Monday, 27 April 2009

Soon be another

Bank Holiday that is........... we've just got ourselves rested and sorted after Easter and blow me another Bank Holiday is nearly upon us! Everyone says that this first May bank holiday won't be as busy as the Whitsun - but we already have quite a few bookings. Noteably a 'Hen' party this weekend coming - but I'm advised they're quite refined and perhaps not the hen parties of Portsmouth I've been privvy to!! It's been quite a quiet week or two following Easter - but we've not been sorry in a few ways as it's given us a chance to look at what worked(in terms of staffing and menu's) and also I can't really tell you what the sheer exhaustion of that busy week was like.

I was listening to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 this lunchtime and they were discussing that old chest nut of having a supposedly 'cushy' life in Local Government...... when I worked for various Local Authorities, NHS and Housing Association I always felt that the majority of my colleagues and myself worked really quite hard - particularly when I was in the homeless department at Portsmouth City Council, but there is absolutely nothing on this earth that compares with being self employed in the Pub business! I can not begin to explain to any of you reading this just what hard graft it is to do the work we do........Of course the rewards are good - you are your own boss, you can come and go as you please, your outgoings aren't massive in terms of every day living and we have met some fabulous customers.

But then there is the flip side - on average SOH and I do most days a 14 - 17 hour day - and that is almost every single day. We have just agreed to take one whole day off each week and we are quite lucky in that we have a couple of days away over the next month. Then there is the fact you are always on call - unless, as I've started to do you ask not to be disturbed for an hour or two in the afternoon unless it's life or death!! There is always and I do mean always something to do - whether it's never ending paper work, recruitment / HR issues or simply changing a barrel of beer (I'm getting better at that!). On the note of having the odd day off we are both off to Truro tomorrow for a St Austell trade show so that will make a pleasant change. We have so much of Devon and Cornwalll to explore and we have to do it now - or come the summer season we'll be going no-where.

Going back to having met some lovely people we have had some great customers in the last couple of weeks - it's really odd how the very different times of the season bring a totally different range of customer.... lots of couples at the moment old and young and most have been just charming. Last night I met the chap who is a partner in Quba - a clothing shop that makes gorgeous jackets out of sail material - and he and his friend were quite smashing .....apart from wanting to call me Auntie Liz (in the agony aunt role!!). Tonight I met a man who went to the same Junior school as me in Portsmouth and at the same time as well..... it's a small old world!

Our chickens are doing very well and producing two eggs a day now! They have grown so big as well....... and their characters are developing beautifully. In fact we've just had eggs on toast for tea - and there's no doubt you can taste the freshness of them! We can stand and watch them for ages - I'm actually starting to quite like them! Here are some photo's taken by Lisa Beaney our very good photographer friend.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

And breath

Then it was all over.......... the Easter break that is. It was all a bit of an anti-climax today actually, as I awoke to SOH telling me that we had no water for the pub!! Aarrgh......... our life wouldn't be complete without regular problems with the drains, plumbing, sewerage etc etc...... all apparently because a) the drains system is antiquated and b) because we are sooooo close to the sea the tides play havoc with the whole system(?). So a dirty great big hole at the entrance to Fore Street thanks to a massive water leak meant we had no cars in the car park all day - which in one way was fabulous to have no cars in the street - but played hell with our normal Sunday trade! This time though we weren't the only ones affected. Tonight, although the road is still closed we are in fact quite busy - so all may end well after all. So what was the damage from Easter? Well, 1 missing soap dispenser from Trego Mills, (cheap in other words) a whole box of tissues taken, trampled on plants in the garden and 1 condom machine in the gents broken into (Talk about desperate - if they'd asked we'd have given 1 free..!!) and the ladies machine was almost broken into - but not quite! As for the seagulls - they are a nightmare = and are quite kami-kazi in their attacks on anything left laying around....Apart from that I think we had a pretty good time - but we are both quite shattered - so this will be a fairly short entry!

