Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Goodbye '09 - Hello '10 and a clean slate!

That's it then - Christmas is behind us..... after all the rushing around, organising parties and trying to achieve a really great Christmas for everyone, it's gone in the blink of an eye! Was it a great Christmas?? Well, it was certainly one of the best I've personally had in many years, and trade wise we're happy with what we achieved. We had excellent feedback from all our parties - and we'll have to work hard to do as well if not better next year.

SOH and I opened the pub for a couple of hours in the lunchtime on Christmas Day itself and we managed to have a thoroughly great time together. Lots of locals came in and wished us well and a fair few holidaymakers as well....... so it was worth opening business wise AND we got a fair bit of the day off together relaxing and enjoying the day ourselves - even better.
SOH made a fabulous job of cooking the lunch (Duck, actually!) and the Christmas pud that Chef made for us last year (that never did get eaten!) was absolutely better than fantastic this year!! On top of that, ALL the staff got the Christmas Day off as well - so I think we may try and do this again next year. Boxing Day was a little quiet - there were definitely not so many people around this year, but since then, we've just been totally non-stop......
We look forward to tomorrow night to a fully booked restaurant (about 65 diners) and hopefully an excellent party atmosphere. New Years day when most people will be nursing hangovers we'll be putting on another excellent curry buffet lunch, cater for a big pre-wedding party in the evening as well as several large bookings - oh, yes, and open Captain Morgans as well.........so, no real celebrations for us until in to the New Year!
So as we look to the New Year, I'm not going to do the usual round up of what a good/crap/ sad/mad (include your own words!) year '09 has been, because on reflection and taken in equal measures it's been no worse and no better than many other years.......... just the good and the bad seem to have been more condensed with moderately more bad than good - on the whole!!!
I'm doing a fair bit of reflection stuff right now (don't we all at this time of year?)- I want to enter 2010 and my new life as Mrs Hore starting in March with all and any regrets behind me and a new and clean view on my future life in front of me. I think regret is a wasted emotion, but only a truly heartless individual can live life with no regrets completely. So, with a look to the future, I just want to wish for a few individual loved ones:
A year of tranquility and happiness for my darling son Paul and his wife, and the real hope that we get to spend more time with each other in 2010
That 2010 is the year my best friend Tanya finds true love and happiness - and that I eventually get to buy a new hat(!)
Better health for my 2 brothers and their respective wives and partners
As for Tim and I - well what more could I wish for than I already have?? Absolutely nothing thank you God! I have a fantastic life, a job that more than provides for us, in the most beautiful part of the country. I have the love of a good, kind man, a fabulous family, great friends and a puppy who adores me!! All I would like is to lose 4 stone in 80 days, achieve the looks of a supermodel and I can walk down the aisle in March with a smile on my face.........I'm joking (just!!)
I'm really happy and contented with my life and I just look forward to 2010 with optimism and a light heart - I hope you all do as well............
Happy New Year my lovely blog companions..... x x x

Friday, 18 December 2009

A quick one......and some news!

Blog entry that is...!!! Well, what do you know? I'm actually ready for Christmas....finished writing the remaining cards tonight, pressies wrapped and ready to give, Duck ordered from our local butcher Paul Coleman ready for Christmas Eve - and I say, Christmas - I'm ready for you now! We are opening the pub on Christmas Day from 12 - 2.30 ('ish SHO says!!) and I had only 2 proviso's on that - 1) I wasn't cleaning the pub first thing in the morning on Christmas Day - I'm not, our darling 2nd cleaner is doing it, and 2) I'm not cooking Christmas lunch - I'm not, SOH is doing it..... so actually, Christmas Day should be a bit of a laugh!!

Our Christmas parties are going down a storm so far - everyone, without exception has been very happy - the first pic here is of the tree in our upstairs restaurant (the one thats being totally re-furbed and re-vamped in the NY) used for a large party last night and another one tomorrow. In fact, our party tonight have already said they want to book for next year!! Not bad is it??

The food thats been going out has looked and smelt amazing! This is where my head chef James excels himself and he and his team really produce the goods! This is a picture of James and Matthew - our young but enthusiastic and hard working KP! But all the staff play their part in getting things ready for parties - I don't know where we'd be if it wasn't for Glo my Bar Manager, she has such a great eye for detail and makes sure that everything works like clockwork! Lastly, here is a picture of two of the bar team - Karen and David - looking very smart don't you think??

Rosie continues to be Rosie bless her - as I type this she is trying to savage one of my trainers, and nearly knocking herself out in the process! As mad as a hatter, she has today shown the first signs of being a normal puppy - in fact she got barked at by an older and much larger dog in the bar - the first time so far, and she appeared most offended that there was someone in the world who didn't seem to love her!

Now then, what was my news.... oh yes, Tim and I, and 2 very good friends have gone into partnership to buy Captain Morgans in Salcombe.... an absolute Salcombe institution!! A cafe that does great breakfasts etc and a good day time trade - so I guess this is a bit of a pension investment for us all, and gives us even more of a tie to Salcombe as a future retirement place!! Before anyone e mails me with concerns - here are the answers ('cos I've already been asked these Q's a dozen times!!)

> no we're not changing anything drastically in the Cafe,
> yes, the pub is our primary business,
> no, the cafe is not connected to the pub - only by way of us running both
> no we are definitely NOT leaving the Victoria Inn
> no, we are not changing the menu hugely - just some of the methods of cooking
> no, our committment to the Victoria Inn is as strong as ever

We've simply bought a great Salcombe business and we're going to make it even better..........

It's very exciting - could have done with the transaction NOT completing Christmas week - but hey, stops life getting boring!! So - we'll have the pub, a re-furb, a marriage and a new business for 2010!!!!!! Phew..........

So then, here's to Christmas Day then dear blog readers - I hope it brings you all you wish for, and that the world enjoys a peaceful and quiet festive period, and time to reflect on why we celebrate Christmas at all. Here's to happy times with family and friends or simply the opportunity as with Tim and I to enjoy a little quiet time together.
Love and prayers to you all - Liz x x x

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Firstly here is a great new picture of our Rosie - now coming on for a little over three months old - and boy she's not going to make 4 months if she's not blooming careful........... before I go on though, this and the pic of all 3 of us is by my great friend Lisa Beaney from Sussex - http://www.lisabeaneyphotography.co.uk/ Her and her husband Phil visited us last week and took a couple of photo's of our new 'treasure' and she even manages to make me look ok...... a major feat in itself! But she's doing our wedding pics - so have booked in a couple of pre-wedding hours with her to perfect my (our) smiles! Mind you, SOH always looks good in a photo. You really must visit Lisa's site - she has the most amazing pics and there are a couple of great ones (for which she's won awards) which she is framing and selling as limited editions....... they are pretty amazing - I love the old couple feeding the birds!

Anyways - back to our naughty Rosie............. how can I put this??? She's the naughtiest, most contrary, stubborn puppy I've ever know and yet she's also the most adorable with it. I / we are severely sleep deprived at the moment - she has no concept of going to sleep at anytime that's half normal - at least not until she's yelped and muttered for a good hour and then she is wide awake and doing the same at about 7.00 in the morning. My own son Paul never kept me awake as much as she is doing!! Oh mind you - when I was in hospital after having him I did have to be woken up when he was by the side of me crying and said no thank you when asked if I wanted to feed him!!

Anyway - I digress - back to Rosie yet again.....so this week she's been out on her lead for the first time. Oh deary me - she wasn't keen on that idea - and I will forever have this picture of her sat on the pavement, with a stubborn look on face, looking at me as if too say ' you want me to walk'???, just soooo funny!! So, my spare hours are sat scouring Puppy Training sites for behaviour tips....... :(

What else have I done this week - well, my lovely Church - Holy Trinity, Salcombe is 're-ordered'...?? I think that's the correct title?? Well, there have been major re-furb works on the inside and a glorious wall of glass has been put in, with a couple of rooms up stairs, fab new kitchen, loos etc. New flooring, lighting and chairs in the main bit of the Church (expect there's a name for that as well, but don't know it - sorry Daniel!) and it all looks rather gorgeous. We had a great opening afternoon on Saturday with loads of people attending, the Gospel choir sang (I didn't as have been to busy to go for a while) the children from the local primary school played steel drums and sang and a fun time was had by all. I wasn't up early enough to go to Sunday morning service but I did go to the evening service and it was a Candle service......just beautiful! It was very calming and I had time to pause and to reflect and to be thankful for being in such a beautiful place in my life - both spiritually and physically.

