I am determined to do my best to keep my ‘social media presence’ up to date as I move into the next chapter of my life so today is as good a day to start as any. What do we know about today? Well it’s a Monday and its delightfully sunny but you knew that already didn’t you? It is also the first Monday that has no direct connection with work, as in I don’t have to go to work or otherwise engage with industry. This is also the Monday that sees me relocate from the sunny essex town that has been home for ten years to my new home on the smaller island.
After many years of searching and several false starts I am heading off to run my little pub in Shanklin. This is the end result of a journey that started probably in a caravan park bar, was added to in the legendary Phoenix and not only survived but thrived on the experience of the Ship. I remember leaving the Ship and knowing with absolute certainty that I had to get another set of pub keys in my pocket, I felt quite incomplete without them. Andrew will tell you that he already knew that I was committed and in truth so did I, it’s just taken longer than I would have hoped. So to those of you who I told that the next pub was going to be on the Isle of Wight, every word was the truth.
Moving from the stunning sea views and lovely people is hard but to those people I would say it’s only a break, I will visit. The reality of the move is becoming more evident now as I consider what seems to be an insurmountable mountain of tasks and face the repeated question of “it’s not just you is it? I am, by nature, a solitary individual and a workaholic so it should not be a surprise that when faced with a project of this enormity I see nothing odd in tackling it single handedly.
This mornings delight, which I will share with you, was dealing with the moronic monolith that is EE. I had to cancel my broad and with this company and am already well aware that for this there will be an extroadinary charge which is in dispute with the regulator. Today’s call was simply to enact the cancellation, well you would have thought that it was simple…..I started by explaining that I wanted to cancel and had no wish to transfer the burden of this contract to friends or family or indeed to donate it to a small African child, I just wanted to cancel. The response at this stage was to put me through to an office that was shut.
An hour later I repeated this exercise, could they ask why I was leaving?’ No they could not, I had told them repeatedly so they should have updated the system. Eventually they demanded this key piece of information and I capitulated in the hope of progressing things. How naive I had been, they launched into yet another round of ways that I could avoid the cancellation fee by burdening some unsuspecting friend with the same provider. Again I explained that I simply wanted to cancel and he put me through to somebody else to debate the options. In total I spoke to three representatives of this company this morning all of whom wanted to ‘help’ me avoid the exorbitant and, I might add, illegal cancellation costs by passing the package to a friend. I appreciate that big companies sometimes get disconnected from the human side of life so, just for them, here is a thought. If we hate you and are struggling to get away from you why would we inflict that on a friend? That is not what we do out here in the real world!
I should point out that other broadband providers are available but few of them are as appalling as EE
After some serious effort I am now fully installed in the pub although I am currently enjoying a weekend with friends before the final move. Heartfelt thanks, as always, to Andrew who worked like a trooper alongside me as we completed various loading and unloading of the hire van.
For those that are always want to know I can say that there is still not excitement as such. There is some trepidation and, of course, I will miss the people and the area that I live in, as I miss my colleagues. Mostly there is frustration with myself for not completing jobs at the rate at which I need to, I seem to be permanently chastising myself for poor performance at the moment. Moving my kit in just means that the bar looks full and untidy and that, once again, the job list is growing. I have no doubt that excitement will come and expect it to grow as opening day looms nearer.
I took the opportunity to visit Sandown for lunch during the move and it was interesting to see that Andrew was as devastated as me at the loss of Wight City, a local amusement/apartment/pub complex. It strikes me that when the government review the current ACV legislation which is supposed to protect ‘Assets of Community Value’ they wouldn’t go far wrong making funds available to people like us who fall in love with these old rough diamonds.
The stonemason explained that there was some delay installing quoins due to a void discovered behind one which he just couldn’t understand. Those that have ever been involved in a pub will appreciate that my answer was that it’s a pub, that one line acts a catch-all answer. It is nice to see some of the new stone going in and I also managed to remove the planters to make way for the new windbreaks which I have yet to arrange. I have yet to see the sign-writer who is now on the chase list for next week as I want to see the Plough & Barleycorn name back where it belongs. The plumber is set for Tuesday so it wont be long before I have some civility in the residential accommodation although there is the question as to why the shower/bath drains so slowly still to address.
