Well hello to those of you who inhabit a normal world and, of course, to those who don’t. I am starting this post on a quiet Wednesday morning on the little island, I still open at 11 am at the moment but it is not uncommon for me to see no customers until long past 12. I feel obligated now to say that I was fully expecting a Winter downturn, and it is better than expected so far, because everybody tries to explain this to me for some reason. When you ask me if I have been busy and I respond “no” that is the end of that conversation, your question has been answered and we are both ready for the next question. Before you launch into an explanation of seasonal trading could I ask you, please, to phrase a further question such as “before you purchased a pub in a tourist economy had you considered the effects of seasonal trade” this will give me the opportunity to tell you that this was fully expected. As you may be able to tell this is not what happens and the person who asks the question launches into an explanation of seasonal trading which leaves me feeling like I had been complaining which is far from the case.
So how is trading during a chilly October in a seasonal town? You know what, it’s not so bad. Its eclectic, unpredictable and therefore impossible to plan for but overall its ok. The fact that I remain here in October and am still following the ‘slow and steady’ path that I set out from the outset seems to be gaining some confidence that I am indeed in this for the long haul. The Plough is slowly emerging from her patchy past and reminding people what a warm and friendly old girl she can be. I remain really impressed by the praise which the pub receives and the warmth and affection that people have for her. It remains a challenge, and a tough one at that, but I am still positive that the old girl can do what she needs to do.
As to full-time pub life, well it is strange but mostly in a good way. I leave the pub at least three times a week for banking and to purchase milk but other than that I am here all of the time. I don’t think people always appreciate just what that means and how quickly it removes any boundaries between work and home life. That said, for me, this is a perk of the job and I love that I pop to the bar at 3 am to get a cold bottle of water, the lack of boundaries is great because it means I live in a huge house but I invite a lot of people around. When you move house you rarely see people who have inhabited your new home before you yet the opposite is true for a pub where everybody has a story to tell and memories of your home, both downstairs and upstairs barely a day goes by without somebody recalling something about the old girl or her ‘character’.
Another oddity is that you engage with so many people yet you know so few. As most of you know I have no support network as such on the island, I have no friends or family to call on and remain a one man operation. The pub means that I meet so many people but the context is always that of a publican meeting public, they are all great people and it is a quick way to get to know people but it is not the same as a traditional support network. Buying a local pub is an easy way to fully immerse yourself in a community, there is no place to hide and you are on ‘display’ from day one but the pressure of that must be similar to the pressure of celebrity. There is never a moment of the day when you are not the publican and as such you are always conscious of what you say and how you are perceived.
To answer the questions that I am always asked. Do I still enjoy it? Hell how could I not?? I spend all day in the pub, it is amazing and not a minute of it is ever hard work. Did I make the right decision? Yes most definitely. I miss the world of heavy engineering a lot, how could I not? I miss the challenges and the friends of course I do but I live in my business and sink or swim this is all on my shoulders. Is it fun? Well yes in a lot of ways it is but the stress is huge and there remain many nights that you can find me sat on the chair in the back bar wondering how in the hell I will make this all work. The sheer volume of work can be overwhelming at times (quite a lot of the time actually) but I am comforted that the pub has been here for 220 + years so I probably don’t need to rush. Am I looking to convert part or all of the building? Hell no, I am nothing if not a sucker for an old pub and this one well and truly has my heart all I will ever do is rebuild and rejuvenate.
For those who are interested it is now 01:15 on Sunday morning which has been the next chance that I got to finish the post!