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............... :)

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

School Holidays

SOH has just pointed out to me that we still have three weeks to go yet!! Of the school holidays - the 'season' that is!! Blimey - it's going to be a long 3 weeks thats for sure........ but actually and perversely, I'm really enjoying it..!!?! Does any of that sentence make sense?? I'm so knackered as I sit here typing I barely care anyway - :)

So how's it going? Pretty good actually! The BBQ (another of Tim's brainwaves!) has been an absolute run away success with us regularly doing 60 - 70 BBQ's every night (the great British weather permitting of course!) on Sunday we did over 100. Customers have given great feedback and we made some minor changes straight away - i.e, Childrens burgers, chips and puddings from the dessert menu - not just ice creams. In general the Cream Tea's have picked up, but in fairness they haven't been the success we thought they would be, but the sharing platters have done stonkingly well! So food in the afternoon was a great idea and one we will look to grow for next year. The summer menu has been very well received and the different fish specials have gone very well.

It's been really interesting to observe how different tourists make different drinks choices, one week it's all Gin the next Vodka..... and we have been selling jugs and jugs of Pimms! Beers are another example of consumer choice being hard to gauge at times - normally Tribute outstrips every other beer going - yet this last week or two it has been the Proper Job and even the IPA! Most bizaare!! Take away beers are going well and it's clear that holidaymakers / yachtsmen want a little peice of St Austell to take away with them - and who can blame them!

Staffing continues to be my biggest headache, but I totally appreciate now that it goes with the territory and I do TRY not to get too stressed by it - it's just that when you're struggling with a pub full of expectant tourists and you're finding it hard to deliver the service it can be tough.

Sunday saw the start of the Town Regatta and the Red Arrows in Salcombe's skies - the photo is courtesy of my friend Janice King, my photo's are mere blurs in the sky!! What a brililant display...... and we had a great view from the pub garden - as you can see our staff had a great time!!
Tim and I continue to come to terms with not having Beth in our lives - but crikey it's much harder than I ever thought it would be - I can't open the door or walk down the stairs without expecting to see her. It has to be said that living in a place as small as Salcombe is not without some minor drawbacks, but the kindness we've encountered on losing Beth has been absolutely incredible - we even had a bunch of flowers...... now tell me, where in a big city would anyone care that much??

So all four legged friends to the Victoria are getting extra special treats and affection and one very special dog is Colin. The most adorable 2 year old long haired German Shephard you could ever hope to meet (and his family are rather nice as well!!). Ever since I gave him a little peice of Ham (it was going spare!!) he looks to see where I am and more importantly where his treat is! I think we're going to wait a little while to see whether we should get another dog - Beth is going to be very hard to replace and neither of us is sure that we want to go down that road yet. So in the meantime all of our doggie visitors can be sure of lots of extra attention!!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

What next is what I wonder???

I'm having one of those periods in my life when I wonder what on earth is going to be the next thing that creeps up and wallops me in the eye...... So then you're thinking - what now??

Well just as I thought life was settling down - our little dog Beth went to doggie heaven yesterday to continue chasing rabbits. Poor old girl, she'd been such a faithful companion to Tim for almost 14 years and just on 4 to me as well. Beth never really like Salcombe - it was all too hilly for her old limbs and she hated all the stairs. Because of that and also the fact that we have such a busy pub here she was never quite as much a part of everyday life at the Victoria as she had been at our previous pubs - although I just know that the boys in the kitchen gave her the odd scrap or two when she sat on the edge of the kitchen looking at them longingly and pleadingly with those beautiful eyes of her's that could make anyone give her anything!

At the St James Tavern my memory of first meeting her was that she was curled up on the old settee in the office and was wagging her tail furiously at me to let me know she was friendly and that I needn't be scared - until Beth I had an inate fear of dogs!! Her other favourite place there was at the foot of the stairs coming into the bar - she just loved the company. At the Golden Lion she had the run of the bar as it was all on the ground floor and she often padded into the bar - did a bit of 'hoovering' and then padded out again!

She was very good at sensing when people were ill or sad and there have been many times when I have been one or both of those things and she just sat by my feet not moving. According to Tim she apparently sensed the terrible Tsunami of a few years ago by getting Tim out of bed and when outside just sitting looking up at the moon....?!? My little friend Ashley used to love coming to stay so he could walk her, and it'll be hard to forget her 'woofing' down the phone when she heard my best friend Tanya's voice on the phone.... :) I also don't think we'll ever forget some of the times she was sound asleep and dreaming, twitching and jumping - hence the 'chasing rabbits'!

The vet at Selworthy Practice in Kingsbridge was a fabulous young lady called Carrie Renshaw and she was kindness and compassion itself - both to us and Beth. So it's the end of an era for Tim, myself and huge thanks to all our friends who have sent us such lovely little messages...........So until another time, bye Beth X

Tomorrow is another day, and it's the start of the town regatta week and the Red Arrows are here at around 12......... should be exciting and hopefully nice and busy!! Our BBQ is open from 2.30 through till 8.30 and staff are on all day as the roads are closed for coming in and out of town until the late afternoon. Town is really busy tonight and the bar downstairs is still humming! Whats more - the sun is forecast for tomorrow!! Hoorah!!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Life's a mystery

I've decided at the grand age of 52 that life remains somewhat of a mystery.......? It's certainly been for many reasons one of the most distinct years I've had in a long time - both good and bad - and one that I pretty much think I'll be pleased to see the back of! Firstly, there is nothing like illness and bereavement to reveal to you friends and people who genuinely care about you - those who phone up out of the blue and offer a listening ear or the offer of a shared bottle of wine or coffee (guess which one I prefer!!). With technology now of course there are the texts as well - where just a few shortened words at least show that people have remembered and care about you.

