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Thursday, August 30, 2007

I am constantly reminded by all and sundry, that I have not posted for ages. Well, some of that is due to having been very busy and some of it is because I have been uncertain in what to write. Yes, there have been lots of things happening and yes that should have provided plenty to put here, but despite all the going-ons at the Provi’ I have been having an inner battle. Do I or don’t I. It really is decision time for us. Summer, (the holiday season) is almost over, we have a winter to look forward to and we need to get a rather large mortgage sorted out on the Provi’ – or do we?
So I will provide you with a list of events that have happened here in no particular order and later I will give you a much more detailed account of all that has happened along with the current position in my decision making process:
Russ & Jane visited and ended up working here.
Someone put his underpants on the wrong way round and had difficulties in taking a pee. That same someone had his teeth eaten by a furry friend.
Statler and Waldorf were at the bar and having both indulged in slightly larger than usual quantities of alcohol, had the following discourse: Statler went to the loo and on his return said, “That’s a f**kin’ great geranium out there!” Waldorf responds with, “Don’t be f**kin stupid it’s nothing f**kin great about it when it’s rainin’ out there.”
I played some cricket.
I didn’t play some cricket.
I worked my balls off.
I now understand the word Grockle.
I had fun with the kids on a boat.
I had two days back in Northampton.
Helen got incredibly peed off with me.
Helen gave me a kiss and a hug.
Steve and Claire visited us.
Mon and Melv visited us.
I saw my mum.
I still serve beer.
We had two days in the middle of our busiest period without a chef.
The staff here showed us that they care and helped us through a really difficult time.
More to follow……………….

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The weather has been atrocious and has hit takings significantly. We will miss our July target by a country mile, I just hope that August brings a heat wave, but somehow I doubt it. Even the competition around the corner has seemed quieter than usual, but they will benefit next week from a play being held on the green. I might pay someone to walk around with a sandwich board saying, "There are two pubs in this village - try the better one!"

Been a while, I know! I just don't seem to get the time at the moment, but I'm trying to make amends now. Since my last posting we have seen Statler celebrate his 125th birthday. He invited several of his cronies to join him in a celebratory drink at the Provi on Monday lunchtime. Despite the absence of teeth, they all managed to eat scampi and chips washed down by a few pints of my latest beer - Quercus Prospect. Their combined age was so large that I don't have enough room for all of the noughts, but they had a good time until the nurse came to wheel them back to their home for the confused and bewildered.

In August my friend Russ will visit with his wife Jayne. His regular calls remind me of what a left behind - A profitable business, nine to five hours, regular time off and a nice car to drive around in. Thank God I opted for an easier life!

Today is Max's fifth birthday. He is currently with his grandparents in Northampton, but will be back at the weekend with Joe his little brother and Sam his fouteen year old big brother. Five is a big age to reach in Max's world and when we phoned him this morning he seemed very happy with the presents he had received. He is football mad and he has been given a large goal for the pub garden.

I played cricket for East Prawle last weekend and although we lost I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was bowled out for nought on the second ball I faced. This wouldn't have been so bad, but the bowler looked to be approximatelt 11 years of age! I managed to take a wicket and don't think I gave too many runs away during my bowling spell.

Helen is working like a mad thing. Tomorrow she is taking the day off and I want her to relax, but I doubt she will listen to me.

Gavin has really made his mark now at the pub. His food is great and he turns it out with amazing speed. We are just about there with the main menu and Gav' has also put on some really interesting specials.

Sailor has settled in at West prawle House and is in love with a mare called Arian. We go to feed him and Charlie has a great time roaming around the fileds and getting scared by the chickens. The boys enjoy visiting and collecting snails. They thoughfully brought them into the house last weekend when we were having coffee with David and Katie. We found countless snails climbing the walls in an escape attempt! David and Katie have a beautiful house and I would advise anyone wanting nice B & B to give them a call. Their link is on this blog, as is Welle House another lovely location to stay. Mo's breakfasts there are a thing of legend.

Anyway must go now - beer to put on.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

We've got a new sign and I think it looks great, let me know what you think.

This week we said goodbye, albeit temporarily to a great member of staff. Lucy has been helping behind the bar for the past few weeks and did she ever make an impact! Everyone enjoyed her company and nothing is ever a problem for that girl. She works tirelessly and has become part of the family. She is spending the next few weeks looking after relatives dogs in London, whilst completing an English teaching course. On the day she left, she received the news that she had gained her degree; a 2-1 with honours, so well done Lucy and come back soon!

Statler and Waldorf have been in fine fettle, insults and moaning to the fore, as well as enjoying copious amounts of my latest beer; Quercus Prospect. They now have their own ceremonial seats at the bar and last weekend held court over us all under a blackboard that reads, “Statler & Waldorf sit here bitching about life, the way only two expert curmudgeons can!”

On Saturday the cricket team lost to a team of teachers from Filton, Bristol. Filton was the home of the first Concorde, why did we let BA stop her flying? She was the finest, sleekest, most beautiful aircraft ever designed to carry passengers. Ok, she had a carbon footprint the size of Hawaii and most mortals couldn’t afford the ticket unless they had won the national lottery, but she was ours (apart from a little bit of French stuff, probably the champagne on board!). I digress; the teachers beat us by eleven runs. They came to the Provi’ to celebrate their win and drank Prospect by the jug. We had a full bar and lots of people eating Gavin’s excellent food. At about 20:45 the diners were somewhat surprised to find themselves serenaded by the cricketing teachers. They formed a circle and started singing popular songs. Statler bolted to the other side of the bar with a worried look on his face. I don’t know if he thought they might ask him to join in or if he was simply embarrassed by this sudden outburst. Everyone found it amusing. By the fifth song I was beginning to think that it might be best if they stopped, so I gave them all a measure of scotch. All this did was lubricate their vocal chords and they started belting out a Queen song! Eventually they finished and calm was restored. They were a great bunch of guys and it will be good to see them again in the future.

Helen is still driving miles and miles each week. She is travelling on a daily basis to places like Camberley, Coventry, and Bristol, and on a good day Exeter. The South West has some odd locations in it. I am now regularly doing the school run and getting to see a lot of the kids. This is great, but it is also hard work. Max is keen to please, but Joe has his own agenda. Usually just as I am about to take them to school I find Joe covered in mud grinning from ear to ear as he proudly shows me his find of twenty snails from the beer garden!
The weather has been dire, takings are down and next week we will not have Gavin on Monday or Tuesday, so it will be food for only five nights. Still I’m sure it could be worse! I’ll let you know how we get on…

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Some ramblings to be going on with.

