Posts Tagged ‘Phoenix Nights’

Anglophiles United at our "local" pub quiz Image Credit Laurie Frashure

Anglophiles United at our “local” pub quiz
Image Credit Laurie Frashure

As you may know I occasionally report on the activities of my Anglophile group, cleverly named Anglophiles United. This week a large contingent of our membership hit the road in hopes of experiencing an authentic British pub quiz. This outing was educational in scope and the fact that alcohol was freely available had nothing to do with our healthy turnout…

We gathered at an establishment with a name designed to avoid any confusion about its purpose or mission, The Pub. This American franchise concentrated in the Midwest and Southeast is to the the public house what mock Tudor housing developments are to historical stately homes. The serving staff wear kilt-ish uniforms, in addition to ales and whiskey they serve American cocktails like martinis and Manhattans, and they are located in an upscale shopping mall complex. To be fair they don’t claim that they’re the genuine article. Their slogan is “British-inspired, American-crafted” after all.

After keeping our tartan-clad wait staff (yes, we had three) busy with orders of shepherd’s pie, scotch eggs and lots of beer and wine, the quiz began. We broke into three teams -ours chose the name Jiggle Me Timbers because my son thought it would be amusing if the quiz mistress had to announce it over the PA system. There was no vetting process or pre-quiz selection though I can’t blame Inspector Fowler for trying to weed out the dimmest of the dim on his team.



The quiz itself consisted of twenty general knowledge questions, a speed round which required participants to order an actors’ films from oldest to newest, and the final round which tested our musical knowledge. Apparently technical difficulties are common as we had a similar experience to the members of the Phoenix Club – just without the record player.



None of our trio of teams won the big prize; however, luck was with us as each participant was given a ticket for door prizes and our entourage won all three drawings!  Each team left with bar glasses and gift certificates and no animosity towards the Hot Moms who apparently beat us by two lousy points. Nor was there any shoe throwing out in the parking lot after…



And as far as I know, there were no diva pub quiz champions in the crowd that night. At least no one threw a hissy fit like the Oracle did in Benidorm. It’s all just a bit of fun, mate!



All in all, I’d have to say our pub experience was a fun night out.  However if British TV shows accurately depict the UK pub quiz experience, ours did not approach the same level of competitiveness or nor was anyone’s ego or reputation at risk if they lost. Well, perhaps my son had higher aspirations for our side. That being said, he did win the speed round for us and the indeed the Jiggle Me Timbers team had their name announced throughout The Pub for all to hear.




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The first time I ever heard the term “working men’s club” was in the movie, The Full Monty which led me to believe that these establishments hosted activities  of questionable taste and standards.  Amusing yes, but still questionable.

Unlikely lads getting their kit off at the working men’s club.

That was before I watched a series with a more, let’s say, comprehensive portrayal of the WMCs called Phoenix Nights. Now I see these clubs are an attempt to be all things to all (working class) people.  Pub, senior center, rehearsal hall, amateur talent showcase, practice structure for the fire brigade…the list goes on and on.  For owner, wheelchair-bound Brian Potter, The Phoenix Club is his life.  After several failed attempts with other clubs, his burning (pun intended) ambition is to see the The Phoenix Club soar victorious over rival establishment, The Banana Grove.

The friendly staff of the Phoenix Club

In addition to the “inspirational” leadership of Mr. Potter, it takes a whole team of dedicated people behind to scenes to successfully run a major community entertainment destination. There’s compere (that’s a master of ceremonies to us Yanks)/crooner/ and bingo caller, Jerry St. Clair; mysterious and possibly dangerous DJ and handyman, Ray Von; exotic-sounding house band, Les Alanos, comprised of Les and Alan (us); sweet and naive cleaner, Holy Mary; and Max and Paddy, the mostly useless doormen.  Faced with the reality that the working men’s club is a dying breed, this crew of dreamers works together to preserve a beloved social institution…and their paychecks.

Admittedly it must be a difficult balancing act.  The majority of members at these clubs are pensioners;

The regulars at your typical working men’s club

however, in order to keep its head above water, The Phoenix  needs to draw in new and younger clientele.  The staff attempts to bridge the generation chasm with an alternative comedy show, a singles night and a Robot Wars competition.  The Wild West themed evening, which was inspired by the unexpected loan of a mechanical bull, was going better than expected until a rigged shoot out between Yorkshire and Lancashire patrons got out of hand.

I found it particularly amusing that Brian and company were mixing their historical eras – Wild West is meant to indicate cowboys and Indians, but there seemed to be quite a few Civil War references including the Confederate Flag and the singing of “I Wish I Was in Dixie.”


Not This







I know it’s not really my place to judge as my mastery of English history is utter crap.  To be fair there’s so much more of it.

But I digress.  Unfortunately, real working men’s clubs are going the way of some other long held British institutions.  Traditional pubs are closing in alarming numbers; Morris dancing and Punch and Judy shows are foreign to most young Brits; and I don’t believe fish and chips is wrapped in newspaper anymore.  Something about the ink, I understand.  The WMCs were a place where the ordinary man and his family were full participants and in charge.  They provided opportunities for socializing, education and, at one time, even charitable assistance for the working classes.  In addition many comedians, musicians and other cabaret performers got their start in the clubs… just not these particular ones.

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