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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rumination & Consideration

We had a great weekend in the village although we didn't get there until Saturday morning. I went straight to the pub and planted myself behind the bar. I wasn't surprised that it was very quiet inasmuch as the main holiday season is over and the locals need tempting back, but I had hoped for a few more than the six people I served between twelve and two! I told Arnie, the current landlord to leave me to my own devices. He normally closes during the afternoon, but I hope to stay open when I am finally in charge. Anyway I was not deterred by the lack of custom and hoped that the OPEN sign on the door would encourage a few hardy souls to see what was happening in the Providence. For two hours the place was dead, I read the local paper, had a coffee, read some more of the local paper, and had another coffee.... At four o'clock the door opened, a group of red cheeked walkers wandered in, in search of food! I had to explain that the kitchen would not be functioning until December, but I had a good selection of ale (well two brands anyway!) At first I thought they might turn tail and go elsewhere. My salvation came in the form of the roaring log fire in the corner that drew them in. They enjoyed a couple of drinks by the fire and then set off on the return leg of their walk with a parting promise to return in the New Year when I am serving food. No sooner had they left than another party entered the pub, four adults and four kids. Crisps were the food de jour and both sets of parents enjoyed a varied selection of alcoholic refreshments. They were interested to hear of my plans and like their predecessors, they promised to return when I become the landlord. I felt vindicated in my decision to stay open and I hope once I am able to provide food this will add to the attraction of the pub for walkers, bird watchers and of course the local community.

One of the things mentioned to me over the weekend was a concern by certain locals regarding the choice of beer available at the pub. It currently sells two brands of beer; Dartmoor IPA, made by the Princetown Brewery and Spitfire, from Shepherd Neame. When I first decided to take on the pub I was pleased that I would be selling at least one local brand, but I am not convinced the current selection are the correct products for me. I am thinking of selling another local brew, but I will need to sound out village opinion. I would also like to add Greene King IPA to the bar, whilst being a nation brand I think when served correctly this is a popular choice. The lagers sold are Carlsberg and Grolsch; again I am not convinced these are the best ones to have. I will also be changing from Murphy’s stout to Guinness.

I had meetings with the team that will be running the kitchen and I loved the enthusiasm and passion for food that they show. My mouth was watering at the sound of the menus they are putting together and I insisted that we arrange a tasting prior to starting, purely for my benefit of course!

The kids had a lovely weekend; I think that we managed to catch most of the crabs in the English Channel! On Sunday we were at Torcross beach and I stood at the water’s edge with Max skimming stones. Another Dad was there with his daughter doing the same thing - competition is a terrible thing, we were meant to be entertaining our kids when in fact a clash of the titans was taking place (well, two forty something sad characters) both of us sneaking glances at the skimming attempts made by the other. I don't think boys ever really grow up, we just hide it well. On Monday morning Helen made up a picnic and we all went to Lannacombe beach. This is a beautiful little bay that is actually on private land, but the landowners allow access and it is so lovely there. The rocky outcroppings make for great rock pools and as we all know a rock pool for a child is a place of adventure, Pirate treasure may be hidden there ready to be found by a four year old at any moment. Being a small enclosed bay adds to the charm. We were the only ones there and it felt as if it was our own private beach, there just for our enjoyment. The sound of the waves crashing in mixed with cry of seagulls and the laughter of our kids is a sound I could listen to all day.
Again I have been thinking about being on my own each week without Helen and the children and whilst I know it is for all the right reasons I also know I will miss them desperately.
I am going to ring the solicitors later today and try to move things on regarding the lease documents. It's November 1st tomorrow and things are moving quicker now. We are back in the village at the weekend and hopefully I'll have more information available regarding our plans then.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not a criminal!