So, we took over a pub and were full of fine plans and ideas. Within a short space of time we realised that it wasn’t important to change much about the Provi’, more a case of enhancing what was already there. A few more lights, a log fire blazing in the winter and a smile for the customers. It started well. Our chef; Karen, began to produce mouth watering food and people came from all over to taste her dishes. Things looked promising and we looked forward with enthusiasm. At first the long hours didn’t seem to matter. I would see Helen and the boys each weekend, although it used to shoot by and before I knew it they would b making their way back to Northampton. Then each day would slip into the next, I would cat nap when the opportunity arose and looked forward to the time when the takings would increase sufficiently to take on additional staff to allow me a break from the bar. Costs never decrease, but takings improved and targets started to be achieved. Throughout this time Karen was working six nights each week as well as trying to look after her young son and maintain a semblance of family life. The hours needed to make the kitchen work became too much and understandably Karen felt that she needed to hand in her notice. We found ourselves facing a predicament; we needed a new chef and quick. We advertised the position and even offered accommodation for the right candidate. We were contacted by several people who all seemed interested in the room and its potential view as well as needing to know how far the beaches are from the pub. When asked how experienced they were in the kitchen there was a long pause. Fortunately we were then contacted by a local chap called Gavin Stevens from Kingsbridge. Gavin had just returned from working in Australia and wanted to settle down in this area. His qualifications and experience were ideal and it didn’t take long to offer him the position. So here we are a few weeks down the line, the food is still great and the Provi’ continues its march towards profitability.

So what of us?

We have found the past few weeks extremely difficult. I cannot pretend otherwise. The boys are of an age when they need constant attention and rightfully so, Helen is working long hours and travelling long distances. I have to admit that over the last few weeks we have seriously questioned our future here at the Provi’.

No member of staff will ever have the commitment to a business that the owner has and we have had to accept that we are hostages to that self same commodity of staff commitment. We are so reliant on the food side of the business and we have already invested a large sum of money into this, but it is very much in the hands of others and that is not necessarily the way we want things to be. It would be very easy to leave the pub and just live in our cottage; I could have lots of quality time with the kids and see a lot more of Helen.

So what do we do? Well f**k it – I am not a quitter, so we will continue. I will endure the insults of Mr. K. (Statler) and the deliberations on the quality of my beer by Mr. B. (Waldorf) as well as enjoying the company of VP, the Euchre and cricket team as well as the host of other locals who regularly visit us.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Oh dear.....

Yes you are so right - How terrible, I haven't blogged for some time. I have so much to tell you as well, but I needed time to reflect and make sure that I didn't besmirch anyone's good (or bad) name. We have said goodbye to one chef and hello to another. We have had to give some serious thought to our long term plans here at the pub.

Before this week is out I will endeavour to tell you our plans, explain the changes at the pub and fill in all the blanks. I also need to find out why a certain customer chose to wear pink on the one evening i wasn't in the pub!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Time Out

Sorry for the time out. I have a lot to tell you and over the next few days I will reveal all. As a taster I can tell you that we now have a new chef in addition to Karen, his name is Gavin. The boys (Max & Joe) are now here, but Helen has been away most of the week - she's back tonight!

The adventure continues, but I did question my options last week. As I said, more to follow.

Monday, May 28, 2007

...and now the incriminating evidence.

Don't say I didn't tell you so!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I promise that I will never criticise any woman for the time it takes to get ready ever again (well for a week or two at least!) What a palaver – Make-Up, Bra straps, Fish nets. It is a terribly difficult thing; being a woman. I managed to get the dress on without too much difficulty; the fish net tights were harder, as for the make-up, well that is a real black art. I relied on Helen to smear on the different applications and when she had finished I looked like an evil Danny La Rue. I didn’t exactly sashay into the bar; more like clumped my way around the tables armed with raffle tickets. It was quite a lonely existence until the door opened and there in full girlie regalia stood the T brothers, VP and BK. My God It was scary! They looked so practiced. I referred to the dark underbelly of Prawle in a previous posting and boy, did it rear its tranny head last night. Thank you boys, for your stand of sisterly solidarity. Later Mr. K. arrived I was primed and ready to heavily fine him for his inevitable laughter and insults, but no! He stayed quiet and polite – he was either feeling unwell or determined not to have to put his hands in his pockets. Furthermore, he was dressed as a man, the nerve of the old curmudgeon! I jest; Mr. K. not only dug deep, but played his part rather well as the arbiter of taste and decorum in letting me know in no uncertain terms, that I was without a doubt the ugliest bird he had ever had the misfortune to clap eyes on. He was ably assisted by his partner in crime Mr. B. They passed comment on the attire of their fellow drinkers and made it clear that they would never cross dress – Oh the wonders of Photoshop… Watch this space.

I will publish genuine photos of my cross dressing experience as soon as I have paid the blackmail fee, but in the meantime I would like to thank everyone who made last night so much fun. We raised £150.00 for the First Responders appeal, so all in all it was a worthwhile experience being Doris for the night.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Not long now...

Less than 24 hours to go until I suspend my masculinity and become the old tart behind the bar. I'm not too sure about the make up bit! I will be reliant on Helen for that stuff. I've got some raffle prizes and I am determined to raise a reasonable amount to add to the first responders coffers. I need all the support I can get, with the abuse I will no doubt receive from the usual suspects I fear that this girl may be less than composed by the end of the night.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Never let the facts get in the way of a true story.

I found the following on google regarding our recent fame and notoriety here in the village. I was impressed by the obvious high standard of research and accuracy. Also the fact, that if you read UPI's blurb at the beginning we are considered to be a subject of critical information - Go figure!

Welcome to UPI
Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide. UPI is a global operation headquartered in Washington, DC with offices in Beirut, Hong Kong, London, Santiago, Seoul and Tokyo.

