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 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( ) 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 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!