The weather in Salcombe has been diabolical now for ever - at least it seems that way! It's certainly affecting trade severely this week - but our Christmas parties start this weekend and we have lots of them..... hoorah!! After cancelling our gala Christmas and New Years Eve dinners due to lack of demand we are now fully booked for NY and reasonably booked for Christmas Eve... amazing!! Christmas Day we are opening 12 - 2.30, and that's just Tim and I - so should be fun... staff get their first Christmas Day off in for a long time (14 years I think for James our Chef) and I get to have lunch cooked by Tim!! The dec's are up and the pub looks very festive.....

Wine training was booked in for today, but the brewery lady was unable to make it - so SOH, at about 30 minutes notice took the training instead........ I must say he's bloody good at training!! He loves doing it and I think when anyone loves doing something it shines through - well, it certainly does with him. The pic is of our team making tasting notes, smelling, tasting and spitting :) They really seemed to enjoy it, and lets put it this way.... 2 came in from a day off and one took a day off from a paid job to do the training, so I'd say they love the training and their job wouldn't you?!?

Tomorrow, (Wednesday) we're up for being visited and judged for St Austell Wine Pub of the Year - I'm really nervous about it, as I'm no wine buff and I don't know what they'll ask or do or expect, but I've had staff cleaning and polishing to within an inch of their lives, so at least we pass muster on that front! I'm not expecting to win it, but to be even shortlisted in our first year is a real surprise - so we're more than happy with that! I've also submitted an application to a national trade magazine for us to be Customer Service Pub of the Year - 1st stab at anything like that - but I won't hold my breath on that one.......but we'll see.

Had 2 Trip Advisor reviews this week - one bad and one really great........ gets very confusing at times. We get loads of compliments to our face about the service / food etc but I still get so upset when people will go to the lengths of writing something on a review site, seen by a potentially massive audience but won't say anything to us when they're here at the pub - that's 2 like that now! As good as the good review was (and it was really lovely and positive!!) I always feel bad reviews can do so much damage, but as Jim our area manager is always saying to me I have to learn to get any criticism in perspective, learn from it and move on........ I'm trying Jim!!

On that note - I have to write a blog for the Good Pub Guide and I try not too duplicate what I write on here, so if you want to read that you'll have to look at their website http://www.thegoodpubguide.co.uk/

Till next time then my lovely friends - I'm off to start building an ark if this weather continues...X

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Re-Furbishment Plans & Wedding Plans

The 4th January 2010 - that's the proposed date for the start of the Victoria Inn re-furbishment! Blimey, even seeing it written down like that gives me the colly wobbles......... so then what is planned to happen? Firstly - I told you in my previous blog post that we have a certain amount of wet rot in our downstairs restaurant - approximately 40 covers in there.

Until the flooring is taken up in it's entirety, we have no idea to the total extent of the problem - but it's likely to need a completely new floor. So, my military operation planning goes like this - afternoon of the 3rd, strip room completely - morning of the 4th stand with builder as he sucks air in through his teeth and tell's me A) 'oh dear love - it's not looking good' or B) 'oh dear love - thats looking bad'........ either way, I'm working on the principle of expect the worst!! Evening of the 4th - stand quietly sobbing in corner of bar cuddling a large G & T!

All of the fittings will have to be stripped out INCLUDING the wood panelling round the walls (further mutterings about water pressure!) and the alcove panellings then the floor will be dug up, dryed out, new floor laid, damproof membrane put down, followed by new black slate flooring, wall coverings replaced, wood panelling put back! Probable total time to achieve these works - 3 maybe 4 weeks! Ok - have just read that back and that sounds pretty simple - doesn't it?? So, why then am I filled with a deep sense of foreboding?? Probably, because in all my years working for local councils etc I don't think I knew one building project that went through without hiccups in one way or another.......But this is so very different from anything I've done before - this time our own income is at stake here.

THEN whilst all this is going on - the whole of the downstairs bar areas will be re-painted from top to bottom, upstairs restaurant will be stripped (doing a lot of that aren't we!?!) a hole knocked in a central wall for a more 'natural walking space' (that's designer speak!) out with the old furniture and carpet and in with new, decorated in it's entirety - oh yes, and new stair carpet as well............more mirrors, plants, candles etc etc etc!!

Not finished yet - THEN - new slabbing to the paved terrace, followed by the erection of an awning - a 'delightful outside dining experience' (sales person speak!) followed by two bedroom accomodation provison above the cellar! Things to consider - how many days will we have to shut the pub for, how much revenue will it cost by being closed and how much weight am I likely to put on as a result of the stress?? So dear blog readers - rest assured that you'll hear a lot about this re-furb between now and Easter.

As well as all of that, we are really quite busy for this time of the year - SOOOOO busy at the weekend, I had to work behind the bar!! Haven't done that for a little while - well not with any great intent anyway! The Victoria Inn has also been shortlisted for StAustell Wine Pub of the Year so we've been cleaning, tidying, putting up blackboards, re-vamping the wine menu for our official judging in a couple of weeks time and also trying to ensure all staff know what they're talking about regarding wine as we're expected to be 'mystery shopped' any day.

Then there's the wedding planning - got the shoes, sorted out the invitations (at last!) 'done' the flowers and discussed with James our chef the catering requirements for the big day! Just the Order of Service to do, and I'm (well actually WE'RE - SOH has really played a full role in this wedding!!) almost there!!

Lastly - but in no way least, we've also had Rosie to look after and start to learn to live with each other! My good Lord - it has been every inch like having a baby in the house!! But she is just adorable..... absolutely adorable! I love her to peices and SOH is smitten as well, despite his mutterings of it being 'just a dog'....... I'm sure you can see from the photo that she's growing fast, and we have had quite a few people come in to the pub just to see her!! I have never seen anything as funny as her little bottom bouncing up the stairs. Very, very lastly - hasn't it been the most awful weather?? I've never seen swell out in the Estuary as strong as it has been the last few days - and the Lifeboat is still moored out there, rather in it's mooring round the corner, so more bad weather and high winds to come I suspect.

So, lots on the go at the moment one way and another but I can always spare half an hour to write on here!!


Sunday, 22 November 2009

Puppy Dog Tales...........

Good morning from a blowy but not too cold Salcombe - a bit of a different story from yesterday when we were lashed by rain and gales and yet oddly enough had one of our best Saturdays trading wise for a few week. Mind you - I say oddly enough, but I guess if you're a visitor in a small town and you've 'done' the shops that are here, then what better than to snuggle up in a beautiful St Austell pub like the Victoria Inn, where we had our real log fire sizzling in the bar, plump cushions to relax against, little t-lights in red holders giving an even better ambiance - fantastic ales, great wines (of yes, and Champagne by the glass!) and hot chocolates that are a work of art!! Something for everyone - perfect!! We had lots of happy customers yesterday who seemed to be enjoying the bad weather..... lots of 2nd home owners were down and it's so lovely to catch up with all our old friends. Everyone loves Rosie - but more of her in a minute............ I just thought I'd open this weeks blog with a picture of the flowers on my kitchen window - they're from SOH, who as we start our fifth year together is still as thoughtful as he was in our early days. You can just see the estuary behind the flowers - and that's our view every single morning (when the tree has no leaves that is!), how lucky are we...............

Anyway - a little more about the Victoria Inn before I go on to coo and ah about Rosie - firstly, I think I told you last time that I'm also writing a regular blog entry for the Good Pub Guide. This guide really should be one of the things you first consult (on-line or hard back) http://www.thegoodpubguide.co.uk/ if you're not sure whats going to be in the destination of your choice. I especially like the GPG as it's completely un-compromising and it's not wooed by licensee's - all reviews come from anonymous visits and paid for by the reviewer. So in my opinion well worth a look at. This is my round-about way of saying that there'll be 2 blogs for you to look at now!! So whats going on at the Victoria then work wise - well the week itself was reasonable but Wednesday was dead....... from start to finish! Even now, I still can't settle to the fact that if we have a quiet day - then we're having a quiet day, I always think no lone likes us any more. So a quick trip round the town generally re-assures me we're not alone in being quiet.