English village to build 'phone throne'
LONDON, May 14 (UPI) -- The Chivelstone Parish is shelling out about $200 to build a throne for visitors to stand on to get a cell phone signal in England's East Prawle Village.
Up until now, mobile phone users in the remote village have literally had to stand on an old wooden bridge to get enough signal to make a call, The Daily Mail reported Monday.
Because the parish has been receiving complaints that the bench, which is across from the public bathrooms, is getting damaged, they have decided to build a special "phone throne" for villagers to and visitors to make mobile telephone calls.
"Opposite the village green and just a few yards down from the public toilets is a wooden bench and villagers have found that if they climb onto it and face in the right direction they can make a call," said one fed-up villager.
"Unfortunately so many of them have been doing it that the bench has been getting damaged," he added.
East Prawle has a population of less than 200, two pubs, a shop and a park.

Things are becoming clearer.

Yes that's me in the dress! Afraid to publish you ask Mr. Anonymous? I will not succomb to your blackmail threats. Just wait until friday night when I serve you your pint I'll really look the part then. I read these comments you leave with great interest. I think people will see that below the quaint rose coloured veneer of Prawle lies a dark underbelly of people scheming to besmirch my good name. What's wrong with a little cross dressing? Furthermore, J. Edgard Hoover (former head of the FBI) was known to wear skirts, what is stranger is the fact that he disappeared off the scene around the time a certain Mr K. arrived on these shores - now I'm not suggesting anything improper should he feel the need to contact his libel lawyers, merely an observation.
I will be fining anyone who dares take my good name in vein. I think the First responders will do very well this weekend. Dig deep in those pockets Statler and Waldorf, for I shall be passing the collection bucket around soon.
By the way, I do look rather fetching in that little number, don't I?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Injured but undeterred,

I have renewed my aquaintence with muscles I no longer knew I had. I have a lump on my hand the size of a golf ball and my batting performance was poor at best, but I took two wickets!!!

I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon as a player in the East Prawle Cricket team. I am about to go to bed now, but I will tell you more soon. We didn't win, but we came a close second.

Oh dear - What have I done now?

As a publican I know only too well the effects that excess alcohol can have on someone. As I alluded to yesterday I have suffered those self same effects - my problem being amnesia. I cannot remember anything I said and this came home to me with a vengeance yesterday lunchtime. I was busy nursing my well earned hangover, a direct result of the Euchre Team Dinner that Helen and I were kindly invited to on Friday evening. Mr K. DHS, MR B. and another Mr B came into the pub for a pie and a pint. They had all been hard at work preparing the village cricket pitch for today's match against Slapton. Mr K. revelled in my apparent discomfort and more so when he pointed out that I would be playing cricket for the team today. I think my expression must have said a lot because I knew nothing of this although I had apparently agreed to it on Friday evening. I tried the old "I have no whites" ploy, but DHS assured me that he would provide. I then remembered that this would leave Helen on her own in the pub on a busy Sunday lunchtime. Mr K. asked her in his nicest manner if she would mind and I confidently predicted a very big YES SHE DOES MIND. Alas no, she simply smiled and said what a nice idea it would be. So now the time is drawing near and I am panicking that I may single handedly be responsible for the worst defeat in East Prawle Cricket history. I haven't bowled an over for nearly thirty years...

I will let you know what happened later.

Oh! One more thing, Mr K. I feel the barring coming on...

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I have a hangover the size of a house. They made me do it, whatever it was! I can't really remember, but I think it was fun.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

verb [T]
to wish that you had something that another person has:
It’s easy to think that Polyanna is writing this blog, every entry bubbles along detailing the delights of life in the village pub, but sometimes things aren’t always sweetness and light. I think I should clarify my position here. The village is as wonderful as I describe, the people (with very few exceptions) are a delight to serve and the way of life is to die for. I am though, prone to feel fed up on occasion. I suppose the main reason is the separation from my family – yes I know everyone said so, and yes I thought I could manage it, but I am not too proud to admit that I hate it. My son; Max has just been told that he will have to wear glasses for the rest of his life. I wanted to be with him to help him understand. Isn’t that what fathers are for? Fortunately he is very pleased with himself and thinks it is a great thing. Oh to be four again!

Lunch times are a funny affair here. On a Monday the Pig’s Nose is shut and we get a lot of walkers in for bar meals. The rest of the week tends to be very quiet. I know this will change with the onset of summer and the visitors it brings to the village, but it can be soul destroying at times standing behind the bar of an empty pub.

An amusing thing has happened this week here in Prawle. At a meeting of the parish council, someone commented on the lack of a mobile telephone signal in the village. It was said that campers often stand on the village benches to get a signal and muddy the seats. The council suggested spending money on a two foot tall concrete plinth for people to stand on instead. A reporter happened to be at the meeting and obviously short of breaking international news they ran with this staggering piece of information. We have now had BBC film crews here, Radio Five Live interviewed council members, our district councillor was even contacted by Radio Ulster – maybe Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley feel this is an issue to be discussed by the assembly at Stormont? Now for the rub – I feel left out. All the activity centred on the village green, the Pig’s Nose was mentioned throughout, but the poor old Provi’ missed out. I even told one radio reporter that there was another pub in the village and that amazingly it was also possible to get a signal in my beer garden, but no! The Provi wasn’t deemed a location worthy of international recognition…

So you see, envy can strike us all.

Oh! I forgot to mention – I also barred someone from the pub, but that's another story...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Givenchy or Chanel?

I am not best pleased, but I have to announce that I will be in drag on Friday 25th May (Evening). This is down to my failure to wear a suit on Good Friday. I am already receiving suggestions as to what I should wear that evening and if anyone out there has a dress in fat bloke size, please contact me ASAP.

I am going to charge 50 pence to everyone who laughs at me and this will go to the First Responders Appeal. This is an ongoing collection that will be used to train a local group of volunteers in the use of life saving equipment. The idea is that immediate help will be available until the emergency services arrive. Should anyone laugh excessively the amount will increase by a commensurate amount.

