It is often assumed by my customers that I have spent a lifetime in the licensed trade, I put this assumption down to my general lack of tolerance rather than any particular talent that I display. Occasionally somebody will ask the question ‘so why are you here?’ and sometimes I realise what a difficult question that can be to answer. The question was asked yesterday and when I finished late last night the question was still in my mind when I looked at social media and found this picture.
This got me thinking as to who I could ‘blame’ for where I find myself today? Who are the influences in my life that led me to the freehold of the Plough? I guess that they are the people who have allowed me ‘behind the scenes’ of their businesses and, to a degree, their lives. I have always had a fascination with what happens behind closed doors, some of my ‘other’ career highlights have been the ability to enter secret locations, to walk underground tunnels and just to go where the public can’t or even when they can’t. So being part of pubs was always going to be somewhat addictive and I started at a young age! So a small roll call of those who drove me to my own pub:
- Trevor and (to a lesser degree) Pete at the holiday park – The mania that was a busy holiday park in the eighties was an eye opener for a young lad. Glass washing, cleaning and eventually serving beer in the insanity of summer was tempered delightfully by opening the damp empty bars for ‘functions’ in the off-season. Trev was simply insane and I still have fond memories of the madness that was the club.
- Terry, Carol & Woodsy at the Phoenix (hence the news clipping) – Somebody had to teach me the skills of finishing in the later early hours and then restarting a few hours later for a Sunday lunch session. Here I was taught that you are always public property in this trade, thanks for the dinners when I looked like I needed them Carol and for treating me like family. My old mate Woodsy helped to draw the showman out of the shy kid and the old man (Tel) introduced me to Underburg and the principle of always powering through except, of course, for when he nipped upstairs for a nap. I was deeply saddened when the grand old dame of the town was demolished but perhaps viability was its last lesson.
- The Ship & Shorty – For showing me that there still is a lot of love for a good pub, even a tired old one, it was a privilege to be your landlord and thank you for your support.
- Andrew and Helen at the Albion – For reminding me that we’re not here forever, for resetting my maths and for giving me the kick I needed. For every one of those mornings of driving past at silly o’clock and thinking ‘I would rather be there’, for showing me that it’s a way of life not a living and simply for reminding me that there is always a way. When I am tired I remember working with Andrew and Dave in the cellar while Helen was in the bar and Sue was in the B&B rooms and it reminds me that I can be tired because there is only one of me. Oh and of course to Andrew for being as close to a responsible adult as anybody can be in this trade.
So when you ask ‘why are you here?’ the answer is a series of odd memories, emotions and feelings. It is the image of Trev falling over with half a dozen till drawers and being so drunk that he just lay there and laughed, it is cuddling Rex the most vicious pub guard dog that I have ever met, it’s the red faces, the shouting and tantrums. It’s the feeling and smell of a sticky bar after a successful night, a pep talk from Woodsy that was always given an inch from your face at high volume. Its struggling to hold it together around the smell of beer after a heavy night, it’s the smell of sweat and condensation when you lock up after a busy night. In fact it is just that this trade is a calling and if it’s in your blood you will always return.
There are of course many more people who have supported me and continue to do so. Many of you have listened to me debate the details of business plans as I have stressed over the various potential properties and their viability. You have listened to me talk myself variously in and out of some venues and generally put up with the madness that led to me being here and I thank you all.
I am not sure if this answers the question but at least it acknowledges the trade influences that got me from 14 to now, thanks guys.