One of our chickens is giving us an egg a day - I'm having an omelette tonight (Thanks Millie), and still we have them trying to get out of the pen - are they trying to tell us something??? We have very dear friends coming to stay tomorrow night for a couple of nights and they are experienced at keeping chickens so they can tell us where we're going wrong IF indeed we are going wrong.... ungrateful little sods!!! A couple of the local boat builders are taking great delight in teasing me about bringing a cockerel to the pub - SOH assures me they won't.... mmmm I'm not so sure! Ok - off now as omelette just about ready........... till another time!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


One of the chickens - Millie - has laid her / our first egg!! Its almost as exciting as having a baby.....................Guess what I'm having for tea tonight!?!?

Monday, 13 April 2009

Easter weekend

Oh My Goodness.......... WHAT a weekend!!!!! I don't quite know where to start really - I feel quite shell shocked by the whole experience! As do my feet, legs, back etc etc....

I know - I'll start where I left off on the last post - our chickens! I'm glad to report that following the whole Great Escape / wing clipping experience they have at last settled down. All are developing their own characters, all have grown quite a lot in a short space of time - and SOH was right (I have to say as usual!) in that they would be a huge draw for the pub, I've even had feeding time with customers children throwing small handfuls of seed to them. Not quite got round to charging them for the privilige!! Joke (I think)!! But now this weekend is over I'll try to take some photo's and get them named.

Back to our first Easter weekend in Salcombe. We have learnt that when tourism hits here - boy it really hits! The weekend has been absolutely stunningly gorgeous - the sun shone from Friday right through to this lunchtime, with the sky gradually losing it's beautiful azure blue colour to become grey, cold and now rain! But we have been so lucky - the estuary was packed with boats of all shapes and sizes, our garden was also packed most of the time as well and we received many, many comments on how good the garden and the pub were looking...... our new menu's have been very well received and on one of the days (can't remember which as it's all a bit of a blur now!) we did almost 250 covers! James and his team turned out some amazing food - and Glo and the bar staff coped admirably. Incredible! As for drink - well lets just say that we'll be glad to see the dray (beer delivery) tomorrow! The only thing we ran out of totally though were straw's - so SOH got our beer order just about right..... We also met some incredibly nice people as well, especially some who are our nearest neighbours - albeit 2nd home owners so not here all the time - but I think we made some great new friends.

Rugby 7's also hit yesterday in Salcombe - that's a huge annual rugby tournament here. On advice from other landlords we virtually stripped and locked down the pub after 8.30 in the evening and I have to say that we got off lightly both in terms of teams coming in to our pub and bad behaviour. The Salcombe rugby boys came in - but they are a joy to have in, they sing a song or three and one of them usually to some hapless female - aka me, but this weekend, visitors received that (dubious) pleasure. I had a few words with a couple from a visiting team - bit too much drink, showing off in front of girls and foul language. So I politely but firmly told them we were a family pub and that bad language wasn't tolerated......they left shortly after... phew! A couple of the other pubs didn't do so well though - with a few nasty fights and Police called - I'm really pleased I didn't have to clean those pubs this morning!!

Going back a couple of days, Good Friday bought another unique experience for me. My new found faith saw me attending my church - Holy Trinity, Salcombe - with a 'Walk of Faith' through Salcombe. One of the congregation carried a huge wooden cross to various points around the town and we sang hymns and had prayers and readings. I was asked if I would like to deliver a reading, and I did this at the over 60's club up at the end of town but right on the waters edge. I found the whole experience incredibly moving, especially as it was about a disciple saying to Mary ' I am your Son' that moment I experienced a rush of homesickness for my own darling son Paul who I see so little of nowadays since we moved here, and I had real trouble not getting emotional - then the sun just burst through a cloud bringing the sea and the landscape to life and I felt strangely uplifted and ok again..... Then finally up the hill to church for the end of the service where Father Daniel sang unaccompanied and the hairs on the back of my neck just stood to attention! And again, that feeling I've had before since we've been here of at last being part of a real loving and caring community - and a reminder that we're not just here to make money!!