The bank holiday weekend was very busy for food, but less so for drinking. I did have the pleasure of being host to a stag party who whilst drinking vast quantities did behave impeccably. They turned up on Saturday with a request to book a table for 10 that same evening. They arrived at opening time and drank and drank and drank and… They later ordered their meals and the chap who was due to jump the broomstick decided to sit in the easy chair by the log fire while waiting for his food. I guess the combination of large volumes of Dartmoor IPA, a warm log fire (and did I mention large quantities of ale?) had a soporific effect and he slumped into a peaceful sleep. His comrades obviously felt he needed the rest because when they had finished eating – some two hours later, they woke him and thanked him for his meal that they had shared between them!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A little village info

I haven’t really said too much about the locality I find myself in. The village of East Prawle is in an area known as the South Hams. The name comes from the old English word “Hamme”, meaning sheltered place and whilst this village is far from sheltered it does enjoy a long summer and mild winters. The main towns in this area are Kingsbridge, Totnes, Dartmouth, Salcombe, Modbury and Ivybridge. I used to holiday here when I was younger and would enjoy the expanse of sand at Bantham or just strolling around Salcombe or Dartmouth looking at the boats. As I grew older I would visit the area with my own family and have taken great pleasure visiting places with my children that I first saw myself as a youngster. There is a sad inevitability about holidays though; you always have to go home, and our journeys back always seemed to be depressing affairs. I often said to Helen that on a Sunday evening we should have been travelling south on the A38, not North. I wanted to be returning to the South Hams after visiting relatives in the Midlands not leaving Devon and going back to Northampton. Now I have that luxury. I don’t get out as much as I would like to because the pub really is a full time affair, but when I do venture out I enjoy the coastal paths and hidden beaches around here. Charlie is now walking further and I am looking forward to really long walks with him.

Whilst Salcombe claims to be Devon’s southernmost town East Prawle is Devon’s southernmost village. It looks down across valleys and out to sea. Farming is the major industry in the area and some of the farms are run by families who have been here for generations. A lot of the holiday houses and second homes enjoy spectacular sea views and as such attract a large number of visitors throughout the year. Many people visit every year and some of them have become locals in their own right some even playing in the village cricket teams.

There is a very strong sense of community here in Prawle. The Parish Council serves its electorate well and various other village committees and groups do a lot for the well being and entertainment of all residents. As I write this entry there is an election on for the District & Parish Councils, it is being strongly fought with one of the main contenders being a villager and sometime drinker at the pub, I use the term Drinker loosely as he is the epitome of probity and rectitude!. The village, whilst not high in population has two pubs; there is first and foremost the Provi’ (I would say that wouldn’t I?) but on the green is the Pig’s Nose. This pub is run by Peter and Lesley Webber and is famous for its music nights.

Later this month the Prawle Fair will take place. This is a wonderfully traditional English country fair with swing boats, tombola’s, plate smashing and even guinea pig races. We are going to provide Chilli Con Carne to the visitors and all proceeds will go to the causes supported by the fair committee. I am really hoping that the weather will be kind and that lots of people come and join in the fun. All of the villagers contribute in some way shape or form and at the end of the day there will be a children’s tug-of-war with the two teams representing the two village pubs. Come on the Provi’!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Where's Basil Fawlty when you need him?

Last Sunday evening was very busy, unusually so. We had every table full which is different for a Sunday evening in Prawle, but I certainly wasn’t complaining. I found myself very busy at the bar and the time went by rather quickly. Two German visitors asked for a table and I managed to seat them although they requested a table that was nearer to the log fire. I explained that this particular table had already been reserved by another party and was unavailable. The man was not impressed, but I reiterated the reasons and he went back to his wife and sat where they had been placed. I can only imagine that log fires are a rarity in Deutschland because once they had placed their food order his wife went and pulled an easy chair over to the fire and sat there gazing at the flames. I continued to man the pumps and keep the beer flowing and food coming. At one point I was two deep at the bar and trying my best to keep everyone happy when I noticed my German guest sauntering over to me. I was half way through pouring a pint of IPA when he interrupted and said in a manner that made his request more akin to an order, “Excuse me, please you vill go and stoke ze fire now?” Well! I smiled pleasantly and through gritted teeth explained that, “No I won’t be stoking the fire, because as he may have noticed I am rather busy right now!” He returned muttering to his Fraulein.

The following evening they returned and enjoyed another of Karen’s top meals. I waited until they had finished their last spoonful and asked them, “haben Sie gut gegessen?” Meaning – Have you eaten well? They were somewhat taken aback and I only wish I could have remembered how to say “You shouldn’t mutter about people when they can hear and understand –ish you!”

As an aside, it was only after they had gone that I remembered that the pub walls are adorned with Shepherd Neame Spitfire posters!!! So much for political correctness.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It’s been a while I know! I am reminded constantly by certain people, no names no pack drill – Mr. K! Anyway, since my last offering I have had some quality time with Helen and the little ones and even managed a decent coastal walk last Sunday morning with Helen’s mum. I have managed to chip a tooth. Now I could claim that it happened whilst evicting a seven foot tall axe wielding drunk from the bar, but that wouldn’t really be true. It actually happened biting into a sausage sandwich – can you believe that? I now whistle my way through conversations as well as looking like a reject extra from a medieval film scene.

I have been racking my brains for some time about who Mr. K. & Mr. B. remind me of when they are together. It has finally come to me – Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets. They are so alike it is scary. All I need is a balcony for them to sit in and everything would be perfect. I jest, they are a welcome addition to the pub and keep me interested and amused (and on my toes) at the same time.

It is local election time here and some of my locals are canvassing keenly for their respective candidates. I do not allow official canvassing within the confines of the pub, but it has been interesting listening to peoples’ comments at the bar regarding the politics of the area. I have noticed how different the concerns of country folk are to those of townies and I must admit to having had to be educated in rural matters. I am now on the electoral roll so I will exercise my right to vote, but in the absence of a Monster Raving Loony Party candidate I am not sure where my cross will be placed.

The Euchre team have had a major result. We are now in the final of the Brooking Plant Cup. I am going to go along on the night and provide support and also a few pints for the team. They are a great bunch and their custom has helped me through the quiet winter months. They have also been trying to teach me how to play the game; I think I’m a lost cause there.

On Monday this week I went to The Breakfast Club, this was held in the village cafĂ© and was a really nice way to start the day. A full English breakfast, coffee, good company and an abundance of Union flags as it was also St. George’s day. Chris and Viv the proprietors really made it the place to be. Chris looked the picture of sartorial elegance in his blazer and flannels. I maintained my standards by wearing old jeans and a scruffy t-shirt.