Still as I say Friday and Saturday were bumper days, lots of lovely return customers - some on their last visit to their houses until the New Year (so they were telling me). Talking to our guests you can see that even those with what you consider (well I would consider) to be a comfortable lifestyle are feeling the credit crunch - maybe only eating out a couple of times on their visit down and doing more cooking in their home - so it's nice they choose us to come too. Also talking about the sorts of holidays they won't have next year - sounds like Salcombe will be having plenty of people again as they choose to stay at home...??!!

A great meeting in the week with our maintenance manager Graham, the proposed building contractor Carl and our own business development manager Jim - and just me as Tim has been away all week on BII business and other stuff. This kick started our own plans for the Victoria to decorate and update....... firstly - the real bad news - we have wet rot in the restaurant (I might have mentioned this previously). This is a real horror and not only vastly expensive for St Austell, but also going to be a mighty big job to sort out and that's before we even think about re-decorating etc...... I loved this meeting - it took me right back to my local authority days of meetings, negotiating and planning but this time because it's for us, it was important to have as much firm input as possible! We hope to start the work early January - it means our downstairs restaurant will be out of action for about 3 weeks so we will have to be creative in using the bar area and upstairs if needed...... who knows really. Last year January was really quiet - but our figures so far this year are showing a small growth - so it's a bit of a grey area. What we do know is that we won't want to lose anymore trade than is really necessary.

The rot has completely knackered our plans for a lovely wood floor though which is disappointing, but St Austell will make good with a beautiful black slate floor carrying through the theme from the bar and cosy corner area. I think that will look as good - maybe better........

Next thing for us to do this weekend is make decisions about furniture - we have decided (I think!) to invest in all new furniture for our upstairs restaurant - with the planned re-dec, new carpeting etc it means we wwill have a superb up to date additional dining space and function room. We're using H J Berry & Sons of Preston and they have provided us with beautiful sample materials for the seats - I sense great discussion today! We're really excited by the whole re-furb process - but I have plenty of Paracetamol on standby.......

Then last but not least - there's Rosie........ oh my goodness the girl is ADORABLE!! Full of fun and mischief and what is sooooooooooo fabulous is how pleased she is to see you - even if you've only been out of her sight for a few minutes!! Whats more - she's sleeping at night now - HALLELUJAH!!!!!! We've even had vistors to the pub just to see her..... She's in to the lets chew anything that moves stage, charges up and down the garden, launches herself at the chicken wire - they're just not so keen on her! She also snores.....cuddled up on one of the wet and windy afternoons this week she was snuffling and snorting - it was really funny to listen to, and I have to say she is turning in to a bit of a Mummy's girl...... the pic with the blue spool of rope is in our office - the rope stops her chewing the mat!! Just the 'house training' to achieve next though.......... not such good fun!
Thats it for now then - till next time friends, shield yourself from the awful weather we're having - Christmas is round the corner............. X

Friday, 13 November 2009

Prague and Puppy!!

I have so much to talk about I hardly know where to begin, but I just have to start with the most adorable puppy you have ever seen - ladies and gentlemen, readers of this blog, let me introduce you to our new dog ROSIE. She's an 8 week old Cockerpoo - a cross breed of dog especially good for asthmatics like me as they shed very little hair, if at all. As you can see she is jet black with just a tiny tuft of white hair on her chin and just at the top of her tummy - she's already been trod on twice (not hurt - don't panic) as she is a bit hard to see. She's playful and cute and everything that puppies are!! We already love her to bits and though she will never take the place of our old dog Beth, she's a very welcome addition to our household and pub.

Now then - our few days away in Prague - what a brilliant, exhilarating, enthralling time we had. To say we loved Prague just doesn't do it justice, we adored it......... out of all the European capital cities I've been too Prague counts as an all time favourite. I can't say that I can say the same about the flights - I thought flying with Easy Jet was not one of the most pleasurable experiences I've ever had. You don't get given seat no's, you're herded on by group and then it's a free for all as to where you sit! Given the choice, I probably wouldn't fly with them again if I could help it - but I guess it's the old saying of 'you get what you pay for'.......

Anyway - back to Prague, if you ever get to go there you simply must stay at the Hotel Jalta. A great hotel slap bang in Wencelas Square, central for all the sights. The staff and bedroom were first class and the standard of food was absolutely brilliant - far higher than we ever expected. Waiting staff were wonderful and the waitress on our last night - Katerina - was a real credit to the Hotel. We walked and walked and walked some more - not one tram or taxi, and thankfully the weather was kind. Cold and sharp but dry. The picture of us is on my birthday itself enjoying coffee and apple strudel...... Yum!!

We went to a Jewish Synagogue memorial for the dead from the holocaust and the Russian Gulags - it was hugely powerful to see all the many thousands of names, birth dates and death dates - all with Jewish music and a voice speaking the names of the dead. That moved me to tears at mans inhumanities to man, we also saw an actual train truck that had been used to move people to the camps..... just horrid, but important to remember. That evening a few more tears as we watched a ballet - Cinderella- in the state opera house, and I was transported back to being a child in a magical world of make believe.

A huge walk up the hill to the Castle, lots of puppet shops (slightly creepy!) and yes - more coffee and pastry shops. Another coffee stop at a prime tourist location that cost £8 for just 2 coffees, and a quick visit to the local Sex Museum....... naughty and not especially nice!! Lots and lots of tat in tourist shops, but we got a great original Russian hat for a dear friend of ours who collects them - I'm sure the shopkeeper thought SOH and I were into something kinky by my insisting on trying the hats on first!!

Loads of great food and just a little bit too much drink - a visit to a fab Jazz Club: AghaRTA Jazz Centrum. I wasn't too sure about that to start with, but it's funny how a few Gins can make you relax into the music and atmosphere!! :) Visited the monastery where they have a small brewery, ate giant sausages at huge roadside stalls, bought a few Christmas Decorations in the market, read the story boards in the streets about the history of Prague, had afternoon tea in a theatre restaurant where waiters in white aprons treated us like royalty!

All in all - an absolutely brilliantly break - and oh yes, a pair of dazzlingly beautiful diamond earrings from SOH as a birthday pressie........... lucky spoilt lady or what!!!

Next blog I'm going to tell you all about our visit to St Austell Brewery for a food / wine tasting get together this week with other publicans, an announcement from the brewery to us (got you guessing hasn't it!) our trip to Mevagissy and why we were there and last but not least the news that I'm also going to be writing a blog page for The Good Pub Guide.

Have a good weekend from us here at the Victoria Inn, Salcombe where the winds are currently force 10/11 and gusts of 70mph - we stand a good chance of being flooded in the early hours of the morning, so I'll let you know how we get on next time............... X











































Saturday, 31 October 2009

Only a few more sleeps...........


Sorry - does that start to this blog entry sound a bit childish?? Na, na na na nah.........I don't care! It is only a few more sleeps till SOH and I set off for a few days holiday in Prague - and am I excited?? Um, YES - just a tad.................................... !!!!

Yes, we're off to Prague for my birthday and our first holiday together since we came to Salcombe. I've checked the weather every day now and it's certainly going to be much colder than here - but very hopefully dry. SOH has booked us in to see the ballet Cinderella on one of our nights there as a birthday treat for me - as an aside, the first ballet I ever saw was Les Sylphides as a small child and as we got in the taxi to come home (I know - there's posh isn't it!!) the driver was talking about President Kennedy being assassinated.... they say you remember all the catastrophic events like that!! and I've booked us in to a jazz club as a treat for him, loads of walking I expect (new - but walked in - trainers at the ready), sight seeing, eating and drinking and shopping - hopefully!! Eating and drinking will be (I've read) not cordon bleu but good hearty stews and dumplings and a lot of pork!?! Oh and lagers and beers....

