A random call from my old career today reignited some thoughts that I had the other day about the sheer enormity of the changes that I have made in my life. As I have noted before my nickname is ‘pikey’ and this is, oddly, unconnected to growing up for a number of years in a caravan. I have gone from a caravan to a flat to a space that is larger than most houses, such a massive step. So now when I lose a screwdriver and then remember that it is in the back bar toilets I enjoy walking to get it, this whole space is mine and it is significantly more than a hotel dwelling pikey is used to.
I think that this is, in part, where my fascination with the secret world of ‘private’ doors comes from. I am not an explorer but I love those places where the public are not allowed to go. Despite the stress of three-inch black iron pipes I loved working in the Albion blue room loft, its cellars and various other lofts, these are spaces that have existed quietly behind the scenes for generations and I feel it is an enormous privilege to spend time crawling through them. To put this in some context think that for every five thousand people who have partied in the bar 40 have been behind the bar, 15 in the cellar and one in the loft. The behind the scenes crew work in a slow-moving space that hands history between the generations gently and with a great deal of care. The same is true of railway work, for every million passengers maybe 30 people see a cab, 15 see the kit and 2 walk the track, this is our world and ours alone, I remain privileged to have been one of the two.
The other side to this is the engineer in me. I don’t see a wall or a pint, I see a cellar, a beer line, a gas pump and the complexity of cooling. I don’t travel on public transport without evaluating performance, fit of panels, quality of parts and design. Even infrastructure I am compelled to challenge why they welded rather than bolting, why that edge is open to the environment and whether they have considered freeze/thaw. This is what I do, it is how my mind works, there are no ‘givens’ everything is open to challenge until I am convinced.
Another significant change is alcohol. I come from a regulated industry since I was a nipper there has been no beer at lunchtime and there has been a policy of D&A testing. What does this do to the people in the trade? It turns them into binge drinkers, probably the very thing that the policy was trying to prevent. Dry mouthed and sweaty after a night out everybody is trying to tell themselves that they only had ‘a few’ last night. So my digital swap is that I have spent every day of the last 18 months smelling of beer, every single day and most hours of the day. My washing machine is an alcoholic rarely, if ever, does it wash a load that does not include alcohol. I probably don’t drink any more than I used to but I do it over the week. It is now not only socially acceptable but obligatory for me to drink on a school night and I am certain that industry got it wrong. Competent, successful and brilliant trades who are at the top of their game drink with me daily and they know when they have pushed too hard, they take a late start. Does this affect their output? no they still get done on time but that’s the thing, they are adults, they can regulate themselves and they are allowed to, it might be old school but it works.
For those of you who don’t follow the website but are interested in the pub please do keep an eye on http://www.ploughandbarleycorn.pub as I will shortly be adding a gallery for the next terrifying project. The Plough started as a square two storey building with 4 equal sized rooms on each floor, before me they have removed three of the dividing walls to turn it into three rooms upstairs and two downstairs. But I have never been one for the easy story so why not take the last wall out downstairs and turn it into one room? Ok I know that there are many reasons but…… it’s the right thing, probably, for the modern world so let’s just get it out right? The next four weeks will see huge volumes of stone being knocked out, 7 chimneys leaving the building and one serious (15″ thick) wall leaving us forever. I am slightly sad to see the loss, excited as to what the pub will become and just terrified about the whole undertaking so tune in and check out the pictorial gallery, for the haters this may be the one that pushes too hard so stay tuned.