It has been suggested that I may like to join the village cricket team. It has been some years since I bowled a googly, but hey! I’m up for it. I just need to get some whites and well who knows what may happen, I am sure it will be worth it even if I do receive a healthy dose of sledging from certain quarters.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


No excuses apart from being very, very busy, very tired and totally flat after the Easter mayhem. Easter started in the week leading up to Good Friday. People started arriving in the village and the phone kept ringing with bookings for evening meals. I kept hearing the Ka-Ching of the cash register and realised that there is a God after all. My eldest son, Sam spent that first week with me and helped in the kitchen and also assisted me with glass washing duties. As a fourteen year old he has reached the stage of development where normal speech is replaced by an unintelligible series of grunts, but we managed to communicate sufficiently enough to get by. I also enjoyed a visit from my eldest brother Trevor who travelled from London to spend a couple of nights here. He gave me his seal of approval, which actually means a lot to me and he enjoyed walking the lanes and coast path during his stay. He also found the beer and food to his taste so all in all I think Prawle hit the mark once again.

Easter weekend came with a vengeance. Due to the busier than normal week we had been having my mind was all over the place and definitely not where it was meant to be. This manifested itself on Friday night. Helen and the boys had travelled down on the Thursday evening and having the family around had been great. Young children bring a sense of perspective to things and I must admit that I had been feeling slightly down of late, mainly through tiredness but having Max and Joe around lightened my mood. On Friday night I came down to the bar and started preparing tables for meals that had been booked. I made sure the bar was ready and shortly after opening people started to arrive. I was ready for the offensive. A steady trickle of customers took me through to seven o’clock when the first diners arrived. We were fully booked and my trusty barman Martin and I made sure that we met the demands being placed upon us. Things were running smoothly until-

David and Katie H-S came in and ordered drinks and Katie made a simple observation, “What no suit?” Now anyone who knows me also knows that I have a tradition of always wearing a suit on a Friday night. Obviously I blame Helen and the boys entirely for this oversight, inasmuch as they arrived on the Thursday when normally they turn up on a Friday. This caused me to lose track of the days. Lame excuse really isn’t it? As a result I have to suffer a self imposed penalty. I always said that should I fail to wear my suit on a Friday evening I would (at a date chosen by me) serve at the bar for one evening dressed as a woman. I will let you know the date in due course, but beware my dear imbibers, should you laugh at my discomfort you will be charged an additional five pence on your drink which will go to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust. The only ray of light during this highly embarrassing situation was the absence of Mr. K. He is sunning himself with his family in the West Indies whilst taking in the cricket World Cup, jealous! Moi? So at least I avoided the withering glance, the acerbic comment and the criticism of no blog posting, God bless ‘im.

More to follow very soon…

Monday, March 26, 2007


We are fast being recognised as a good place to eat. Karen is turning out plate after plate of fine cuisine, but even with the help we have in the kitchen it is proving hard to keep up with the demand. We have prided ourselves on our ability to offer hot food seven evening a week, however, I am seriously considering shutting one evening a week until I can find additional trained staff. I have been advertising for a second chef, but so far no one is coming forward. I guess this is one of the downsides of being successful. It is all about balance. We have seen a drop off in lunchtime trade with the opening of the village cafe, this isn't necessarily a bad thing although
every little bit helps. It does allow more time for preparation of the evening menu. No one ever said it would be easy! We put pan fried bass fillet on the menu over the weekend and it sold out. Poor show really as I didn't even get a chance to eat any, still, think we have another delivery coming in today.

The East Prawle Cricket Team have announced their fixture list for the forthcoming season - see the links section on the right hand side of the blog.
Some of the characters I have referred to in previous postings are part of this team. I will provide match reports and details of their heroic on-field exploits (and some off-field) when available.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Curmudgeons R Us

Wyomissing is a borough in Pennsylvania, USA. It has a population of around 8,500 and boasts some marvellous scenery. In November 1965 it lost one of its inhabitants. Mr K. was dispatched to our shores, he says by his own volition, however I think he was banished for being too curmudgeonly. He now resides in East Prawle with his family, who I hasten to add are nothing other than friendly and nice to be around. Mr K. is like the voice in your head that never goes away. "Are you going to serve me or are you just going to stand there all expletive deleted night?" This may be followed by a pointed and equally barbed comment about the idea of a blog being something to do with posting on a regular basis - something I admit I fail to do! His voice buzzes around my head like an unwanted blue bottle. The only way I have found to soothe this savage beast is by serving him a fine single malt whisky. His current preference is Caol Ila (Gaelic for 'the Sound of Islay'). I must admit I have tried it and found it to be a fine wee dram. The smokey taste stays with you and it is very mellow as it slides down. Mr K. dispatches this nectar with relish and then insults me in a much friendlier fashion. You see, he has cultivated this image of being an old curmudgeon, but really he is quite a nice chap, although he will now abuse me to high heaven for suggesting as much. I look forward to his next broadside in anticipation.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Together At Last

Great news! Helen has secured a job here in the south west. She will be starting in May and at last i will have my family arond me. Sam, my oldest lad will continue to visit during his school holidays, but Max and Joe will be here full time with Helen. As I write this Helen is travelling down to the pub so that tomorrow morning we can visit Stokenham school nearby, to enrol Max.
I always thought the separation would be difficult, but now there is light at the end of the tunnel.
All I want to do now is arrange for my mother who is in here eighties to be able to come to the Provi' and see what all the fuss is about. She has doesn't walk or manage stairs so well these days, so staying in the pub or cottage would prove difficult. I am trying to find somewhere with facilities all on one level so that she can come for a weekend.
Things are on the up!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Provi' People

Things are running smoothly here in Prawle (I hope this statement won’t become known as my famous last words.) I have a set routine and with the odd exception of freezers breaking down, beer pumps not working properly and the one occasion where I ran out of wine, I am now finding time to plan ahead. We have the Easter break coming up soon and things here go mad. Busy is not a suitable description. It is full on all day and all night, a precursor of the summer to come? We are going to modify our menu and will attempt to encourage the ravenous hordes to book across two sittings. Also if the weather is good to us I will allow people to eat in the beer garden, where they can also enjoy a marvellous sea view.