As with anything we do in the pub it all has to be planned so I've been busy making lists for our
friend who will be house sitting, (you can never - well should never leave a pub empty - insurance purposes - that's another pain in taking a holiday together!) making sure that all is neat and tidy, wages done, beer orders sorted (that's SOH's job) banking and finances left in good order and the list goes on and on and on and on............................... So you can see - you can't ever spontaneously say - 'oh, lets go away for a couple of days'. This will be the last blog for a couple of weeks, so savour every line dear friends..........

Workwise, the Victoria Inn has had a magnificent couple of weeks trading, the half term has been very kind to us. Lots and lots of old friends have been back including Martin, Katie and family and their lovely Alsatian, Colin - have you ever seen such a magnificent dog in all your life?? They say he listens out for my voice - control yourselves oh sarcastic ones!! He is the friendliest most gorgeous dog you could ever meet and I took him for a walk one night -well rather he took me for a walk actually.........and we also did a birthday dinner for 2 of the children in their family - Grace and Alexandra. Twins - but totally different with Grace being about a foot taller than her sister - but gorgeous girls who are going to break hearts!! So we had 12 children for their birthday dinner - and blimey, talk about polite........all the staff and other guests commented on them.

The weather has also been good this week - one day went a bit pear shaped but on the whole it's been good.

Now for some news on the renovations we're having at the pub in January / February - I've been busy seeing contractors and trying to get the best possible prices for all the work that will be done; full painting job through the pub - upstairs and down. New wooden flooring will go down in the downstairs restaurant - but first there are some serious flooring issues to be dealt with - and we'll know the seriousness of that next week. We are also going to have new carpet upstairs........... we weren't, but then SOH said we could just about afford it, so now we are!! New lighting up there as well and possibly even completely new furniture..............we already have 2 new (ish) leather comfy chairs with two more to come from one of the pubs in Cornwall - they are gorgeous and sooooooooo stylish!!

I must admit to getting completely terrified at the amount of money WE will be spending ourselves, let alone the money St Austell will be investing in the pub as well, so, it's really important that all my old values of Local Govt come in to play and we get the best possible value for all of us! On top of that, we've at last begun to work on the wedding proper - with quotes for marquee's, evening hog roast, wording for Order of Service sheets, accommodation for guests - and on and on etc, etc......... is it any wonder I'm not sleeping!

I must just leave you with a little nugget from a conversation that some traders and I were having today regarding the clientele that Salcombe gets. Generally it was agreed that most of the holidaymakers are absolute darlings and no trouble - just here for a rest, a good time and enjoy what we have every day......... but, boy, did this make me smile! It was recounted that one tourist was overheard to say the following............ ' I always knew Salcombe was posh - but look, they even get the boats to face the same way'.

On that note dear readers far and wide (Hi to Mick - Tim's long lost friend in Australia, who tracked Tim down via Google!!) try not to miss me tooooooooo much,

I'll soon be back, Inshallah (I'm flying to Prague - I never take anything for granted!!) :)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Where to start......

Ok - well let's start with the thing that is most on my mind at the moment - a Dog. Fact of the matter is, I miss our dog Beth very, very, very much. Not just a little or every now and then, but a lot!! She wasn't mine to start with she was Tim's, but she became very much mine and I bloody well miss her - in fact even typing those words have put me close to tears......... But the trouble is - do we really want another dog, if so, what sort of dog and when?? What sort of dog is because of my troublesome Asthma, and there's no denying that Beth did upset it.... regularly!

So, if we have another dog we have to have one of the non allergy dogs (think President Obama and what he had to go through to find one for his allergic children!!) and there are 2 things about that ('cos there always are....) firstly, I almost begrudge some of the prices for what are essentially mongrels, but have become fashionable, i.e, Labradoodles, Cockerpoo (!) etc, etc - at £750 plus - they ain't cheap!! Then there are the true breeds such as Schnauzers (too small for SOH) Lurcher type things (too skinny for me) Poodles ('over my dead body' - SOH) or Tibetan Terrier - Bingo!!!! Now there's a dog that ticks all the boxes, but is as hard to find as snow in the Sahara...... apparently there are waiting lists with breeders for a number of years!

So, possibly back to a Labradoodle...... I know there's a place in Somerset where there is a little black Labradoodle with the sign on it saying ' Liz and Tim come and get me'................at £500 it's not cheap, but the breeder sounds lovely, talked to me about allergies etc etc, and now I'm a bit torn???? They also grow to be about 20 inches high, good temperament etc, so cuddly safe for me and big enough for SOH not to feel a berk walking it! Should we get one now, or should we wait till after our wedding in March??? Decisions, decisions................. and I'm no nearer making that decision than I was a couple of days ago!!!!

Talking of the wedding I've started on the invitations to the chosen hundreds.... (it's starting to feel like that!), we've chosen the hymns (almost), the entrance music for church and now only the exit music to deliberate over. Next comes the discussion over the Bible reading, and a not so traditional 'love' reading. You may chuckle, but SOH and I virtually debate every single decision we make, good fun mostly but tedious (for both of us) on occasions..... we have SUCH differing approaches to almost everything - I'm 'bling' he's subtle, I'm 'grand' he's refined and subtle, I'm 'loud' and he's soft, gentle and yes, subtle!!! He also has a way of making me like what he likes................I well remember standing in a huge store a few months ago trying to find a new rug for our flat. This was our second visit, the first visit we couldn't even decide on the size let alone the colour (!), this time we knew the size and shape, but colour AND pattern - oh God help me! After much arguing (not serious arguing, but gentle persuasion - on both sides) we came away with the one HE liked the most, as always........... know what? The one I really liked would have actually looked horrific! So, lesson learnt, is that whilst SOH is not always right, he's not far off it...........

Almost lastly, a very pleasant evening out this week at a Dinner and Dance in Plymouth, not having done much dressing up in my life, I love the fact I'm making up for lost time now. One of the highlights for me was a drum corps from HM Royal Marines who marched us in to Dinner and then did a 'routine' for the assembled diners. They were brilliant - a tiny slip of a young girl in the group as well and what a great bunch they were - took me right back to my Pompey naval roots and made me realise I do actually quite miss Portsmouth on occasions.

Now, absolutely lastly, we've had a bit of excitement in Salcombe this week as there has been a film crew in town!! Primarily German, and conflicting stories on quite what the storyline involves - but it took an awful lot of people to film one man walking past the Victoria Inn, peer through the window, take a picture with a small camera and walk off.......so great publicity for our pub, as apparently it's a film for German TV based on Rosalind Pilcher stories and attracts a good few million viewers! They filmed inside our pub and outside, and it was certainly interesting to watch them. Enjoy the pics.........I like the one of the 2 (yes 2) make up women trying to make the stars hair stay in place on a hugely windy afternoon!!




Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Hi Meg............

Hi Meg and all your friends and David, Jackie and all the other lovely people who have been into the pub over the last couple of weeks and said 'Hello, I/We've been reading your blog'! I still can't quite get used to complete strangers saying that to me and realising they know all about me/us/the Victoria because of my various ramblings...... but I have to be honest and say it gives me a bit of a thrill as well, particularly when they usually say how much they enjoy reading the blog!!
So then, what shall I talk about this time - well, lets start with business. Firstly, we have now started to see a drop off in the day time....... but evenings continue to be quite reasonable 30 - 40 covers most evenings and weekends pretty much fully booked, with 60/70 covers on a Sunday lunch hour still. Our Sunday roast stills seems to draw the customers in and we've decided to keep the price at £9.95 - that's a choice of 2 Roasts, usually Beef and 1 other - Lamb or Pork generally, homemade Onion pudding or Yorkshire pudding and a gravy that James starts to make about the middle of the week....everything goes in it and by the time Sunday comes it's just absolutely delicious!! As well as the roast we also do a selection from our 'ordinary' menu, and it's really interesting watching people decide what to have on the Sunday. We've also introduced a fabulous Carrot Cake and Coffee or Tea as an alternative drink / snack and blimey, that's going really well - hoorah!

This time of year bring is bringing really great customers....... many remember us coming to the pub last year and still being in the 'settling in phase' - needless to say I haven't remembered many of them, but they've been most gracious about that fact! Talking of which the new winter menu is doing really, really well - the Steak & Kidney pudding in particular selling very well....suspect James our Head Chef may be sick of them by Christmas..... :) But it proves all that I thought - customers like good traditional home cooked pub food - and our winter 'British Classics' reflect that.

