Sunday, 31 May 2009

What a Whit (!)

Sorry about the pun in the title, but it's certainly been quite a Whitsun! I have so much to say as it's been such a busy week........ firstly, how about that thing that we British love to discuss more than anything else in the world..?? (apart from MP's expenses!) The Weather.... oh my goodness, if this is the summer in Salcombe, then all I can say is bring it on.........!!! It has been the most glorious week here since I last blogged - apart from 1 day when it was all a bit iffy to start with, it's been absolutely tremendous.

So then - lets start with my friend Dena and her Mum's (Eileen) surprise 80th birthday party. This was the first time we had used our upstairs restaurant for a function of this nature and I'm very pleased to report it went off like clockwork. Dena had arranged a Frank Sinatra tribute act - a man by the name of Frankie Brava. I have to say he was absolutely fabulous - people outside in the street thought we had CD's on he was that good! Eileen had about 70 guests and couple that with a full downstairs restaurant on the Bank Holiday Monday, you can guess we were fairly (!) busy. Out of that has already come 1 confirmed booking and 1 tentative enquiry for something similar - so good news all the way round. That was a great end to the actual Whit weekend then and a brilliant start to this week, which had periods of being a little quiet when everyone took to the beach because of the heat - but it's been the late afternoons and early evenings when we've been rushed off our feet! It's quite an odd phenomenon - at around 5.15 there's a bell goes off in tourists heads and they come in to the pub en masse.................. one day last week due to poor planning and even poorer communication between staff (its all a learning curve!) we had 36 guests all wanting to be fed at 6.00.......... chef and kitchen bods weren't best impressed and I can't say I blame them! So, a new system is in place that lets us filter it all a bit easier and guests and staff all get a better deal. This week has been the closest we'll know about the summer break before it hits us in July - so if mistakes are going to be made (and it's daft to think they won't) then it's best to have them now!! Apart from that one evening session, it's all been fairly manageable - staff have arrived when they should and almost 500 meals were served over the course of 2 days. So SOH and I have been very pleased with how things went.

We also had a couple of friends, Mark & Jo come to visit us Thursday and Friday, so as we were fully staffed we took the day off with them on Friday and went to Dartmouth and Brixham. We drove through Slapton Sands and past Blackpool Beach - two more absolutely stunning places. The scenery as you drive round to Dartmouth is just stunning! Anyway, firstly we popped in to the Dart Marine Hotel in Dartmouth and had a waterside drink..................... now thats a nice place to go to if you've got a spare couple of bob! A ferry ride across the river and lunch in Brixham. Twice now that I've been there - and it's no good, I'm just not that keen....... sorry Brixham. What else - oh yes, the Salcombe Gospel choir I belong to - 'Honest Gospel' are busy rehearsing for the Salcombe Music Festival the weekend of 13th June, so Thursday evening's see me up at the Church singing my (Tenor) heart out.... Oh I absolutely love singing and we are sounding just great, and I've made such lovely friends!

So thats the week just about wrapped up in a few paragraphs. Still very busy tonight, and apparently some schools still on holiday next week - so who know's what that will bring us! Not that I'm tooooooo bothered as I fly away early Wednesday morning to Gibraltar and Spain, and I am VERY much looking forward to my hard earnt break - only wish SOH was coming too, alas he has to look after business - ah well, I'm sure I'll have a nice time. Very much doubt that I'll do another entry before Wednesday - but if I get the chance I'll try to log in to an internet cafe somewhere on my hols.

Take care my dear readers................ x

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

We're nearly there

Well we're nearly there........ preparing for summer that is! This is just a quick post tonight - but wanted to say a big thank you to some people for making the frontage of the Victoria Inn soooooooooo fabulous.

Firstly - St Austell - thank you for putting our pub in to the re-decs budget and agreeing for all the signage to be re-done.
Secondly - Thanks to 'New Build' for having done the decorating - the Poppy Red doors are getting favourable comments - even now!!
Lastly - A huge thank you to Potters Nursery at Totnes....... they put our new hanging baskets and troughs up today - and they look as though they'll be fabulous.

So all in all - hey, it's nearly the season. SOH has been hard at work for the last couple of days putting up two brand new sheds - one for the ice cream freezer in the garden from which will be sold the MOST delicious ice-cream: Moorland Meadow, and the 2nd will take some of the big catering items that we've currently no room for in the rest of the buildings. Took a HUGE delivery of beers and wines etc in yesterday in readiness for this weekend - blimey, crates and crates of wines and some amazing smelling Absolut Vodka - Raspberry, Honey, Vanilla................ note I say smell, not taste!! Thats because I'm on the most massive health kick and am completely of the drink and all of James's (chef) lovely cooking (and the fabulous Ice Cream) at least until a few more stone have gone.......have even bought new trainers for walking!!!

