I recently had the misfortune of a poor review on the dreaded Trip Advisor. As some of you will know it took me many weeks to assure the loons that I am indeed the business owner here at the Plough and therefore entitled to defend my business. For those that use this awful ‘service’ can I point out that I have told them, repeatedly, to remove the details of dining and also the charming review posted in March of this year.
The March review is from a couple who ‘eat here every week’ and are full of praise for the food and the staff. I don’t think that we will hear any more reviews from this couple for a while, given their apparent lack of any sense of direction they are probably still wandering around the island.
The review that bit me was one from a couple who said that they ‘actively sought out local pubs’ before complaining that this was indeed a ‘locals’ pub and they therefore felt unwelcome. I have added a carefully worded response to their comment but it remains a thorny subject for me given that the Plough is not only a very friendly pub but the island itself is incredibly friendly. I can only imagine that this reviewer is used to swingers clubs and was simply upset not to be offered an alternative bed for the night!
Over the last two nights this ‘unfriendly’ establishment has had a regular visitor who is staying on the island for four nights. The gentlemen in question is 69-70 years of age and there is a reason why I can be that accurate. You see, as a locals only type of pub, we speak to our customers and this gentleman has an excellent (and inspiring) back story. Having been the victim of a surprise sixtieth birthday he is spending his seventieth on the island. He has just packed up from London and decamped to Shanklin without telling anyone where he is going so as to avoid a repeat of the last change of decade. I couldn’t put it better than the man himself when he said ‘they are lovely people and it was genuinely nice of them but it is just not for me’.
I brought the guy a pint last night out of respect for such a great story and indeed such a great idea. The other reason, as I explained, was that I can’t shift the idea of a pub somewhere in darkness waiting for David and repeatedly jumping out and shouting “SURPRISE” followed by a muttering of “oh sorry Rob we we thought you were Dave”. Having recounted the story to one of my locals he to purchased a pint for our new found legend and then proceeded to spend an hour or so discussing life with him. This is why I am in this trade and this is what makes the Plough so great, sure we have some challenges still to deal with (and probably always will) but its a great little pub where people enjoy themselves and that will do for me.
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to indulge in that greatest of pastimes ‘people watching’. A particular favourite were a family that have moved into town, watching as the concept of end of season starts to dawn upon them. The dad of this happy little clan is an IT something or the other, one of those cool jobs that involves a smart phone and an ability to read gibberish. The great thing about this as a career is that it can be performed from anywhere, hence the family relocation to the coast and a more relaxed pace of life. Mum has started making friends immediately but then that is what mums do isn’t it. Your average mum is equipped with two things that make new friendships easy. Firstly they have the children which are a natural talking point. Mum’s second weapon is the ability to engage with people that they don’t actually like, vital for school gate meetings and for when children visit each other.
So in the local pub. whilst mum discusses the price of small shoes and fish fingers dad find himself talking to dad. The dad conversation is a minefield, our usual common ground is work. Now your new man could doubtless wax lyrical over server speeds, consultancy rates and the evils of HMRC all of which would stand him in good stead somewhere. This is a small seaside community, work for most is the few hours snatched as and when they become available. House prices mean nothing because most property is rented here and a lot of it is state funded. The conversations that would have got you through in the summer when the tourists were here just won’t cut it in the winter.
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a lovely town and full of genuine and nice people. It is just different here, that’s why you like it. You will learn to adapt, develop a conversation style that suits and work out who you want to talk to. That effort that you make today will pay dividends in the future as you integrate into the community. According to the forums that I have read for relocating to the Isle of Wight not that many people are prepared to make the effort. Perhaps they just don’t realise that the place they visit in the summer is different in the winter or that the small local community takes some time to accept you. How do I know this, well it was the same for me years ago, advice? support? hell no you have to make your own path after all I’m a local!
I have to give an honourable mention to a rather odd ‘couple’ seen in the pub on Sunday. I won’t go into the oddities because, well I didn’t really understand them and they add nothing to the story. After one drink the woman went to the toilet, nothing noteworthy there I know. Her partner immediately grabbed her bag, extracted her purse and took a £20 note from it. Holding the note in his teeth he quickly replaced the purse and bag and downed the remainder of his pint. As his partner appeared from the toilet he presented the £20 from his pocket like a mysterious treasure and gallantly offered to buy her another drink. I must have been standing staring in astonishment because a couple of locals looked over at me and indicated that my eyes had not deceived me. I take my hat off to this ma, reports of the demise of chivalry were clearly premature, it’s not dead it was just seeking alternative funding.