So to tonight, you can see by car park spaces and the lack of boats that lots of the tourists are heading home, and now the weather has turned we will almost certainly see people going home sooner rather than later! So me and my feet are off for a sit down and a bit of relaxation..............

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Here we go......

Well then - in the immortal words of the song: 'ere we go, ere we go, ere we go'......... and the tourists have started to arrive - in droves!! One minute we're sleepy little Salcombe, wake up the next day and we're starting to see: cars arrive (lots of four wheel drives) and unpacked with cases, bags, buckets and spades littering all available spaces, Quba jackets abound on men and women, girls with limbs like colts, blonde maines of hair and suitably short skirts! Boys with foppish Hugh Grant haircuts and polo shirts with upturned collars are everywhere and 'yummy mummy's' are in great evidence........It's a most curious phenomenon!!! But makes people watching great fun......

As for the Victoria Inn - I'm most pleased (and relieved) to say, that we have been seeing large numbers of people in both the pub and also the restaurant. Last night saw every table in both restaurants taken, and with some lovely customers - a group of Nurses were great fun as were a whole bunch of Sailors. We had the most fantastic comments on our food and I was so proud of our chefs. One party wasn't pleasant though, and despite having led several large departments in Local Government and dealt with really difficult tenants at times (threats of serious injury to my person were not uncommon!) I find this sort of customer to be particularly challenging. However, I am learning (incredibly quickly) that there are such things as professional complainers - people who come to a restaurant with the specific aim of getting a free or cheap meal....... last night we appeared to have some of those!! I got hugely upset when this particular party had left as I knew their complaint was totally, completely and utterly unjustified, and it took a large G & T and massive post supper chat with experienced bar staff to realise that actually this is something that 1) they've all experienced at some stage in their jobs and 2) provided Tim, myself and the Chefs / Bar Manager are happy that all is/was as it should be - then as front of house boss I just have to take it on the chin, cope, smile and MOVE ON!!!!!!!! So last night was the first and last time (I hope!) that I let a customer make me weep.

Moving on to today, it has been a different kettle of fish altogether........ really busy still, but smoother somehow and a really good feel to the day. The garden has been incredibly well used, tonight the restaurant and bar has been full to capacity with tables being turned over twice - and the most fabulous customers..... I almost feel quite privileged to be meeting some of the people I am meeting and as an added bonus, most of the children have been polite and very well behaved!! I have been out and about again for an hour or so at lunch time with our flyers that let people see who we are, and that we are the only pub in Salcombe to have a garden, childrens play area etc etc - oh yes, and now of course chickens!!

The chickens are here....... and the last 24 hours have been a bit like a Monty Python sketch in places! Firstly going to the 'Sign of the Owl' pet and bird sanctuary was yet another traumatic experience for me with the turkeys etc (read the last post.....) but once in their new home I have to admit they are proving to be enchanting - AND totally exasperating!! Yesterday was the first time that our 8 little darlings have seen grass or felt it under their feet, or been able to eat the flys or peck at the bramble bushes........ are they grateful - are they heck!! Last night, one of them decided to bury themselves in the hedge and we thought she had been stolen, and today two have tried doing an escape plan all afternoon!!!! The 2 brown ones - don't ask what type just yet, that comes in another post - one (Millie) hopped over the fence twice and had to be chased round the garden - and the other (Amelia) found a whole in the fence and decided to perch perilously close to the edge of a sheer 18 - 20 foot drop.......... with SOH (Tim) having to go on the verandah roof of a neighbour to try to grab it back!

With SOH hanging a bit close to the edge himself, Amelia decided to go back into the pen of her own accord!! Aarghhhhhhhhh.......... With this a couple of customers (two of many who were laughing none too quietly for my liking!) helped us out and clipped their wings - literally! So we are hopeful that they will now settle down and learn to love us and their environment......... anyway, they are proving to be exactly the draw for the children that SOH said they would be - he's a clever so and so!! Beth is not quite so sure....... x