The pub for her part continues to drive interest on both islands and, in so doing, reminds me that it is all on me to enable her and provide what is needed to let her trade successfully. Regardless of excitement I remain convinced that this was the right decision.
Just to clear something up, everyone is welcome to visit my pub on the wonderful Isle of Wight. However if you are visiting to see the motorcycling then I am afraid you will be disappointed, we have a scooter rally but that’s it. We are also not particularly well known for whisky production, well not at all actually. If you enter the word “Isle” as your destination in the sat nav it will need more information because, and this will come as a surprise to some, there are multiple islands around the UK. I know, how crazy is that? More than one island, go figure!
Over the years we have developed an ingenious way of telling these islands apart. It’s a bit of a secret code but I think that I can share it here we are, after all, amongst friends. We name them differently, I know it’s crazy right? But bear with me it actually works! It’s a system we copied from other places and it is genuinely successful. It’s not perfect of course because unlike, for example, a county there are other words ahead of it like ‘isle’. You have to persevere and get past that to the word at the end but when you are there hey presto it’s unique. There is a tip that can help you here, mail delivery agents use it a lot, if you read or listen to the whole sentence then you get all of the information. I know it sounds odd but give it a go it really works and you will wonder how you ever got on before.
If the last two paragraphs made no sense then please visit at the end of May for bike racing, distillery tours are better in September and you can apply in the pub for an offshore bank account.
My estate agent visited today, the apartment is a rental, and after ten years of storing junk furniture that came with the property he told me that they have no inventory. Better than that in the health and safety crazed modern world they cannot let the place furnished as the furniture is too old and has no certificates. When did wardrobes start needing certificates? Is there a school at the back of the furniture store where they revise for exams on how to stay still?
This is the last week of full time day job and I think that should help take some of the load off. I was discussing this the other day and realised that moving home while working full time is stressful, moving jobs from a stable home is also tiresome. I am doing day job, moving home and starting a new business, in truth is it any wonder that I am tired?
Last Thursday I was privileged to have a glass of beer with many of the great and good of the railway industry. This was a further reminder of the unique world that is railway engineering, the great people in that world and the significance of the change. I won’t name everybody here but special thanks has to go to Martin Bright for an appearance in his new-found role as poster boy for retirement. Ignore those adverts for potions that take “years off you” Martin has somehow lost ten years in two weeks, well deserved and reassuring as I too take to the exit.
At home I am continuing the ‘pack one, throw one’ technique that I have always used when moving home. I have not yet left living out of a bag behind as I return to the apartment next weekend before final move on Monday so I have to ensure that whatever I leave here fits in the bag (or the bin). Negotiations for beer supply are still confounding both me and Andrew as we compare notes on the relative performances of our brewery reps. For some reason my paperwork is taking longer than it does up here in Essex but I am sure that is just a reflection on the slower pace of life further South……..
Plumber is now engaged for the Tuesday which is great news as it limits the time that I will be without hot water. This is a significant achievement for me since I have passed a job that I could do myself, at least in part, to a professional trade and also cut a neat, but fair, discount on the job. With the mantra of ‘Return On Investment’ ringing in my ears I have opted to replace the boiler rather than repair. As good as all this progress is it also reminds me that with the stonemason, roofer and plumber engaged the rest of the tasks reside on the list that has my name at the top and time is not my friend. Keep an eye on the blog and you can watch my progress I may even find a tracker to link progress with my slow decline into insanity!