Things are moving again. We are getting our solicitors to redraft the lease documents and today I received my Criminal Record Disclosure, telling me that I don't have, have never had and hopefully will never have a criminal record. Now I am in possession of this costly piece of paper (£20.00 for something I already knew) I can submit my licence papers to the local authority. I should then be given a Personal Licence that allows me to serve alcoholic drinks under the terms of the 2003 Licensing Act. When I am actually living in East Prawle I will apply for a change of name on the existing Premises Licence, but that has to be done through the South Hams District council, the local authority that covers the area.
This weekend Helen and I are taking the boys to the cottage. Whilst there I am going to be working behind the bar on Saturday. I will ask Helen to get some pictures of me in my guise as landlord!
I have been giving a lot of thought to the seperation issue. Being away from my family all week is the biggest downside of the whole venture. I have told Helen that as much as I want to see them, I don't want her to feel forced into travelling down with the children every Friday night after a long working week. I think she will be in danger of running herself into the ground. She will be getting up early to muck out our horse each day, then she will be rushing home to get the boys ready for school/pre-school before then going off to work. She works in a high pressure environment and often works long hours, we are lucky that her parents are able to help us a lot with the children. I think she deserves a break as well. So we will have to find a way of seeing each other on a regular basis, but not to the detriment of her health.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The lease documents have finally arrived, but they are not exactly how we imagined them. We need a solicitor to pour over them with us and make sure we are not going to get tripped up by any small print - nature of the beast I guess.
Still we continue to work towards our December 1st deadline. I still don't know where I get my little black sign made?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Max and Joe
Today it really hit home how much I am going to miss my family while I am working on my own during the week. I took Max to school and we had a really great chat about how fog, bricks, chocolate and various other important things are made. He was really happy telling me about the things he hoped to do at school today and I listened keenly to his earnest description of life in the reception class. Helen had gone to see our horse earlier so it had been left to me to sort the boys out with clothing and breakfast (well breakfast was actually made by Helen's mum). I do this sort of thing often, you do it as a parent without thinking, it's all part of the morning rush. Today, however, I made a point of savouring the normality of it all. This weekend my oldest Son Sam is coming to stay. He's nearly fourteen and the hormones are raging, but he's a great kid although he currently does a very good impression of Harry Enfield's wayward teenager Kevin. He is very interested in a ll things IT so I am sure he will pass a critical eye over this blog. I intend to make the most of the time with my family in the lead up to my going south.
Still no word from the solicitors! Annoyingly Helen and I are also going to have to invest in quite a few commercial kitchen items as the previous incumbent appears to have lost various pieces! I am relying on Google to help me find reasonable supplier, so if anyone out there in the ether knows of any useful companies in this field please email me all help gratefully appreciated.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Well, we had a great weekend. The anniversary meal ended up as a home cooked affair in the cottage complimented by a bottle of Bollinger. I got an opportunity to meet some more of my local customers to be whilst in the pub and what a fine bunch they are. More later on the locals when I have their permission to make reference to them in this blog. Helen and I bought a super all singing all dancing coffee maker that is destined for the pub, but I'll need a degree in engineering to operate it. In fact it is still in its box! Now, the village cafe is great for an all English breakfast so what with the anniversary meal and two good breakfasts not only have we had a great weekend, but we've also put on a few pounds.

I have been chasing up the solicitors today, they are taking forever to get the lease details sorted out and considering that I want to be up and running from the start of December I really need them to get their acts together. We had a good meeting on saturday with one of our future chefs and I came away quite excited by the choice of menu items she wants to cook. I have a good feeling about the future, I'm confident I can make a go of the pub and that we'll all benefit from it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Waiting time - Thank God for kids

Helen and I are going to the village this weekend. It is our fifth wedding anniversary and we are going to find a nice restaurant and celebrate sans kids! Whilst there (the village, not the restaurant) we are going to have meetings with some of our staff to be. I had hoped that the lease documents might have arrived this week, because until we have seen them and satisfied ourselves that everything is in order, we will not be able to go ahead. I tried to explain to Max, our four year old, that Daddy will not see him during the week, but he will get to stay at the pub every weekend. He wasn't at all impressed, he thought it would be better if he was working in the pub with me all week long...
This is Max

Friday, October 06, 2006

More about the village

East Prawle sits about a mile from the coast. When I first visited the village with Helen to look at our cottage (the one with the lighter thatched porch) I felt as if I had slipped back in time. It was as if I had stepped onto the set of 'The Darling Buds of May'. The village green had geese wandering freely around, the old red telephone box stood near to the public lavatories which were incredibly free of graffiti, vandalism or pongy smells! There was a very secure feeling about the place. I felt like I had stumbled into a very well kept secret. We have since learnt that many walkers use the village as a starting/finishing point as they explore the South Devon Coastal Path. There are several circular walks that allow great views of the sea and surrounding countryside. The fields along the coast are rich in wildflowers, and are a haven for many birds, in particular the nationally rare Cirl Bunting. This is a small green and brown bird with a yellow and black striped face. It thrives on the arable weed seeds here and feeds its young on the abundant grasshoppers and similar insects in the area. Stonechats and Whitethroats are also common sightings, perched on gorse and blackthorn scrub along the cliff edge.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

On the way there

I passed my licensing exam and things are moving on. I have handed my notice in and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Russ, my boss and mate was actually very encouraging and gave me some useful business hints. I am now able to tell you a bit more about the pub. It is called The Providence Inn and is situated in East Prawle in Devon. Set in the most southerly part of the Devon countryside, The Providence Inn has been serving the public since 1840. It sells local ale and cider as well as a good selection of wine. It has a beer garden that looks out to sea. As well as being a pub, there are three en-suite rooms available to let on a B & B basis.
The pub is currently without food and I am going to take on a couple of local chefs to try and create a name for good food at the pub. If I can I will start serving food from day one which at the moment is 1st December.

We already spend a lot of time in the village as we are lucky enough to have a cottage there that we currently use as a holiday home, although we intend to live in it as a family when Helen and the boys join me on a more permanent basis.