Until next week then my lovely friends, have a great weekend yourselves whatever you're doing - if you're coming to the Victoria Inn then do say hello, in the meantime here's the photo's to show how very smart we're looking.........

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Ahhh - Sunday Bliss

Ahhh - Sunday ..... one of the most blissful days of the week! I must admit my Sunday's are totally different now to anything I've ever known, but oh how I do love them. I love working on the bar on Sunday's and just making sure our guests are getting excellent customer service - and then its also the afternoon for paperwork and seeing what we've made AND spent!!

Today started a little bit differently though as I had a lay in - no church today. The service today up at church is a sung eulogy and it might as well be Swahili for all I understand it - it doesn't float my boat so I don't go, I'll make sure I have a quiet word with Him before the day's out though to make up for it.

We're recovered from our fabulous 2 days break away - again, just going away for a couple of days takes a fair amount of planning so thank you Glo for all your help in looking after the 'Vic' so we could go and have a bit of fun. Talking of which only a couple of weeks before I jet off on my own to our flat in Spain - well, technically it's SOH's but working on the principle thats what his is mine and vice versa etc etc, lol.......... its become ours!! Anyway - I digress, yes, I'm off to the land of sun and sangria for 7 whole nights in just a couple of weeks!

I've booked in to The Rock Hotel in Gibraltar a fabulous old colonial style hotel for 2 nights of luxury. I have a lot of memories of Gibraltar over a great number of years holidaying there - some good, some great and some not so good, so it's a great opportunity to visit friends, re-live some memories and put others away for ever. I do love Gibraltar on the whole, it's people are fabulous - and I haven't been for about 5 years now - so it'll be interesting to see how it's changed - if at all. My plans include; visiting the Apes on the Rock and staying for as long as I want, going to the Casino next door to the hotel (adjoined by a fabulous garden walk) late at night like a grown up, walking down the Main Street and drinking coffee in Saccarello - a fabulous coffee shop with smells that make your mouth water. Then whatever else I fancy and as the fancy takes me........

I have to get there by bus from Fuengirola - that's a first and should be interesting...... well I got myself around Marrakesh last year on my own so hopefully the South Coast of Spain will be a doddle!?! Then its back to our flat for 4 days and nights doing nothing but sleeping, reading and catching the rays! Oh yes, and listening to my new iPod. Talking of which I'm the proud owner of a pretty little purple iPod Nano - oh it is lovely...............and I managed to download it from the computer and load music, buy music - blimey there'll be no stopping me now!!

Workwise - visitors are plentiful and a lot of them talking about staying the whole week before we get the schools break up for half term - then the fun will begin all over again! Chickens - well, they're delivering 6 - 8 eggs a day, and we have home cooked gammon, chips and our own free range eggs on the menu - at the moment supply can't meet demand so come on girls.......

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Fabulous few days

Well - what a fabulous couple of days Tim and I have had away!! Where shall I start...... firstly, I've found out that Devon is not the end of the earth (well from theatre land in London anyway!) it's actually just a little over 3 hours away from Totnes to Paddington.... so maybe the odd trip to a show or a play won't be out of the question once or twice a year. It's not a bad train ride at all - and had we known, we could have had a lunch on the train as they had a dining car! The menu was quite good as well - and a fellow customer told me that it was of quite a high standard, so perhaps something to consider for the next time?

The hotel we stayed in was lovely - literally 5 minutes walk from the station, modern, clean and not bad at all from picking one at random off the Internet. We walked down the Edgeware Road on the Monday afternoon so I could get my bearings for the lunch on Tuesday at The Grosvernor House hotel. Now last year I was lucky enough to go to Marrakesh on my own for 4 nights - and I was sure that I was back there when I walked down the Edgeware Road! We were astounded at how many cafes had seats outside with Arab gentlemen sat round the huge 'Hooka' pipes! In fact we thought we ought to buy one or two and bring back to Salcombe - see if it would catch on!! Lol........

Our Monday evening saw us in theatre land - my goodness Covent Garden has changed so much since I was last there some years ago, it certainly didn't seem to have the 'magic' I've felt before. A nice meal preceded the show Oliver - and my goodness, what an amazing show..... Les Miserables remains my all time favourite show, but Oliver was very, very good. Rowan Atkinson was Fagin - and once you saw past Mr Bean - he was really fabulous, and I'm so pleased we saw the show with him in it. Oliver was the little welsh blonde boy Gwion - he was adorable, and Nancy - Jody Prenger, well a powerhouse of a performance. The staging of the show was incredible and the scenery and lighting was just excellent. A really fantastic evening - thank you for the treat SOH............