I went for a meal at the old place on Friday and it was a good example of what not to do. She is without doubt a stunning little pub and continues to look great and trade well but the food offer is confused and misplaced. Coupling a very good bar menu with a weak restaurant offer in an environment which cannot offer a restaurant is indicative of somebody in the business pushing too hard for something that isn’t right. This type of prescriptive offer is exactly what I won’t do, and didn’t do when I was there, the pub knows what it wants to be and as landlords our job is to facilitate that. The old girl is doing well but its a shame to see some basics missed that would step her up a level; I know that it is of no impact to me but this is how we view pubs that is just how it is. Imagine going past the house that you used to own and finding that they had painted it pink and made it an eyesore* well we feel the same when we enter old pubs and see inverted 70cc bottles of spirits or cluttered fridges.
For those who are still seeking out the excitement in my posts I can assure you that you are still too early. There is no excitement just a creeping dread as I look at invoices and CapEx plans. Don’t be mislead this is very much what I want to do and I am convinced that I will make it work, but looking beyond the works is an effort in itself. I guess it is similar whichever side of the bar you are on, my days of looking for excitement are long gone and I now drink where I am comfortable and around friends. This is the pub that I want to create and the environment where I want to live, it isn’t excitement that I want it’s the comfort of wandering downstairs to work.
*Any similarities to ex marital homes that are still being paid for are entirely coincidental
This weekend marks my penultimate visit to the pub, the next trip is moving day. To the oft repeated question of “is it getting there” the best answer that I can give is ‘apparently’. By that I mean I am paying people and they are doing stuff but progress is difficult to measure.
I have adopted a new term ‘there or thereabouts’ which seems particularly apt for the pub. I can tell you that the beer supply is now there or thereabouts which leaves the rest of the back bar to resolve. Roofer is there or thereabouts in terms of cost now need to nail availability and slot around the stonemason (Monday’s call).
CCTV is work in progress as is the ever entertaining plumbing. Great to see a competent plumber in the building this time, more quotes to follow. Having reviewed the installation and noted that the 15 mm was too small for all the rads and definitely wouldn’t meet hot water demand; the end conclusion can be surmised as ‘well it shouldn’t work’. I guess the pub companies years of penny pinching and bodging have taught them something after all!
I am frankly overwhelmed by what I have to achieve in such a short space of time. This is not a gentle, fluffy overwhelmed but a sat on the floor in the early hours shaking my head overwhelmed. I remain convinced that necessity is the mother of invention and that my hit rate will increase when everything is on site, being wrong is not an option.
In other news it is wonderful to see crowds queueing to reach the gorgeous little island for festival. Is it a shame that they won’t explore the island more? Well of course it would be good to see more exploration but perhaps just knowing that the island is here and associating it with good experiences is a start.
Next week marks my last week in Derby, although not my last week with BT before any suppliers start celebrating! A recent trip on the Vic line reminded me of the enormity of what we do. As those trains come thundering into the station one after another you can’t help but to be impressed. From the creaking days of crawling through the network in the middle of the night on T1 to the remarkable record of performance that is the line today, it’s been a journey. Watching the early sets of Electrostar returning to the works for half life reminds me of meetings with clients threatening to pull contracts. The same clients run the biggest platform in the UK today and are clamouring to buy more!
I am struggling to step back from my engineering heritage but equally know that I need to. Every subcontractor will attest to the fact that I pester and challenge, sorry guys but I’m doing my best! As much as people have told me that they ‘would love to be more practical’ it is also a curse. There is no job that I am not prepared to tackle and so my work list grows continuously whilst available time diminishes.
Well as the moving day approaches I am becoming increasingly conscious that the number of tasks seems to grow as the number of days to complete them diminishes. This weekend sees me travelling to an island that is consumed by festival, a fantastic event and a great opportunity to remind people that there is a little island down here!
En route to the island I am stopping in Portsmouth for a meeting with a supplier this saves him travelling across to the island. Meeting in Portsmouth always brings a little frustration as I sit ‘nearly home’ and watch the ferries departing. This will be one of the last meetings I have where we have to agree a venue, future meetings will always be in my pub.
