Nick King's Blog

I've done some pretty cool things, but nothing's as cool as creating our family

Remember sister in law who buys me shampoo every Xmas? She’s sent 7yo Xbox game in which he kicks bunny around sitting room I’m appalled!

My sister in law isn't great with presents.

OK, she's terrible with presents.  

Her Christmas present buying consists largely of running into Boots.  Grabbing whatever happens to be on the nearest shelf.  Paying for it as quickly as possible, preferably using a self service till so she doesn't have to talk to anyone.

This would explain why she has bought me shampoo for Christmas for the last, well, ever since I have known her actually.  That's been a long time.  But not quite as long as the period since I lost my hair.

 

She also tends to become fixated on what she understands might interest the recipient of her present and then buy the first thing she sees that seems to represent that interest.

For example, when our son was five, in common with most five year old boys, he was dinosaur obsessed.

Auntie therefore bought him a 'DVD about dinosaurs' for Christmas.  Upon opening it on Christmas morning it turned out to be 'Dinosaur Killers from Mars' or something similar, Cert 18.

"I thought it was a natural history DVD," she answered in a subdued manner, fixed in the withering gaze of her brother and the wide eyed disapproval I was showing.  

 

My sister in law is an extraordinarily kind person.  If she sees something she thinks the children will like she will buy it and pop it in the post.  Therefore packages arrive on a fairly regular basis addressed to the children containing gifts from 'Auntie and Grannie'.  

One of these arrived yesterday.  It contained a new game for the X-box for our son.  Clearly bought as part of a clearance sale, but nevertheless very kind indeed.  

I have become used now to checking the age verification section before handing the game or DVD that's arrived over to our son.  You can never be too sure.  We don't want any Dinosaur Killers from Mars repeats.

This one seemed OK.  It was deemed suitable for children over the age of 7.  It involved something to do with bunnies, albeit zombie bunnies.  

All seemed well as he began to play it until I heard him beginning to make karate style screams and shooting sounds from the sitting room.

Investigating I found the game seemed to consist of his chasing around the sitting room trying to murder a virtual rabbit, superimposed on the tv screen that reflected what he was doing in front of it.  

Horrified didn't quite cover it.

We quickly closed down on the game and went back to playing Lego Harry Potter, this particular game being dispatched to join the ranks of Toys We Shall Never See Again.

 

Our son queried why I didn't like the game.

I explained, yet again, about how we didn't like anything violent.  How, for example, we had disapproved of Power Rangers and how I really disliked the thought of anything to do with weapons.

"But why?"  He asked.

So I told him this story.  

 

Just over ten years ago I was the co-owner of a successful restaurant and night club in Bournemouth.  My business partner spied an opportunity to open a restaurant and club in Prague.

The story of what he was doing in Prague and how all of this happened is a whole blog in itself, but against my better judgement we went ahead and opened and ran the business in the Czech Republic for a couple of years.

I would therefore go out to Prague for about a week each month to oversee the accounts and admin, mirroring the role I carried out in the UK.

At the same time it would give my business partner and our British manager time to come back to the UK to have some time off and catch up on what they needed to do here.

I'd therefore be left running the Czech operation for that week.

 

Working in the Czech Republic was an eye opening experience.  Ten years ago they had only just joined the EU.  Working patterns were slowly coming into line with western norms.  As was governance and financial probity.  All had a long way to go, however.

There also remained an extraordinary 'macho' culture, not least amongst the staff who ran the club.

Anyone who appeared unsavoury or who caused trouble was to be manhandled immediately out of the building.  Conflict management and avoidance strategies used in the UK were unheard of.  It was like working in the 1970s.

The Czechs weren't universally grumpy.  They just appeared to be that way much of the time.  Especially the door staff.  Their nightly contest to see who could appear the most stern faced, brooding, malevolent was taken very seriously indeed.

My attempts to imbue some customer service ethos into 'the guys' failed miserably.  

So it was unsurprising one night that a scuffle ensued when the staff decided to block entry to a customer they accused of being 'trouble.'  I arrived to see the chap walking away, having been unceremoniously dumped outside on the pavement by the two burliest of our staff.

The club area was in the basement, an enclosed stairway sweeping down from the ground floor entrance bar.  As I walked back down the stairs I became aware of another disturbance starting behind me.  

Deciding I'd better intervene I began to ascend the stairs again only to be met by the same chap who had just been evicted from the premises, followed at some distance by our now much less aggressive looking door staff.  

The very angry excluded costumer now brandished a gun.  A pistol of the ex Soviet square barrelled variety.  I was blocking his way and although my Czech wasn't up to much I realised he was demanding entry, waving the gun in my direction.

I stood my ground, much to the horror of the staff now gathering behind the angry would-be customer.  "What DO you think you're doing?" I asked the chap.

He shouted at me again in Czech.  Waving the gun at me.

"You are NOT coming in here with THAT!" I said pointing at the gun.

"Come in! You pay!" The chap said.

"I certainly will not! Please leave!" I stood my ground, adrenalin kicking in.

"You pay! Or trouble for you!" Another wave of the gun in my direction.

Gosh, I was cross by now.  "This is a BRITISH club, we do not allow people with guns and we do not put up with anyone trying to threaten us.  NOW LEAVE!" I shouted in my best 'don't you realise I'm a subject of the Queen' voice.

Presented with a very annoyed English homosexual 'channeling a butch version of Dame Edith Evans' as one of our British staff described it later, the chap hesitated.  Mumbled something. Turned on his heals and left.  

Only afterwards did I realise how dangerous the situation could have been.  And how I never want to be faced with a gun ever again.

 

Still, there was a bright side.  The door staff agreed to some conflict management training after that.  Just so long as I provided it for them!