Project ‘big dig’ is well underway now and I think we have an understanding of how the ‘pit of doom’ came to be. For those who are not aware the North end of the pub suffers from damp which is, in part, due to soil banked against the wall to about half a meter short of the eaves.
I was always acutely aware of this problem and we have started the job of addressing it as the first stage of the garden which was always the plan. After a month of digging we are now setting out steel and should pour the concrete for the retaining wall next week. The outer skin of the pub wall, which had collapsed long ago, has been removed and will be rebuilt after the retainer is in place, then we can start the garden!
After pouring over old maps and deeds we have finally understood how such a building failure was allowed to develop some 200 years ago. Rather than retain the land above correctly somebody decided to cut a trench alongside an old retaining wall and build the wall from the outside in, I will take a guess that the decision maker drank in the pub!
Now even in the 1800’s we knew that brick walls offered no resistance to banked earth but, in the defence of our long forgotten contractor, it has lasted 200 years. This was all put brilliantly into context by a mate the other day who explained that I was addressing a 200-year-old problem on a building that probably wont be here in 50 years unless something changes in the pub trade.
This is the soul-destroying time in renovations, when you are pouring cash into something that nobody will ever see or understand. It is also a frustrating time as people see works but can’t see progress. All in all it has been a very stressful week, alongside structural engineers and builders I have been struggling with EPOS suppliers and at the same time negotiating with the brewers. Friday night, the start of my accounting week, was very quiet due to a number of factors and although it was expected I still found myself wondering why I was paying staff let alone stressing about getting more.
Saturday however was a better day. Saturday was a birthday for one of our regulars and they asked if we could get Ellie (the Plough’s own Princess) to sing. Obviously you expect a few in for a birthday but once again Ellie’s ability to rock the Plough astounded me. I realised once again how lucky I am to have the, small, team that I have and it reminded me why I find the whole recruiting thing so tough. Ellie is so loved by our customers, young and old alike, and can make the place look like a nightclub at 5 in the evening. When she isn’t singing she is a great barmaid with that insane love for pubs that some of us are born/cursed with.
Working with Nick is a pleasure, we work so well together that you would think that there is actually only one of us behind the bar. Some of us are lucky to have good bar staff but some are luckier still and have bar staff who are as much the fabric of the pub as we are and that is what I have. Nick knows our customers as well as I do and he knows the Plough, his decisions always reflect that. Some of my customers yesterday remarked on some youngsters and, three years in, I was quite proud to say ‘yes I know but they are always well-behaved and respectful here’.
Working yesterday, when it was 4 deep at the bar and the windows were streaming in condensation, was a timely reminder that the Plough is a great pub. I still feel privileged to be a part of this wonderful venue and to be around these lovely people. I may feel stressed, exhausted and worried but I am incredibly lucky to have Nick and Ellie as my Plough family. Who would have thought that we would have come so far in such a short space of time? and the best bit is that the journey has only just begun.