After a conversation with Dave I am now ready to tackle the second wave of plumbers and understand, hopefully, the relative merits of replacement/repair for the boiler. I guess that it may not be the best of starts that I refuse to call a plumber a ‘heating engineer’ but then I grew up before the lunacy of gas safe and other such regulations.
I should see the garden incinerator delivered this weekend and, if the weed-killer has worked, it will get a good christening. This weed-killer was a more routine product so I have yet to see if it measures up to the might of the ’weed grenade’ but here’s hoping. Between bees, gulls and weeds it does feel like half my time is spent battling nature at the moment and then evenings are spent dealing with Ms Nature’s response to the day time battles.
This week finds numbness in my right hand thanks to a carpal tunnel that looks more like a 1920s mine shaft than a sleek modern tunnel. In unison with this the shoulder is refusing to play nicely and seems to have engaged the knee in its latest action. Walking to work yesterday involved alternate determined concentration and combination wince/stumbles. I am, of course, presuming that a weekend of hard labour will move some bits about and improve everything, stand to reason doesn’t it?*
I have sample quarry tiles to review this weekend and a selection of those paint colour books to understand some interior choices. I have had mixed reviews on the exterior grey of the pub but think it will return to a more natural cream in due course. I will have to explain what this colour is to Andrew who remains convinced that the grey is in fact pink! Hoping to see something of the sign writer this weekend and looking forward to giving some sneak previews of the new signs.
*Note that author’s definition of “reason” may differ from that of others
One of the last few weekends for me on the big island and it was a scorcher. One of the great things about living right on the seafront is that on a sunny day the sound of families playing in the sand fills the apartment. I should caveat that last sentence by saying that it is not such a delight when working night shifts.
Today the ocean is like glass and the sun is continuing to grace us with its presence as the garbage pixies go about their way. For those of you not familiar with garbage pixies allow me to enlighten you. Garbage pixies are mythical beasts that exist solely in the minds of tourists who nurture and protect them for fear that they may be connected to other ethereal beings such as santa’s elves.
The garbage pixies are never seen but legend tells that they congregate around coastal areas with occasional forays inland to visit camp sites. The pixies put great value in garbage, hence the name, and use it for clothing, building materials and food. As I walked to the station this morning I passed repeated offerings made by the tourists to support the garbage pixies. An offering fit for the king of the pixies was laid out along the beach, the roads and almost every available surface. I could almost hear the pixie’s squeal of delight as they counted the used diapers (great for fertilising pixie herb gardens) chip wrappers and bottles.
In case you think that when I am not at the pub I am not working on her then let me put your mind at rest. This weekend has produced the supplier shortlist for fridges and furniture and the supplier ‘long’ list for plumbers. Each of these subjects will be followed up in the week to settle on a supplier of choice. One of the oddities of island life is that the cost of shipping can swing supplier choices dramatically with some accepting the cost and others outright refusing. Roofing quotes are being dissected before they are given an urgent green light with asbestos being an unwelcome tax on that task.
Supplier negotiations are progressing well and should be at least partially concluded this week. Finally I am hopeful of seeing the artwork for the return of the Plough this weekend. I am now officially sick of living between an apartment that is boxed for moving and a pub that I haven’t moved into yet. Pressure of time means that every time I use something I feel compelled to put it in a box ready for moving but I have nowhere to put the boxes!
There are a couple of regular questions that come up with respect to the pub, for the sake of efficiency I will answer them here. The first is accommodation or rather the provision of accommodation. I do not have letting rooms at the pub, there are no camping facilities and I cannot accommodate sleeping bags or hammocks within the bar. There is an excellent and incredibly good value B&B over the road who will look after you if you mention the pub, I will give you their details that is as far as I go on that front. In short, whilst I would love to see you, I own a pub not a hostel or a holiday home.