The Victoria is still without it's huge roaring fire as the fan (draws the smoke up and out - means the pub stays a smoke free zone! lol) is still waiting to be fixed.... but as I sit here typing this afternoon, there are two chaps drilling and muttering, so I know that once that's fixed and the fire is up and running that will encourage visitors to come in and then stay in!

The Victoria Inn website has been re-vamped over the last couple of weeks for the Winter and the young man Daniel who has done this for me has certainly not found it to be straightforward, but with his perseverance and my nagging, he's done a great job. Do have a look at the dog friendly page - there is a video montage of some of our favourite dog visitors on the page. Talking of websites, I was thrilled to see we've had a couple of recent comments on the 'Beer in the Evening' site, saying we're their favourite pub in Salcombe......... all of those sorts of things are free advertising and help increase visitors to the Victoria.

We had a visit this week from Catherine of the wine department at St Austell - a fantastically enthusiastic lady, who certainly knew her business and was very complimentary on our wine list (SOH's choices - he knows his wines that's for sure!) and our back bar display, and she is going to do some training with us all before Christmas, and she had some great ideas for a couple of alternative wines which I think we'll use. Out of that meeting has come one of the few wines we sell by the bottle going to by the glass as well - a great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, so it'll be interesting to see how that now sells, and although she liked our display we've just had a little change round, and also re-typed up the wine menu to reflect some of her comments regarding ease of reading. So a short meeting gave us a lot of food for thought!

Our very best friend Mark came to stay for a couple of nights - one of those nights he and I managed to do a fair bit of damage to a bottle of Gin - for which I paid the price for at least 2 days! Mark has very kindly agreed to give me away for our wedding next year (He reckons he could have got a good price though!?!) so naturally enough there was a lot of wedding talk - I'm now mildly panicked as I realise there is still a lot of organising to do.........although, we have booked our honeymoon - a few days in the Calvados region of France.

We are planning for Half Term starting the end of next week - we have a huge under 13 Rugby team booked in for 1 of the evenings, so that will be great for us and them - I love those sort of functions. Traditionally, this October half term is seen as being quite busy as many of the 2nd homeowners come down and it's the last big break before Christmas..... so staff rota's to do next today! In between then and now SOH and I have a dinner / dance to go to next week - and I'm really looking forward to that. It's in Plymouth at a nice hotel - so should be a good bash!

Before I finish this post - have a look at the photo here. Yet another water problem in Fore Street, just up from the Victoria, only a fortnight after the last burst - this time a water stop cock blew its top - literally, and we had our very own 10 foot high Trevi Fountain in the street............now then where did we put our wellies...????

Sunday, 4 October 2009

What a Birthday celebration......

What a Birthday celebration and in fact what a great few days we've had altogether really..... after trade dying off quite suddenly around Tuesday / Wednesday - come Thursday, pow - back to being really, really busy, amazing!

Anyway - back to the beginning.........Thursday was just incredible. As usual with these sorts of things the evening started off fairly quiet and I did the usual 'no one's coming' routine.......but of course they did, and not only did our friends turn up so did a complete restaurant (and then some) full of customers. I don't know if it was the balloons or the general party atmosphere - but we never expected to be as busy as we were. Of course we had launched our new winter menu that day as well so that had a bit more impact as well I think. Here are a couple of photo's of the Victoria Inn and some of our lovely friends helping us celebrate the 1 year event in style! Here's to the second year..........

Now then, although we eat quite often from our menu, this Friday, SOH and I became 'customers' to test out not only the new menu, but also young Damian who is training up to be able to cook for when James our Head Chef is off. He also who wants to become a fully fledged Chef - so we are supporting him with training and much more importantly the experience and confidence that this will then bring to him. Also, doing this 'secret' tasting, mean's that we get exactly what the paying customers should be receiving - not any thing extra or different because we're 'the boss'........ plus, it gives us the opportunity to sit and listen in to the comments of other diners!

We swore the waiting staff to secrecy and had the order put through the till just like any other customer order........... Scallops simply pan fried in a light Garlic dressing to start - wow, cooked to perfection! Scallops can go a bit rubbery if you overcook - but these were fantastic, and bursting with flavour. Next, Devilled Kidneys for SOH and Marinated Steak for me............ oh YUMMY is all I can say - constructively - the sauce on the steak could have been a fraction hotter, and the sauce with the kidneys a fraction less - but overall a fantastic 9 /10 - and my steak cooked EXACTLY as I like it! Pud for me only - but I chose our new Lemon Syllabub with crushed Amaretti biscuits.........oh my goodness! It was sublime..........just delicious.!!
We were SOOOOO proud of young Damian - and it wasn't as though we were quiet - we had almost 70 covers for his first night! he handled it like an old timer - took it all in his stride (including the critique!) and since then did another similar service Saturday night and an even busier Sunday lunchtime today...... I think he'll go far!
So yes, the new menu has been well received - my idea of a classical British Pub menu is going down very well - the slow roasted half shoulders of Lamb are selling probably the best and the marinated Rib Eye Steak a close second, with the home made Steak and Kidney puds not far behind - and with nothing more expensive than £15.95 - I think great value for money as well.
What else..........??? Well, our lovely area manager Jim paid us a visit on Thursday to talk about some planned maintenance and improvements to the Victoria that we shall hopefully be starting in January - I promise to talk a bit more about that in the next post. We've had various contractors coming in to give us quotes for pieces of work - so that's been quite interesting, and then it will be sifting through for not only the cost but workmanship as well.
We both realised today that since we lost our Beth we hardly go out any more - at least with her we had the excuse for a walk - so today while the sun was still shining we sat down by the lifeboat and had ice creams and generally watched the world in Salcombe harbour drift by for a little while - and very pleasant it was as well (although SOH has the cold I had!). There's no doubt about it Salcombe is best in this season, and the customers are mostly older or young with families and really just delightful! Now it's a little quieter as well, you can give a much better level of personalised customer service, and I don't mind being in the bar all day every day when it's like this....
For now though - I have to go and watch one of two shows I just can't miss - X Factor......... who gets through to the final 12 and who doesn't!! I think I can already predict the winner.....!
Have a great week my lovely friends - I'll post again next weekend.... X

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Happy Birthday to Us!!!

So today 1st October is the first birthday of Tim & I being at the Victoria Inn........ and what a fantastic year it's been.

Firstly - we want to say a big thank you to St Austell for believing that we were the right people for this lovely pub....... St Austell brew really great ales, and we have no trouble selling them.

The people who make up the St Austell brewery itself are great - Jim our Area Manager has been a huge support to us, a helping hand for when we first came in and everything was so new - to now - supporting us with our ideas and plans, reigning us (me) in where needed and offering thoughts and suggestions of his own.

The tele sales people who take our twice weekly orders, and never even seem to mind when they get me fumbling over an order rather than SOH who reels it off (!). The dray men who deliver the goods in all sorts of weathers, (and sometimes it must be back breaking work ) and make sure that all is left in good order in the cellar - again - particularly on the rare occasions when it's me that see's the dray in! Big thanks to the maintenance department for their input into the maintenance jobs involved in keeping a pub the size of the Victoria going, and a huge thank you to all the other staff we'll often hardly meet - but we know go in to making the St Austell Brewery a great place.

Secondly, massive big thanks must go to the people of Salcombe who have from day 1 made us so very welcome, so many of those who were strangers in our first few weeks but who are now regular customers and indeed friends - far too many to name individually - but between you, you've made SOH and I feel like we've lived here for years. To all the holidaymakers we've met once or twice to those who now come in on a very regular basis throughout the year - when it's like meeting old friends!

Thirdly and almost lastly, thanks go to our oldest closest friends and our families who we see so little of nowadays, but who continue to keep in touch one way or another - phone calls are often long and visits are cherished. For me personally - it's been a strange old year - a few trauma's one way and another, not the best of health sometimes, a couple of hard bouts of 'home' sickness - particularly in the early days when I missed not being able to just walk a short distance and see my son, and then the whole change of routine from a local government day job with normal hours, routine and a way of life I'd known for so very long...........to being a PUB LANDLADY!