As a pub landlady you tend to be the centre of attention most of the time, whether you like it or not - it's a pivotal role and mostly one that I cherish if I'm truthful. The drums of my small local community have been working overtime the last few weeks, but the compassion and care shown to me has been amazing - not at all like the sheer nosiness I've always known from the coldness of a large City. I know with absolute certainty now that I have some great life long friends in Salcombe.

Then there are funerals in general - what an incredible thing they are when you think about them............Firstly, you invariably see faces that you long since forgot about or they are older and you are shocked to think that so much time has passed by. Then of course, there is the emotion of the day itself that somehow manages to make me want a very large G & T in one go and yet to be super fit and never have to be at the receiving end of the service all in one go!!! As for flowers at funerals - I always consider them a real waste of money - and yet, to see all those beautiful colours on such a cold miserable day seems to help a little. Then there is always the aftermath - 'did you see...?' 'well, fancy so & so turning up'.... the conversations that can last for hours about all the incidentals. Thats pretty much where I've been this week really.......

So in a nutshell my friends those are a fraction of the emotions that have been in my head the last couple of weeks - either all together or in little clumps....... so right now it'll be no surprise to you that I'm veering between wonderful bars of Cadbury's milk chocolate (stored behind me in the office where I type- how convenient is that!!) or pouring over diet / fitness books / websites...!!!

But, incredibly (and thankfully) Salcombe has given me great solace this last couple of weeks........ the (F'ing) seagulls have at last hatched their chicks and their screams are quite different - you can hear the protectiveness in the gull's voices and watching a small gull trying to fly and THEN land the other day actually brought a tear to my eye....... yes it did!! It's been incredible to hear the baby chicks and then try to see where the noise is coming from only to observe them trying to keep their balance on the roofs..........couple with that I've seen them in the water and they look so nervous and fearful but the parent seagulls are never too far away. The tale of the seagulls has been a great re-inforcer of the power of life.

Then there has been the weather itself in Salcombe - we've had rain here last week the like of which I've not seen since we moved down here and incredible winds ..... and you know what? I absolutely loved it!! The power of the sea in bad weather moving the little boats about as they're moored alongside and the noises they make are incredible, the lifeboat strains against it's mooring and creaks as though asking to be set free and the yachts moored out in the estuary bob about as though they are childrens toys.

So life remains a mystery to me, and I'm sure it always will, but I've found many a reason to go out for a walk just to watch nature at play, feel the rain on my face and thank God for my life down here in Salcombe.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Its here - the 'Season'

After the sadness of the last couple of weeks - life goes on for me down here in Salcombe, and it's here at last - the 'Season' has kicked in and so has the rain! Everything that my new friends has told me to expect at this time of year is coming true. Our new garden BBQ is up and running and my boys from the kitchen and SOH Tim (as seen in picture opposite - love the pinny!) are working on it every night - our record so far in the very short time we've been running it is 75 covers for a night....... not bad I think for a new concept! The best seller so far - BBQ'd Salmon fillet, and you know what I'm not at all surprised - it's blooming lovely! The other big surprise is the grilled Halumi Cheese - Jem, one of our chefs made the most fantastic lime and chilli dressing and its just fabulous!

The weather plays a big part in how well we'll do with this or not, but our reserve plan in the event of rain is to open up the upstairs restaurant for our normal menu - I'd love to have the staff (and the kitchen) to do all three, there's certainly the market for it, but we would be very much overstretching ourselves at the moment. The chickens continue to be a huge draw for children AND adults and I just love playing Mother Earth at feeding time for the chickens - and EVERY time one of the little darlings who help me throw scraps into (or at!) the chickens in their coop will want to know why a) there's no 'boy' chickens' and b) why are there no baby chickens.....bless em - I've become a sex education teacher as well!!!!

The weather has been just awful here on and off this last week - but I'm amazed at how stoical the holiday makers are about it all - although there was on very dejected customer at our bar the other day bemoaning how if he never saw another sea life centre it would be too soon!! Salcombe is very weather dependant for trade and customers - but what is so interesting is the split in drinks and how just by looking at the sales you can tell what the weather is like - jugs of Pimms for gorgeous sunny afternoons and oodles of hot chocolate for the wet cold days! But boy, do we do great hot chocolates - loads of cream, small chewy marshmallows and flakes as well! The new alcoholic Ginger Beer - Crabbies is proving to be really popular, a fantastic summer drink and a great alternative to Magners Cider. Rose wine is flourishing and the ales are as popular as ever.

The other new thing we're trialling from tonight is some outdoor art exhibition from Gallery 5 in Island Street - John and Bobbi do some great art and we are showing some of his smaller more affordable stuff - painted stones, driftwood and some small canvases. His daughter Millie has been roped in to do this so I hope they are successful and that it brings in more business for them. I'll try too post a picture but I'm having some techy troubles with pictures at the moment..... growl! So might have to put them at the side of the posts.

Apart from that then, all is good with the world - it's Salcombe Yacht Club regatta this coming week and then the town regatta follows that - so please have a word in His ear and pray for good fine weather with lots and lots of sunshine. Enjoy your summer breaks if you're having one and relax...! I'll try to sort out the techy problems and be with you next week.................. X