We now have a regular clientele who use the Provi’ as a refuge from the drudgery of daily life in this village by the sea, a quiet and remote village with some of the most beautiful coastal scenery, a place where modern fast paced city life has no foothold... Sorry I was referring to drudgery wasn't I? Anyway, I now meet on a regular basis some very interesting characters. I’ll start by mentioning Tattoo Pete. Pete is a local fellow who spent time at sea and has also lived abroad in his time. He is also the only council employee I know who drives around in a Jaguar. I am reliably informed (and I have no personal knowledge of this) that he has tattoos over most of his body as well as several interesting piercings. I first met Pete when I was a customer rather than a landlord. My first impression was probably similar to most other peoples and decidedly wrong. Here was a thick-set chap with a goatee beard, tattoos all over him including his neck and ears. He had an earring that looks like a napkin ring in his earlobe and I mean in his earlobe, not just connected via a small pierced hole. Pete looks like he should be heading up a chapter of the most vicious Hell’s Angels you could encounter, but in truth he is a pussycat. He can be articulate, is very amusing and most importantly he is a nice bloke. It is quite funny when he is at the bar and a party of walkers enter the pub. You can see them exchange looks after they notice Pete and they obviously wonder if they have come to the right place. There is a scene in the Blues Brothers where Jake and Elwood go into a very nice restaurant to try and persuade one of their old band members to rejoin them. The patrons look on with contempt at the two anti-heroes, looks of disgust across their collective faces. Jake turns to one table and in a rasping voice says, “I want to buy your daughters,” “How much for your daughters?” I intend to get Pete to do this at some point in the future. Never judge a book by its cover is a truism we should all remember.

I look forward to the visits of Mr & Mrs B. Mr B. is a multi talented chap who can do everything from manage the software requirements of local businesses to repair fairground organs. He is also a doyen of fine ale. Before we first took on the pub, we had a chat with a few locals and they made it clear that if Mr B. likes your beer then you are not doing too badly. Now, Mr B. knows that I know this and takes great delight as he takes his first sip of a pint in saying, “Landlord, there’s a problem with this beer!” I always look worried and he smiles his knowing smile following it up with, “This beer’s very good, I may have to have more.” He gets me with that every time! Mrs B. is a lovely lady and is definitely the Ying to Mr B’s Yang. Together they add to the charm of this place and I enjoy chatting to them on their frequent visits to the Provi’. Over time I will introduce you to more of my locals.

There are more interesting and colourful characters here and I will provide more information on these soon.

I have excellent staff here at the Provi’. The kitchen is managed by Karen tucker a local girl who has made a huge success of our food operation. She works like a Trojan and has given our customers a marvellous choice of mouth-watering dishes that keep them coming back for more. Alongside Karen is Ian another local who is fast becoming a kitchen whiz in his own right. He is our lunchtime specialist. The bar is my domain, but I wouldn’t manage without the help of Martin who comes from the nearby village of East Portlemouth. Martin helps out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and is a massive help during our busy times. I occasionally call on his assistance at lunchtimes, but this is not as easy for him as he educates his own children at home. So you see I am able to surround myself with erudite, colourful and intelligent people here at the Provi’.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

BT - The enemy

So much for having a blog when you do not update it on a regular basis! So I am constantly reminded by one of my regular customers. In fairness, he is correct. I have been very remiss in providing you, my readers, with a sufficient level of output. I started this blog as a means to providing a cathartic journal for me to express my feelings about a major and significant change to my life. I took over a pub in a small Devon village and started to recount my exploits here on the web. Taking over the Providence Inn in December 2006 was a major gamble for my family and me too. So far, the gamble has paid off, but not without a few issues along the way. To date the single largest problem I have encountered is an organization that so many of us have the misfortune to deal with – British Telecom. Were anyone else to run their business in the same manner as this corporate abomination they would surely go to the wall through lack of custom and lack of efficiency. I am going to explain in detail what I have had to deal with. I am going to name names and I do not care if I upset anyone working for that organization.

We started here at the pub on the 1st December 2006. That same morning I contacted BT and was put through to the BT Local Business Department. I spoke to a very nice man called Roger Beech. I explained to Roger that I wanted to change the line at the pub to a BT account. The previous landlord had been using a different telecoms billing platform that I chose not to use. I explained this to Roger. The main reason, I said, was so that I could get a broadband enabled line. Oh, joy of joys! Roger was ecstatic. He explained that BT offer a service called BT FUSION. This service would provide me with my broadband requirement, it would also allow me to make internet based calls that would cost me no more than 0.05 pence per hour and best of all I would be able to use my mobile phone in the pub to receive and make calls, with the outgoing call cost being the same 0.05 pence per hour. Now, for all of you who live in or visit East Prawle, you will understand what a bonus that would be, as the only place in the village you can get a signal is outside the phone box on the village green. This sounded like a great scheme and I tentatively agreed to go ahead, but first I needed to make sure of certain things. In my previous employment, I had often run foul of BT, but this sounded quite straightforward. My biggest concern was that I had been using AOL Broadband at my previous address and had initially asked AOL to take over the account at the pub. I explained this process was going on as we spoke and Roger assured me that this detail, but good old Roger said that there would be no problem and that they, BT would sort out all of the finer points. With that, I said yes and he faxed through several forms for me to sign and return. The form filling duly completed I went about the business of becoming the new landlord of the Provi’.