But lastly and really importantly, I'd like to say thank you to my SOH - Tim...... he's looked after me through this life changing event, he's held my hand, laughed me through it and handed me the tissues on the days it all got too much. I love you my scrumptious other half............

So - if you're around tonight any time after 7'ish - pop in and say hello, we're putting on a small bash just to say Happy Birthday and thank you to everyone for what has been for both of us the most fantastic year in our most fantastic home - the VICTORIA INN.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Exploring still

Sunday was a rare treat for us - we went out for a few hours and did a bit more exploring of this beautiful area that is now our home, or as my son (a committed City boy) so fondly puts it 'The Outback'.....! I never cease to be staggered by the beauty of this countryside - in places it was like miles upon miles of patchwork quilt of fields. Wonderful views stretching over miles and miles, dartmoor in the background and the sea down by the coast.

Sunday was also an absolutely super day weather wise, the temperature was around 18 - 20, but the wind was certainly cool. Firstly we went to a place called Beesands where we had a spot of lunch at the Cricket Inn. It's hard not to be biased because of our splendid food, but I thought what we had was just ok, service was good though - even if I did get a Fish Pie instead of a Shephards....but once again for a pub on the coastline the views were just outstanding! We sat in the sun and to behonest you could have been enjoying a June day - not a late September day.
After that we went to Hallsands where in 1917 a whole village was swept away into the sea.... the ruins are still visible from a viewing point and it bought home how hard life must have been for people living in those days.

Contrasting that was a fabulous development on the site where 2 sisters from the wrecked village built Prospect House, which was later enlarged into a hotel, and is now a very grand comples of flats and houses, swimming pool and tennis courts. I was quite taken with a very nice end flat (for a cool 425k..!!) but was stopped by SOH at actually asking to have a look round. The views from the development were out of this world - straight on to the sea - but also in the middle of no where......... even going for a pint of milk would have been probably an hours round trip. But look at the view from there...............we also went to East Portlemouth and saw Salcombe from 'the other side' of the the water and again, the beauty of the place just takes your breath away!

Apart from that the Victoria has been fairly busy still, preparing for the change of menu this week - and the smells from the kitchen today have been undeniably sublime - Quiches (for starters), Apple Pies (as shown in the photo here) and Profiteroles for desserts - needless to say I have had to have a little taste......... If the rest of the food is half as good as what James has done today I'm pretty sure we're on to a winner with the menu.

The website is undergoing a massive change as well - with new photo's etc going on - I'm not doing that, God know's I'm nowhere near that technically literate!! A local young man called Dan has the pleasure of doing that for us, so again, that should be completed and up and running this week.
SOH has been up in one of favourite places this week again - the roof! In readiness for lighting our huge fire in the pub we have to sort out the fan - this sucks the smoke up and out the chimney rather than putting the pub into a fug! Ala the Golden Lion... for those of you that can remember some of the issues we had with the fireplace there.......smoking out the pub and the customers was a common occurence!

I do have some very exciting news which I hope to be able to share with you in the next couple of weeks - but just right now I can't say too much for fear of tempting fate.

But - my biggest excitement this week though is for our first birthday on Thursday - 1 whole year - amazing!! So until Thursday dear blog readers.................

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Wedding dress shopping

OK - lets start with a subject upper most in my mind at the moment - THE WEDDING! Not just any old wedding of course - my wedding - OUR wedding!! There is apparently a title for women getting married, and it's Bridezilla......... whether you intend to or not, most women turn in to this creature. I think I'm on that road..................................

Lets just re-wind a little here! I never for one moment thought that I would ever be re-marrying, not to SOH or any one for that matter. But being married is really quite important to me, that feeling of being properly together, and given my reunion with God it's become even more important for this to happen. SOH has in his words 'always managed to escape' (!) this union but together we are both very much looking forward to this happening. Oh, by the way the big day is March 20th next year.

Anyway - back to the dress! I have spent many hours looking on the Internet, and I had very firm ideas on the type, colour etc, etc....... so with this in mind, my new Salcombe friend Theresa and I set off to a very well researched shop in Exeter - La Bella Bridal. I wasn't over impressed with the name (!) but as soon as we entered the shop I guessed we would be ok. Walls of gowns in every colour under the sun, dozens and dozens of of white/cream/ivory etc. Not content with that, there was an upstairs 'salon' with even more dresses. Of course, you all know by now that I'm no shrinking violet in getting what I want so I duly issued the (lovely/patient/kind) assistant with my list of wants, hates and absolute colours I didn't want! She listened, got out the stuff I wanted - tried it on and guess what? I hated them................ So what have I bought? Well,you're not knowing that - but all I will say is this.... It's an Italian design, it's sophisticated, elegant and quite beautiful! Both Theresa and I shed a few tears - according to the saleswoman a sure sign it was the right one!! The dress won't be here till about mid February........ yes, mid Feb! It apparently does a tour of the world before it gets to Exeter - I think it gets made in Italy and goes via America and the Far East???

What else in my life at the moment, well I've had a text today from my darling son to say he and his wife are on their way home from a well deserved holiday in Spain - bronzed, fat and relaxed. Despite the fact he's far from being a teenager, in common with all Mum's I worry about him so it's nice to know he's home again and ok. Talking of holidays, SOH and I have been looking at a few days away in November for my birthday and so far Prague is top of the list..... as long as we don't hit a dreaded stag night out there! We've looked at some great 5* hotels for which we can have 4 great nights whereas if we went to the Cotswolds it would be the same price for just 2 or 3 nights - bonkers isn't it!!

Salcombe has had some really odd tides this last week, really extreme ends of the scale - the tide was out the furthest I've ever seen it last week, and yet again when its up its like there's no split between the land and the sea, just like you could walk on to it! Talking of the sea, we had a power boat race in Salcombe this weekend - it was really great to see something like that first hand but it was very poorly attended.

I'm sitting here typing feeling a bit sore and sorry for myself as I walked outside the pub this morning in heavy drizzle and before I knew it I'd slipped and fallen. No cuts or scrazes, but hurt pride - particularly as it's not a great advert for the landlady of the pub to be seen falling arse over head outside their establishment!! Anyway, at least I know I was sober..........

We're almost ready to unveil our new Autumn/Winter menu and I have a local chap coming tomorrow to help me add the menu's to the site, change bits of the website and make it much more current...... I am ok at doing most of it, but terrified at touching the wrong button and deleting the whole site! I like to look at the site stats every now and then to see how we're doing and it's amazing to see that we regularly get 30 hits every day! So, even more important to keep it smart and up to date!

I might even add some music - perhaps just not 'Here comes the Bride'...........

Sunday, 13 September 2009

So much to say.........

I suppose more to the point - when don't I have a lot to say!?! Anyway, on to business and I'll start with our business. After the great shutdown and me thinking that was it, end of season -good night Vienna - here come the next wave!! Irreverently called the 'Newly Weds and Nearly Dead's' (before anyone complains this is a term used by everyone in town!!) we now have the next round of holidaymakers........... and what a different crowd this is! Lots and lots of young couples with babies and pre-school children - have cooed and ahh'ed at some gorgeous babies this weekend - and 2's and 4's of people either day tripping or staying for 2 weeks and taking advantage of the cheaper rates in the holiday homes. For starters - many are clearly not newly weds and certainly not nearly dead either......the amount of alcohol consumed by some of the second group should indicate they should be nearly dead - but actually this group of people certainly know how to enjoy themselves! At this point, I'll say hello to Carol and Jenny !!! :) It was lovely to see our Essex friends again.......

So actually, we are far busier than we expected to be at this time of year - the sun is certainly helping attract people to us and yes, the garden is still doing very nicely thank you. Today we did over 120 lunch covers and we were lucky to get some scraps of Roast Beef for our own Sunday lunch......... Black Prince - a fabulous dark, slightly sweet ale from St Austell is back on the pumps again and already selling very nicely thank you!

I went back to Portsmouth this week for a couple of days and stayed at the great B & B more commonly known as best mate Tanya's.......... ! Saw my Consultant in Southampton and he was very pleased with me this time round. The special Asthma Clinic in Southampton is a great place - the staff are amazing! They do the most fantastic research on Asthma and are really seen as a pioneering clinic, so I know I'm in safe hands. I also hit the shops - hard!! Went out to Pompey with one small half packed holdall and came back with one tightly packed holdall and two very large carrier bags......... which leads me on to the journey home!