The second question is invariably “are you excited” I could answer this by directing you to look at previous posts but that is just a tad lazy. Between me and the opening is a single solid month of work all to be achieved whilst living on a building site and pouring money into the bottomless pit I call home. That is such a scope of work that to be honest I can’t see past it at the moment I don’t mean that in a negative way it is just rather ‘all consuming’ right now. Am I nervous? Yes and rightly so given all the plates that I have spinning. But am I excited? I guess the right answer is not yet. Be ‘
N.B. There is no such thing as a garbage pixie nor is there any use for your discarded diapers just because we are near the ocean doesn’t mean the normal rules of civilisation don’t apply
A day spent with a supplier today highlighted the contrast between my two worlds. It’s a marvel of the human mind, or perhaps a quirk of my specific one, that I can compartmentalise such disparate worlds. On one hand I’m debating technical details on multi-million pound issues and on the other wondering if I need pygmy stools or cubes with that sofa.
Whilst there are, undoubtedly, similarities between the two worlds that I straddle sometimes they seem miles apart. I mean really how can you compare a debate on the relative merits of chemical etching in bond processes with understanding mortar bees?
On the last note let me assure you mortar bees are twats, nothing less. I know that we are all told that we have to look after the bees, these fluffy terrorists are responsible for something to do with plants or trees apparently* But this is not true of mortar bees, these are like low cost labour released to supplement the good guys and they live, the clue is in the name, in mortar.
Apparently once they are on site they will return seasonally, normally exploiting damaged mortar or air bricks. In my case they turned up when the mortar was replaced, lime mortar takes weeks to harden and so is the perfect environment for the wretched things. After the success of the weed grenade I have decided that a combination of pesticides, liberally applied, is the way to go with this particular nuisance. I did start researching the matter but got discouraged by the number of people who suggest leaving them alone, presumably they weren’t having their property consumed by them!
There are two issues with leaving them alone. Firstly they are eating the ‘glue’ that holds my pub together, I don’t care who you are you are not entitled to eat my property. If you try and steal steak from my plate expect to get stabbed with a fork, if you eat my mortar expect to taste pesticides! The second reason is, and this is a pearl, they can’t sting you! I have said it before and I will say it again, nature is a moron! You call these things bees, let them make the noise, send them to invade property but leave them firing blanks!
*the author does not profess to have a full understanding of this nature business
Well as we enter June the panic is setting in again. I am very concerned that I still can’t take a step in the pub without seeing another job to do. This weekend I worked like a dog but, once again, I can’t really recall what I completed. The safe is now rebuilt and operational and the server case is up on the office wall so I now have somewhere to run the cables that I am putting in.
Bar lighting is fixed now and I took the opportunity to remove the flammable rubbish from around the lights. I now have a plan for pool table and machines and have sent one of the licence fees in for this. Further exploration has added to my understanding of the internal water features, it hasn’t helped just added to my knowledge. About three meter cubed of nature’s toughest ivy and brambles were hauled out of the newly discovered void before I realised that I had no means of disposing of them! Luckily my weed grenade* has cleared the adjacent plot so I have piled it there to dry out, next on the list is a garden incinerator.
Plumber tried to commission the heating system this weekend and it has turned into a significantly more expensive exercise than I had hoped. I guess there is no surprise there really, nothing in a pub is simple or cheap. This week’s commercial calls now include plumber and brewery before I get wound into accounts. One minor success was measuring up and gaining an understanding of what I need in terms of furniture. A good job done and, of course, entertaining for those watching me and Andrew pacing out space in his bar.
I picked up the old deeds from the solicitor this weekend and they are a delight. I have deeds back to 1875 when the pub was leased to a couple, well actually a widow and a chap. I know that the pub was in place before that and need to chase the history further back, one day. It does seem rather sad that my purchase is witnessed by a simple entry on land registry website, no italic script, wax seals or tapes in sight.
See what I mean? Doesn’t sound like much does it? But it has been non-stop and even after all of the physical work there was the weekly pile of paperwork to get through.
I did manage to take a break whilst on the little island and it was nice to enjoy the anonymity that I still have. I can sit and observe as Gav in a way that Gav from the Plough won’t find as easy.
*nature is no match for my belligerent incompetence when it comes to weed control