I sat down at the wooden bar, looked around at the Australian nostalgia smeared all over the walls and thought, This is where I want to be. My boss had asked me to come in an hour early – I assumed for a safety induction or to fill out paperwork. Behind the bar was a fake-boobed, blonde and tanned bimbo called Charlotte, whom I instantly craved for her peacock qualities. I would later find myself crying onto a letter she wrote me as I sat alone at departures.
“So this is your first shift?” she giggled. I didn’t understand why she had laughed.
“Yeah, I think so – I just woke from a coma and the doctor sent me here.”
“Haha, well have fun!”
At that moment, a six-foot-four beefcake of a man with a bald head and fighting eyes took the stool next to me.
“Hey, are you Scout?” he grunted. Charlotte automatically started filling pints.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied, feeling a little intimidated in his shadow.
“I’m Lee. Have you worked in a bar before?”
“Well okay then – let’s see if you can drink.”
He picked up a beer and motioned for me to do the same. He fucking skulled it, and not wanting to be a pussy, I skulled mine too. For the next hour we went tit-for-tat, smashing something like six pints each and not once talking about the job or how weird getting hammered before my first shift was. Then when it was time for me to start, he just shook my hand and bailed, saying, “Don’t worry – the girls will look after you.” Being an alcoholic with no work ethic, the shift was fine – I just stumbled around and shadowed the sexy girls while they filled up pints and explained how to make cocktails. That night, the first thing I did when I got home at 4am, twisted from the lock-in where I got fed unlimited booze, was tape newspaper over my windows – I realised that I wasn’t going to need the sun for the next couple months.
This set the scene for the sickest job I’ve ever had. Each morning shift, rather than face the hangover, I would smash three Irish coffees, pining for 12 o’clock (midday) when it was acceptable to drink beer. Every night, we would have a lock-in, the bosses offering us two pints of Carlsberg for free, which ended up with three or four sneaky shots of vodka in them. I was actually drunk the whole time, and when I wasn’t, I grew anxious and needed to be.
Here are a few pertinent memories, all of which I was wasted and getting paid for:
- Falling off a mechanical surfboard in my underwear.
- A Polish colleague snapping from one-too-many discriminatory jokes and slamming me into a glass-covered floor, slitting my eye open; and then me trying to serve drinks while I bled all over myself – and my underwear. My boss asking me, “What happened Scout?” and me mumbling back as I swayed on the beer tap, “I fell, I fell, I fell.”
- A friend jumping over the bar, imitating a customer, while I filled up a pint of straight liquor and watched him skull it then attack some lady with her umbrella who called the cops while he puked all over himself and passed out under a table.
- Being 20 grand under in the quarterly stock take and told things were going to change. Nothing changed.
- Copious coke in the bathrooms.
- Telling my boss that it was unfair that everyone else was getting drunk before work when I had already started my shift. Him offering me a discounted 10 shots for five quid, but only if I drank them all at once. Then at the end of the shift telling the rest of the staff what a commendable employee I was for paying for my booze.
- Strawpedos, strawpedos, strawpedos.
- Getting groped every time I left the bar in my underwear by old Albanian ladies. N.B. Bromley is an Albanian ex-pat town, so most of our customers were angry cunts. Two weeks after I quit, the bar got shut down ’cause the cops found out it was home to a huge weapons trading syndicate.
Looking back on Bromley, it doesn’t feel real. With my experience in Australian bars, there are no lock-ins, no staff beers, no drinking while at work. There is no atmosphere. Getting drunk and serving drunken people is a beautiful, harmonising union of respect: when only one party is drunk, there’s just misunderstanding and hatred. So next time you swell with pride, claiming you only travel to escape Australians, think of the Walkabout and the booze.