The Cardiff train from Portsmouth (change at Westbury) is always and I mean always full - it's a horrid journey and this time just to make it even worse they took a carriage off and a three carriage train became two! But....... the train manager was a sweetheart! He found me a seat (yep, I think I looked like an old bag lady!) and then checked back to see I was ok! More people like him and I'm sure there wouldn't be so much aggression from passengers.

But let me ask you one thing dear reader of my blog - do YOU ever get the nutters on your journey?? Because God help me, I always seem to ! This time on the second half of my journey home I had the bloke with a face like Joe Bugner, a beanie hat on and an Ipod thingy that I could hear half way down the platform - where did he sit??? Yes - you got it.......... right next to me across the aisle! I tutted, I glared, I tapped my fingers (he probably thought I was joining in!) I put my fingers in my ears - I didn't actually have the courage to ask him to turn it down (well- would you!!??) so for almost 2 solid bl**dy awful hours I listened to HIS choice of music!!!! I was very pleased to be home.................

Had a great night last night - we went to the Egremont moored in the estuary. The Egremont is an old Liverpool ferry( http://www.icc-salcombe.co.uk/Aboutus.aspx ) that has been turned into a centre for sailing courses and they do a lot of work with inner city kids as well. Great place with really lovely young staff! Local people were invited on last night for a BBQ and we had a great couple of hours.......... seeing Salcombe from the water in the dark was a quite magical experience, with all it's twinkling welcoming lights as you came round the corner of the estuary on the little tender. As for the sun set - make your own opinion from the photo......

Then lastly, one of my favourite TV occasions last night - the Last Night of the Proms. I have loved classical music since I was a little girl, and while many call the LNP jingoistic, I see it as a celebration of some fantastic music. It just so happens that people wave flags and these days the flags are from all round the world. I dropped lots of hints last night to SOH as to the fact it's a concert I've long wanted to go to...................
Just to wet your appetite in anticipation of my next blog entry, I'm wedding dress shopping tomorrow........ you can bet I'll have plenty to talk about next time as well!



Thursday, 3 September 2009

Who turned the light out....?

THEN - as soon and as powerfully as it started - it's finished....... the 'season' that is! Honestly, it really is like someone turned a switch off in town. Just as quickly as we woke up and town was flooded with holiday makers some six or seven weeks ago its now suddenly quite quiet and a lot calmer! Spookily and bizarrely eery..........
The weather hasn't helped of course, yesterday it absolutely rained cats and dogs and today although it's been a lot drier you can feel a real autumnal nip in the air. Staff are looking and feeling really quite tired - but it's time now to refresh and re-charge our batteries (SOH and myself as well...) and look forward to the Autumn / Winter.

But first - how do I / we think the summer went?? On the whole I'm really positive, pleased and very grateful that our hard work paid off. The garden was used a lot more than I had thought it would be - I think advertising earlier in the year paid off dividends and the photo board outside the front of the pub really helped as well - as did the flower baskets on the pub.... we had lots of comments that it was this display that bought the customers in! I also think we had our menu more or less right as well - I believe there was a great choice, although I would have liked to see more choice of specials - but I take Chef's point that when we are doing 200 - 250 covers DAILY in the summer (on some days - even more than that!!) then its tricky - but we'll aim to do better on this front in the Autumn.

The bar / waiting staff did a great job in ensuring high levels of customer service, and given that there were times that there was hardly room to turn in the pub I think they did a grand job. However, staffing levels were a consistent problem - but again feedback from many customers has been that we had more available / visible staff than most of the pubs in Salcombe - but when the staff shortages hit - then they really hit us very hard and it all became very hard work to cover one sometimes tweo absent people, and I need to do some work on this area for the future. Delivering the volumes of food to the garden in the quantities we did was especially tough on the staff and the BBQ although a huge, fantastic, great success was again quite strenuous for the staff - and next year I must take that in to account when hiring staff.

The kitchen did a fantastic job of ensuring that all the food that came out of the kitchen was 1st class and I am very proud of them. I think I can count on ten fingers the complaints that were brought to me and considering the hundreds and hundreds of meals we served (probably in to thousands actually) then we're most happy with 'our boys'!

Tim got our beer orders just right and not once did we run out of a beer...........so especially well done to him for all the hard work he did in the cellar! Talking of beer we got 100% Cask Marque status again today - ey, he keeps a great cellar does my man!! X So all told - an absolutely fantastic first summer season - we've met some really great people and made friendships that I hope continue when our holidaymakers return to Salcombe in October (as promised by many!).

So whats my plan for the next couple of weeks then - well, firstly, it is to ensure staff take time off to get themselves back to full speed, many of the temporary staff have left and only the lovely Leah is staying for another few weeks. Then it's for US to get some rest and ensure we get back to a position of strength, and then I think we'll hopefully take a few days away in November for a proper holiday in the country. The Christmas party menu's have gone out to the relevant companies and organisations in Salcombe, I hand delivered most of them this morning in town and we have our Christmas display with Christmas and NY menu's in the door way as you come in to the Victoria.

I met with James our Chef this week and we discussed the Autumn / Winter menu - I'm not saying any more about it until we're ready to run with it - but I'll unveil it on the 1st October - suffice to say, we had a really big input in to it and I'm VERY pleased with it!!! Yummy..........
We'll have a staff meeting soon and get staff points of view as to how well or otherwise they think it went - and what suggestions they can make for the future. I'll go back over the customer service point of view and make sure we all work from the same viewpoint, and then heavens, we'll need to start thinking seriously about planning Christmas......
The coal-man has a shed load of our money and is ready to deliver us the coal as and when we need it over the winter and two great big deliveries of logs were also made to us this week - so we are ready for when the weather dictates us putting the fires up and started.
SOH and I are off to Cornwall tomorrow to have a look at a St Austell pub that has an awning as that's what we're aspiring to have at the back of our building. Even on wet horrible days, customers have wanted to sit outside and eat or drink and we think we could have a great 'al-fresco' space, but we'll see what we think tomorrow - and whether the vision lives up to the real thing!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

oochy coochy coo.....

Now then - what do you think that means....???? Yep - there's a baby in the house! Not just any baby either - this is Master Elliot and he's 6 months old - and if anything was guaranteed to bring a smile to my face, then it's him!! He was just what the Dr ordered!!!! He is the son of our friend Ellie and they and our other very good friend Jo have come down to stay for just a couple of days. He seems to be one of those babies that just never stops smiling and cooing and gurgling - and entrancing everyone around him........

He has had the effect of making me speak 'baby gabble' almost on first sight and it has been delightful to cuddle and play with him - he's a very responsive baby and smiles at almost anything! An absolute and utter time waster - but what a great way of doing nothing! I wasn't so sure at first how having a baby enter our tidy and ordered life (albeit temporarily) was going to be for us - but actually, it's seemed very natural - and I wish they were staying longer...... even SOH - who is known to me as the 'Child Catcher' (!- lol) due to his distinct lack of enthusiasm around babies and children has taken to him - and here is the proof of it - although I must say he does look slightly pensive....... almost as though he's not sure if he's holding Elliot correctly or not!?! In fact as I sit here typing I can hear banging on the ceiling above me - SOH tells me it's Elliot laying on his baby mat kicking on the floor........... blimey!!

But having Elliot here has bought back loads of forgotten memories of when my own son was a baby - ah your first born - there is nothing quite like it......... I can remember when he was only a couple of days old looking at him in the hospital (the halcyon days of when you had at least 7 days rest in hospital!! Not like now) and just crying because I couldn't believe that this beautiful baby was mine, the lovely baby smell of him when he'd been bathed, the fact he loved his wrapping paper on his first Christmas presents more than what was inside..... memory is a funny old thing isn't it - and they grow up so quickly.........ah well. Anyway, tomorrow, I'm baby sitting him while Mum goes out for a little shop in Salcombe and I'll make the most of it I think.........