Tuesday was the BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) lunch at Grosvenor Square - the 3rd year running that I've been to it - and this year I opted for sensible shoes as I now know from experience that its not just the lunch but the pub run afterwards that's the tough going on the feet! Anyway, back to the lunch.... great table this year, with the chairman of our region - Keith de Bruin and his wife, Ali Carter and her partner Tim - a great lady with lots of experience in the pub business and he writes for the BII paper, and a couple of other people I knew by sight. The day started off with a Champagne / drinks reception at about 11.30, and as usual I promised myself to pace myself...mmmnnnnn, did I??? Well honestly - what do you think??? Sort of is the answer! Lunch was not quite as good as it's been previously, but the company more than made up for it. However, the star attraction for me was the guest speaker, Nick Hewer from the Apprentice.....I had shaken hands with him before the drinks reception and in 30 seconds had told him who we were, where we from and invited him to pop into the Victoria next time he's passing by! SOH, looks and smiles very benignly when I launch into my sales pitch - but he always concedes that I'm actually pretty good at it!! He showed a dry, witty sense of humour, and made for a good after dinner speaker - more of him later! Best of all though - we had a go on the usual charity raffle and SOH won a weekend for 2 in Paris or Rome............ how brilliant is that!!

After the lunch and more alcohol (MUCH more alcohol...)we set off for 2 pubs in London, it's become quite a ritual: the Auderly pub just down the road in Mayfair, followed by the Guinea. I decided that as it was only about half three, that I really ought to switch to soft drinks - that is if I was ever going to make it through to the evening.... really nice to bump in to some St Austell colleagues at the Auderly and have a natter about business, then a gentle walk (sway) down to the Guinea, where to hell with soft drinks - lets hit the Gin!!!

By now - early evening, there were an awful lot of people very much the worse for wear (if you're reading this you know who you were!) but work hard, play hard is the motto of this day! Grab a taxi and back to the Auderly for a second attack.... and thats where it happened..I spoke again to Nick Hewer and not only did he remember me as 'that lovely lady from Salcombe' but he kissed my hand!!! I was totally smitten and didn't stop talking about it for ages... (sorry SOH x). All this followed by a taxi ride with Mr de Bruin to a pub he was intent on finding called Waxy O'Connor in Soho - an amazing place that goes goodness knows how far underground and has a curious Irish/church theme (??) or was that the Gin (?) followed by a massive chinese meal at 'Hung's' - a real deal Chinese restaurant not just for tourists. Then just 'one more' drink for the road and it was there I decided I couldn't drink any more for the road, or there was a liklihood I'd hit it!! So it was hail a taxi time, speak a bit more gibberish and fall in to bed - great nights sleep though.... :)
Home today........... and it was so lovely to see Salcombe come into sight as we drove round. As great as London is for a visit - I certainly wouldn't want to ever live there. It was even lovelier to walk through the door and know we were home. So then - a busy couple of weeks on the cards as we head to Whitsun - several big bookings in the pipeline and a week's holiday on my own in Spain in just two weeks........ more of that later!

Oh yes, and on the station at Totnes this afternoon while we were waiting for our chef James to very kindly pick us up, we were entertained by some young people from Dartington College doing some sort of project work to bored passengers - mime, dance etc, thank you for making the time go so swiftly. ........ :)

Saturday, 9 May 2009


Ok - when we came to Salcombe - I was enchanted by the seagulls....... living right by the sea, it was natural to see these gorgeous creatures flying through the air, admiring their gracefulness and wingspan. Oh how the staff teased me - especially James our Head Chef - you wait till the warmer weather and they start nesting he said...... wait until they're on your roof all hours of the day and night he said.... you won't like them so much then he said...... OMG!!!!! He was so right!!!!

This morning (and I hasten to add not for the first time this week) at 3.a.m I was awakened to the sound of what I thought was several babies crying loudly - suddenly being transported to the maternity ward of some 34 years ago it took me several seconds to realise where I was and that in actual fact it was seagulls! At 3.a.m......!!!!! Turning over and burying my head under the covers, (not too dissimilar to the maternity wards in '74 - sorry PJ, I needed my sleep back then as well and left you to the nurses ..!) and cursing them not very quietly I drifted back off to sleep...... not too long after that I was awoken again by similar sounds! Only this time SOH (Tim, my other half for those who find it difficult to keep up!) was nobly standing at the window shooing them away. Some time later - just as I'm in the middle of kissing Tom Jones very tenderly (!), a herd of galloping wilderbeast came pounding across the roof............ no correction, it was of course just several of the flying rats (as I've now not affectionately named them) using our roof as terminal 1 at Heathrow. Aaarrrrrrrgh........... something has to be done - many more nights of only a few hours broken sleep and I'll be setting up an electric wire on the roof..!!