I waited for a week and as no further contact had been made from BT, I thought I would contact my new friend Roger and check on the status of my order. My call went straight through to Roger’s voicemail, the message said he was in a meeting or away from his desk, but that was ok. I left a brief message and asked him if he would contact me and bring me up to date with the status of my order. Later that same day I realized that Roger had not called me, no problem really, after all he is a very busy man. I rang his number again and reached his voicemail, another message to call me and that was that. As you can probably appreciate, running a pub is a full on occupation and it was a day or two later that I remembered that he had not contacted me. I rang his number and got through to him on the first attempt. He apparently had not received my message? Somewhat surprised I asked him to let me know when I could expect to see the equipment necessary for my new shiny FUSION setup. He checked his system and was somewhat concerned to find a problem with line ownership existed. Apparently the line was still in the name of the previous landlord and therefore was not available for BT to upgrade. I explained that I had been present when the previous owner had contacted his supplier to cancel his contract and that furthermore I would not be using them. Roger was straight onto the case. He said I would have to contact the old landlord and check…. “No Roger!” “You will make the calls necessary, not me.” Anyway, after a while he rang me back and told me it was my fault! Apparently I had a broadband service from AOL. I quickly reminded dear Roger that during our very first conversation I had mentioned the AOL aspect and he had assured me that there would be no problem in changing the account and that he would sort the necessary details at his end and get back to me. A week passed and Roger had not contacted me. Had I upset my new friend? Was he ok? Perhaps he had been made Chief Exec of BT. I rang him and luckily only had to leave three messages before he called me back. He assured me that engineers were at that very minute en-route to switch the switches and make everything happen. Not wanting to rain on his parade I oohed and arrghed in the right places, but then had to remind him that I had not received any equipment to make things work at my end. Not to worry, we were all set for the Friday of that week and everything would be with me in time. I even received official BT paperwork confirming this. Friday morning arrived and the postman left me a few bills, but no router, software or mobile phone. Not to worry. I rang Roger and asked what courier service would be bringing my equipment. Now Roger sounded a little concerned, apparently he was due in a meeting and I was holding him up. I apologised profusely and reminded him that I was actually a customer and it was incumbent on him to help me in my hour of need. He suggested that he give me a number to ring, it was another BT department who are in charge of sending out the kit. Sorry Roger! That is a big no no. I am the customer; you work with your supply chain and find out the answer, then tell me what I need to know. In short nothing happened. As usual, he promised to get back to me and as usual he didn’t. The following week I tried on several occasions to speak to him as well as leaving messages, but by then he had given up on me. Now most companies have a contact number if you have a problem and I thought that it was perhaps time for me to utilise BT’s no doubt superior complaints system. I dialled a number and a very nice sounding recording gave me a choice of several numeric options – I pressed one, three, two, four, and three again and eventually was put in a queue. A young lady answered and I tried to explain my difficulties to her. She told me that I would have to go back on hold and that she would get back to me. Thirty four minutes later I gave up being on hold and had to open the pub for the evening session. I vowed to repeat the process on the Monday following. On the Monday I attempted a different tack. I contacted the number that was on the letter from BT Broadband and spoke to a chap in Mumbai. He was very helpful and explained that I couldn’t get the broadband connection because the line had not been enabled. Hang on! My old buddy Roger had assured me that the line would be changed over so surely Mumbai bloke must be wrong. I demanded to be put through to his supervisor without having to wait for an hour on hold. Amazingly I was put straight through to a Scottish sounding chap who promised to look into the situation and get straight back to me. I asked that he be true to his word as there was obviously a fault with the whole of the internal BT telephone network that normally stopped his colleagues from being able to return calls! He gave me his number and promised faithfully to get back to me. Within the hour he returned my call and explained that there was a tag on the line, “Well can’t you remove it?” I naively asked “I’m sorry Mr. Johnson, but we can’t do that. You have to ring 152 and ask them to do it.” Now I am all for helping where I can, but it seemed slightly unreasonable that I should have to make these calls, but in the interest of expediency I decided to do it. I made the call and asked for the line tag to be removed. I was informed that it would take a couple of hours and that everything would be sorted to my satisfaction. The week continued its steady course and no one had contacted me, no hardware had arrived and I was beginning to doubt my sanity. That Thursday in desperation I tried Roger again. He told me that he had done all he could and that it was in the hands of another BT department. Furthermore, he couldn’t contact them because government legislation prevented him from do so. That was it. I exploded into an apoplectic fit of rage and pointed out to this moron that he had prevaricated the whole time we had been in contact. He never returned calls and furthermore had provided me with no service whatsoever. As his customer I demanded that he sort this mess out or failing that get me put through to someone who could. After much bluster and buckets of bulls**t he finally gave me the number of another department who would sort out my issues. I contacted said department and spoke to a very helpful person who gave me an assurance that all would be sorted out by midday the following day. By the end of the following week I had a broadband connection and a router. I contacted the broadband department and explained that I thought there was a problem. Firstly I had not received my mobile, second, the router was fixed wire and surely for the mobile to work it needed to be a wireless router and finally, I had received a telephone bill that had local calls charged at 6.5 pence per minute and national at 7.5 pence per minute when in fact, good old Roger had told me I would be paying 5 pence per hour for all my calls. “I think you are mistaken Mr. Johnson.” My new BT friend told me. “We don’t provide that service.” Well, I explained in words of one syllable that he was somewhat mistaken as I was actually holding my copy of the contract that I had assiduously sent back to Roger on December 1st 2006. It stated that I was signing up for broadband and something called Fusion that would provide all the facets of this wonderful service. “Let me guess, that is provided by another part of BT and you want me to ring them?” Sometime around this point my eyes glazed over and I lost the will to live. I estimate that BT employs in excess of 5000 staff. I think during this process I have spoken to 4998 of them the remaining two being the Chief Exec and the one person who might have been able to sort out my difficulties. I cannot be bothered to bore you with more details, but in short it is March 17th I am on my third router, I have my third mobile and surprisingly I still do not have the service I am paying for. I wish a plague on BT and all its offshoots. I have no contact with Roger Beech although if you ever want to contact him I will gladly give you his number. Every moment I am not serving beer I am in dialogue with BT employees who seem at a loss as to what is happening. So you see the lack of blogging is not really down to me as the blame lies with British Telecom. As was pointed out to me the other day, BT stands for Bunch of Tossers.
My promise to you is that very shortly you will start to see regular posting about my pub adventure,

Thursday, March 01, 2007

For The Benefit of Mr Keltz.

Don't worry about the title and I'm happy to pay due deference to the Beatles for the abuse - he
knows what it means...

Sorry, it has been a while now I know. I’ve been surprised at just how busy I am, don’t get me wrong folks, it’s great, but time just flies by and before you know it another week has passed. The pub is doing rather well. The local villagers are very supportive and the Euchre team have been a blessing with their home matches here at the Provi’. The food has really taken off now and we are getting lots of diners in. Karen Tucker is working wonders in the kitchen with a varied and appetising menu. She really knows how to cook that girl, her food is getting recognised in other villages and we are receiving lots of bookings based on recommendations made by previous diners. The biggest problem is staff. We are desperately in need of a second chef, but can we get one? That’s a big no at the moment.