So what else have I been up to as well as cooing at Elliot - well, we've had the flat painted and decorated and incredibly good it looks as well..........our kitchen has a sunny peach wall with the fireplace as a feature now - and our lounge is a peaceful haven of very, very pale coffee. A new plant, some finishing touches and eh voila - a place to live in out of the pages of Devon Life..... :) Well - may be not quite - but we love it!
On top of all that the 'season' rolls on reaching it's climax this Bank Holiday weekend - the supplies are in from St Austell - poor draymen had a massive delivery yesterday and probably some more on Friday. They are just so lovely bless'em. We're all feeling a bit jaded and staff are quite tired now - you can see their bounce isn't quite as it was 5 weeks ago. The great Tribute beer is soooooo popular, and everyone says what a great pint it is but Proper Job is coming a close second. The Crabbies alcoholic Ginger Beer is selling very well - but also the fruit juices etc are doing very well........ I'm back off the drink in an effort to 'Not be a fat Bride' and was rewarded with a 3 pound loss this week - hoorah! Mind you with such a busy week last week I'm not at all surprised! No more celebrities since Geri Halliwell popped in last week - can't remember if I told you that - she was so pretty and so tiny.....she seemed really lovely!
Weather has taken a turn for the worse today - horribly windy and wet, but a better forecast is promised for the rest of the week - we'll see. So enjoy your last Bank Holiday before Christmas (!) and I'll post again next week.
Now then Elliot - cooey cooey blah blah............................ X

Friday, 21 August 2009

A perfect day.........

I think it was Lou Reed that sung ''Perfect Day', and considering the trauma's of the past few weeks I had a perfect day yesterday!! In my relationship with SOH (Scrumptious Other Half - Tim) I'm not hugely demanding (stop sniggering at the back thank you!!) but when we came down here we promised each other to take time to appreciate why we came down to this beautiful part of the world. This included regular time off together............... guess when we last had a proper day off together?? That's right - an awful long time ago! So I have pencilled in a regular day off every week from now until the end of September and we started yesterday.

Of course, in this business it's really difficult to have the whole day off without doing some chores, unless you actually go away - yesterday that was the banking and the Booker order........ but after that we had the day to ourselves. We started off by having a visit to the Salcombe Museum - we have had a quick peek before, but SOH wanted to have a proper look and I'm really glad we did as it was incredibly interesting. Two little old Salcombe ladies were the guardians of the museum yesterday, and I never fail to be surprised at Salcombe residents kindness to us both, yesterday was no exception. These two ladies went out of their way to tell us of their memories of Salcombe - and fascinating it was as well!!

For the next part of our day, all I knew was that SOH was taking me to lunch first but I didn't know where. As we approached Trago Mills on the Exeter road SOH said we were going to a little cafe in the shopping centre - I made the appropriate 'lovely' murmurs, desperately hoping he was teasing.... thankfully, he was!!

We were actually headed for a place called Doddiscombsleigh!! As hard to find as it is to pronounce....... but what a lovely ride in the country and the most beautiful tree shaded roads. Oh so very romantic... well I thought so!! Eventually our destination was signposted - The Nobody Inn. A fabulous eclectic mix of furniture and fittings, over 240 whiskies and 200 wines. Really good home-cooked food and the best Summer Pudding (and double cream...!) I have tasted in a long time. We had a lovely time and eavesdropping on the party behind us as they talked about being in charge of a business - it was a bit like listening to a David Brent sound a like.

After that it was a case of going where the fancy took us - and it took us to Dartmoor. I've never been on the moors - driven near , but never through or on. It was fantastic....... the scenery and views in some places was totally breathtaking, with the most adorable horses and foals, yet in others cold and desolate - no more so than Dartmoor Prison in Princetown. What an awful place - really forbidding and actually quite scary - even from a distance. It was easy to imagine how prisoners in the early part of the century must have felt at going to such a desolate area, little heating and the winter's must have been quite horrendous. I wonder what todays prisoners think?
After that we drove to Badgers Holt where the east and west parts of the River Dart meet - again another lovely beauty spot, where rescue chickens are homed - those that come from battery farms etc. We of course had the obligatory cream tea - there's no doubt that Devon and Cornwall do great local produce such as this - and settled in the car afterwards to listen to the cricket for a little while......... what happened? We fell asleep in the car like a pair of old age pensioners!! Coming too to find the car park a lot emptier thann when we got in the car and the shop closed up....! Thankfully not the loos!
So a pleasant trip home ensued, where we crept in via the side entrance, Glo (our bar manager) very kindly offered to close the pub up so we didn't have to venture outside our front door, and we settled down with a couple of G & T's, the TV and a pizza....BLISS! We both agreed it was a PERFECT DAY..........

Saturday, 15 August 2009

And Breathe............

We're nearly at the end of the Regatta - last day tomorrow....... and SOH reminded me last night that it will be a year to the day come Sunday that we came to the Victoria Inn to do a last look round before taking over in the October. Crikey we've come a long way since then - I remember Karen - one of our barmaids being all on her own, the garden having very few people in and that with uncollected glasses etc it looked a bit of a tip! Oh yes, and SOH managed to throw the best part of a fruit juice all over me!!! So yes, we have come a long way since then...... all in all it's been a pretty good Regatta for us trade wise - the garden when it's been sunny and warm has been full - in fact yesterday, sadly a family didn't stay as there was not a single outside table! Even when it's been a bit wet people have chosen to sit outside under shelter...... thats where an awning on one of the outside walls would come in handy for al-fresco dining.... but thats a whole different post for the future!?!

The BBQ has done very well most evenings - but still is slightly hard to predict as to how busy we'll be or not be - but as a general rule we're doing an average of 50 BBQ's a night - sometimes 80 - sometimes 30!! The restaurant though has been full and tables turned over 2 or 3 times in a session...... clever staff I've got! But business aside - the town has had a fantastic feeling to it - I guess the bunting in town has contributed to the carnival feeling, and their have been quite a lot of events in the square opposite the Vic - gymnastics, line dancing (I'd so fall over my own feet if that was me!) barbershop singing - a quartet and a fabulous group - The Kingsmen. They were really great - barbershop singing (particularly women-sorry!) is NOT my favorite style of singing and I would NEVER go out of my way to listen to it - but this group were something else! With the most darling little lad in the middle of them singing his heart out!! I think you can just see him in the middle of the picture........ I was humming one of their songs for the rest of the evening and long after they left!

On a personal basis we got Beth's ashes back yesterday - totally surreal that this small wicker pouch contains our beloved Beth...... when SOH goes back to Winchester he's going to take the ashes and scatter them over one of her favourite places that she used to love to run and play on when she was younger and fitter. Those of you that knew her back then will guess where that is - better not put the destination on here in case some bureaucrat says 'its not allowed'........!

Also, having our flat above the pub painted and tidied up by Luke - a lovely young local man and who just happens to be the son of Glo our bar manager........ as pub accomodation goes this is probably one of the best you are likely to find. Traditionally, pub accomodation is never that great as of course it's not a priority for breweries and SOH says he's seen (and lived!) in some right grotty places, but ours here is actually quite lovely. When we shut our door we are totally cocooned away from the pub (apart from the dratted phone!).
My home and where I spend my quiet time (ha!!) has always been very important to me and I know that SOH appreciates the home I've made for us - so this lick of paint will just put the finishing touches to it for us.

In the photo is our kitchen - we're having one wall a beautiful peach colour and the old fireplace will be much more a feature of the room. After that comes the hall, stairs and landing, bathroom and then the lounge - oohh, we will look luverly!! Then the pub's working kitchen will also get painted to freshen that up after the season.

Oh yes, and I've started my 'I will not be a fat Bride' regime - but properly this time...... I've joined an online support group, 'Sparkpeople' - predominently American - but really nice people, all with a common goal. I also have joined a 'fitbug' group - you get a pedometer and track how far or how many steps you are taking every day.
Fighting a weight problem has been with me for most of my adult life - there was a time - when I was 16 (!) - that I vaguely remember being slim!! But in the last 30 plus years if I had a real quid for the pounds that have gone on and off, and also the amount of money I 've spent on trying to lose weight then not only would I be happier with myself but I'd be rich............ So the big day is March 20th next year and 'I will not be a fat Bride'...............

Now then where did I hide those trainers............... :)