A completely true story, let me assure you. Well, sort of. It didn't happen in the Earl of Crewe, but in the Earl of Chester, a much smaller, cosier, pub on Wistaston Road.
The facts in the case are simple: My mate Morgan and I were drinking in the Earl of Chester and, when he went to the bar to buy another round, the landlord of the pub, without a by-your-leave, had been transformed into an alsation dog (or German Shepherd dog, to be a little more up-to-date) and this alarming incident led to the writing of the poem in 1991.
The original title was Unbelievable Happening at The 'Earl of Crewe' Public House, 1991 but, when it came to publishing a new poetry booklet that year, I was stuck for a title and used the line 'The Landlord Turned Into A Dog', which makes a better and less unwieldy title anyway.
Over the years people have put forward various explanations for this astonishing experience; many have suggested that what really happened was that the landlord, for some reason, stepped out of the room and the dog wandered in to take his place. This simplistic explanation is, of course, laughable. It's far more likely that a hole opened up in the space/time continuum and that the dog and landlord slipped through worm-holes in time and space, suddenly finding that they had changed places. Thus the dog found itself behind a pub bar and the landlord, in all likelihood, ended up in a kennel somewhere with a bowl of Pedigree Chum in front of him.
Everyone knows these things happen.
The photograph used to illustrate this poem is interesting. It was not arranged or staged in any way, but it just so happened that Morgan and I were in a pub, somewhere in Derbyshire. just after the poem had been written. I went up to the bar and was presented with the scene you see above, which I recorded for posterity with my camera. It was a sure and certain sign that the Dog/Landlord poem was just Meant To Be.
The photo was used on the cover of the aforementioned Landlord Turned Into A Dog booklet and the wonders of the internet mean that it can now be seen, for the first time, in full colour. You might like to note that, at the time, there was no enormous black and white hand pointing to the dog's head. That's just fiendishly clever PhotoShopping.
The reference to the late Jeremy Beadle in verse twelve firmly dates this poem. It could easily be updated with the name of some modern-day celebrity, but I've decided to leave it just as it is for now.
Those who have dabbled in the writing of verse will appreciate the feeling of satisfaction I got from rhyming 'trickable' with 'inexplicable'. It's perfect (though, for some reason, when I perform this piece, the line always elicits a groan from the audience).
The Landlord Turned Into A Dog
by Dave Roberts
Shakespeare once said, when he'd had one or two,
'There are more things in heaven and earth...'
And it's true; in this life really strange things go on;
Here's my tale, for what it may be worth.
I've always been right down to earth as a rule,
And I've never been easily trickable,
But, last week, in Crewe, something happened to me
Which can only be called inexplicable.
I'd been sinking some pints in the old Earl of Crewe
And, while I was out in the bog,
In direct contravention of natural laws,
The landlord turned into a dog.
It came as a shock: I was non-plussed, of course,
At the sight of a full-grown alsation
Where the landlord had stood, only seconds before;
There seemed to be no explanation.
But then, on reflection, I worked the thing out;
The ale had a kick like a mule.
It had given me DTs and driven me mad,
And made me react like a fool.
So I thought, steady on, there's no cause for alarm,
This is nothing but hallucination.
I had finished my drink, so I picked up the glass
And offered it to the alsation.
'A pint of best bitter, please, landlord,' I said,
'And I might try one more pickled egg.'
The landlord stood growling and baring his teeth,
And scratching his ear with his leg.
I surmised that the landlord was not all that pleased,
And considered it best not to linger,
So I said, 'I'll be off then,' and gave him a wave,
And he bit off the end of my finger.
Here's a tip: when your landlord's turned into a dog
It is best if you try not to vex it;
So I flashed it a smile and I turned on my heels
And made a quick dash for the exit.
Like a bat out of hell I shot off down the road
Pursued by an angry alsation,
On a quick scenic tour of the back streets of Crewe,
'Til he ran me to ground, near the station.
And then a policeman came strolling along.
He stopped and exclaimed, 'I'll be blowed!
'Is this your dog?' I said, 'don't be a fool,
'He's the bloke from the pub down the road.'
As I lay in the cell on the following day
I thought, no point in getting the needle;
Things could be better, but things could be worse,
At least I'm not Jeremy Beadle.
The Magistrate took a dim view of the case,
And didn't consider it funny;
He said dogs and landlords should not be confused
And he fined me a great deal of money.
But something has puzzled me ever since then;
Though I've thought the thing over and over -
There aren't many dogs who will serve you with ale,
And there aren't many landlords called Rover.
© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2011
Originally published on THE ODD EXCEPTION 5th October 2011