So in a grand effort to ensure a better nights sleep, below are some photo's of my darling SOH scrabbling around on the roof this morning putting up spikes and yet another plastic owl in the hope of at least making the flying rats think twice before using our roof as a landing strip! Not sure what to do next if this doesn't work - a gallon of Gin maybe - for me of course not the flying rats - or maybe a stun gun definitely for them..............!!!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Getting the hang of this

Ok then - I think I'm getting the hang of this pub lark, especially the seasonal trade issues. Now, although I only worked here and there at our old pub in Winchester, there's no doubt about it that on the whole it was pretty much a predictable pattern (give or take the odd very quiet periods that seemed to come out of the blue), with certain days having certain things, like Monday evening Poker, another night a crib night, my Friday night boys etc etc. Here though, its a different pattern of working all together, and what I'm fast realising is that a seasonal pub such as ours is a very different kettle of fish!

Yet again we have just had a Bank Holiday and boy oh boy what another frantic, incredible weekend it's been. What I can't seem to get over is that Salcombe goes to sleep on a Thursday night (like last week) all reasonably quiet and 'normal' and wakes up on the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend to an absolute invasion of people...... It's really the most bizarre phenomenon. The waters that on Thursday had a few boats bobbing up and down was Friday just chock full of yachts of all shapes and sizes and some of the most amazing 'gin palaces' you could only ever lust after!

Of course, as usual, just when I think I've got all bases covered staff sickness hit us for six - but even appendicitis and suspected broken foot can't be faked....... (or can they...?!?) but all that aside, everyone coped admirably, the weather hardly let us down and it was a delight to see our garden used to such a great extent - and I think some of that must have been down to a fantastic advertorial in the local paper. We had a great mix of visitors as well, some were returning who we had met when we first came here and were now on the 2nd of their two hols a year down here and others only just starting their 'Salcombe Season' new friendships were made and all seemed to like our new style of ownership. Quite a lot of European visitors as well - a charming party of 4 Swiss and Italian chaps who seemed intent on drinking the entire bottle of New Zealand Vodka (and they did over the course of the weekend and then some on top), a Dutch family who were sailing, and a fabulous Spanish family from Madrid - my 'Hola' and 'Cómo está' delighted them.......... well at least I think it was delight! Could have been sheer embarrassment for all I know.....

What else...??? Oh yes, I've learnt that far better to have a 30 minute nap on the settee in an afternoon than an hour and a half sleep on the bed. I feel far more refreshed from that. SOH and I have also stuck to our pledge to have a day off a week - today it was Paignton (didn't see 1 swine flu mask!) and Torquay. I didn't think either were particularly fabulous, but after Salcombe it's pretty hard to find anywhere that's half as nice. This week should see Salcombe settle back down to a reasonable 'normal' spell, and we gear up for Whitsun - I'm advised that will be one heck of a week..... but I don't care I have a week in Spain to look forward to straight after that - more of that in another blog.

Our trip to Truro last week was excellent - great to meet colleagues from St Austell, and even better to taste some of the products available to us. We have a great new bottled lager coming, (one that I chose!!) 'Kasteel Cru', the bottle looks very posh with fab glasses and even better, tastes divine!! Our hotel in Truro was quite nice, but already I've acquired a professional eye and can critically appraise almost any task in the hospitality business..... however, if you go to Truro you must go 'Charlottes' tea rooms in town - its like going back 40 odd years in time with old furniture and waitresses in full length white aprons and caps..... just fabulous! With the most amazing Cream Tea's - needless to say, I had to have one!

Next week (it either rains or pours) we have 2 whole days in London to look forward to, as its our BII lunch at the Grosvenor House Hotel. This is my 3rd year of going and its always a great bash, our speaker is Nick Hewer (the grey haired chap from The Apprentice) and if he's anything like he was on the Jonathon Ross radio show the other week he should be great. After the main lunch there's always a fabulous bunch of people that go on to other famous pubs in London and the lunch stretches well in to the evening.... As we are so far away now, we're going to make a proper break of it - plus it means we can possibly (right!) get a lttle tiddly....?! :)