I have also acquired a new role for myself. I am now the East Prawle correspondent for the Kingsbridge & Salcombe Gazette. I have made a couple of submissions to the paper already and have the honour of having my ugly mug pasted at the top of my weekly musings. On Monday evening this week I attended a meeting of the Prawle Fair Committee. Each year the village holds a fair to raise funds for the Community Hall that sits next to my pub. I sat in the hall and thought back to what I was doing last year at that time. I decided that I was either sitting in my old home watching a football match on the TV or possibly doing some telecom related work. Yet there I was on the 26/02/07 listening to a serious discussion about the best way to hold a guinea pig race! Welcome to Planet Prawle.

Tomorrow evening the village cricket team are playing a darts match against a team from the Pig’s Nose. The Pig’s Nose is the other pub in the village and it is famous for its music evenings some very well known bands play there. I just hope their darts aren’t as good as their music.

I am getting to know various people in the village and whilst they are a diverse bunch, they are also a very warm and welcoming group of souls (as long as the beer is okay.) I really enjoy their company especially when a heated argument is on the go. More often than not it is about local and national politics but on occasion it can be caused by a stupid townie asking a dumb question about foot and mouth disease. (With apologies to Tim, Richard, Sarah, Shawn, David, Louise, Julian and Brian.)

Helen and the boys came down last weekend and we took Charlie for his first walk out in the big wide world. We went to Lannacombe beach which is close to East Prawle. The beach sits at the foot of a valley and all the rain water that runs down and from the valley cuts through the beach and runs out to sea. Well, just lately we have had a large amount of rain and as a result the stream was flowing very fast. I crossed at a shallow point and Charlie dutifully followed. Now, shallow is a subjective term. I am five feet ten inches tall, Charlie is approximately ten inches tall, and I guess the extra five feet can make a difference. When he surfaced he looked quite surprised in the way that only puppies can. I must admit, I found it hilarious as he paddled, flapped his ears and tried anything he could think of to get out of the water. His tail acted as a rudder and he floated by my feet looking totally confused. We got him back to the pub soon after and he seemed fine despite his aquatic adventure.

I am really looking forward to Helen joining me on a permanent basis here in Prawle. She makes the journey every weekend and considering her New Year’s Day exploits she doesn’t complain, but it is hard going. Our Sunday lunch time sessions are usually a nice time, but I dread the clock reaching three o’clock as that is the time that she and the boys go home.

More soon….

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Emergency

Today has been a steady day for the pub. No records were broken, but we sold sufficient beer and food to make everything good in the world, well certainly in The Provi'. We did however, have a major emergency. Charlie, our new puppy was off his food and as the day progressed he became more and more lethargic as well as suffering from a nasty bout of sickness. At 10.00pm I felt it necessary to take him to the vet. I have Sam, my 14 year old son staying with me this week and together we took Charlie to the vets in Kingsbridge. It was quite worrying, the little chap was not his usual puppylike self and the vet determined that Charlie had eaten something that did not agree with him. After an injection, some pills and a nasty looking cream that I have to force down his throat (not to mention a hefty dent in the wallet) we brought him back to the pub. He's laying quietly at my feet as I type this. I hope he'll be back to normal tomorrow.

More soon.

Something like normality?

January and February in East Prawle tend to be quiet months for the pub. We obviously look forward to the summer as a time of great opportunity and hopefully financial reward, but the early months offer their own benefits. For me, the main one has been the opportunity to get to know my locals. The fact that we have been well supported is something I have referred to previously, but I am now finding out more about my customers and their lives. There are a large number of second homes here and many are rented out as holiday lets, but we still have a thriving community and they all work hard to make the village a good place to live. We have a community hall that hosts various events, ranging from Parish Council meetings through to the local painting club. Recently the Prawle Party took place there. This is an annual event that allows all residents from children upwards the opportunity to get together in the community hall and have a bit if fun. This year numbers were down, but I think that was mainly due to there being a Burns Night supper at the same time. Helen and I enjoyed it and I have to admit to having more glasses of red wine than perhaps I should have.
The weekends have been very busy. Our food is being taken very seriously and we receive lots of bookings for Fridays and Saturdays. On a Sunday lunch time we offer a traditional roast dinner and that is gaining in popularity with each passing week.
We have changed some of our drinks around. Dispensing with Carlsberg, Blackthorn and Murphys; replacing them with Carling, Guinness and Strongbow. We have kept the Grolsch as this was proving to be popular.
More later this week...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Our New Member of Staff

There's so much to tell about all that has happened throughout January and I fully intend
to bring you all the latest information, but for now I thought I would introduce you to our newest member of staff; Charlie.

Charlie is an eight week old Chocolate Labrador and he is keeping me busy cleaning up puddles and messes whilst I attempt to pull pints and take food orders! He's a great little chap and he is already making himself at home in the Provi'. He sits behind the bar below the till and keeps me company.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pictures of the car

Max called the car Mr. Bottle, we have no idea why, but it sort of made sense. Sadly Mr. Bottle is no more as you can see.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Journey to Oxford

I left the pub at approximately eleven o'clock on New Year's Eve with my mind in a whirl. Was Helen trying to spare me worry by saying that they were okay? Surely, if they were okay, why the need to go to the hospital. The journey took place in a daze. I took a couple of cans of Red Bull from the bar and also bought a packet of ProPlus tablets from a garage en route. The road was empty and the weather was clear, at least this was in my favour. I had my mobile phone handy and hoped that Helen would be able to contact me with an update, but I knew that she had left her phone in the car and the fire brigade had not let her return to it. Although I had drunk the Red Bull and taken a couple of the Pro Plus tablets I was still very tired, I had slept less than four hours in the past forty one hours and I was aware of how hypnotic motorway driving can be. It took about two hours to reach Bristol and by the time I got to the Gordano service area I was very close to falling asleep at the wheel. With discretion being the better part of valour I decided to stop for a small nap and cup of coffee. I pulled into the car park, dropped my seat back, set the alarm on my mobile phone for fifteen minutes and shut my eyes. At this precise moment my legs started to cramp. I was in agony and I hobbled out of the car. Now you have to remember that it is approximately one thirty in the morning and anyone who happened to be watching would have seen a man who is now bent double, fall from his car and proceed to hobble around the car park like a demented duck! So much for sleeping. I eventually managed to get my legs back to normal and straighten myself up. I went to the men’s washroom, splashed cold water on my face and then headed off again onto the M5. I drove for an hour or so; all the time I was worrying about what I would find at the hospital, my mind was creating all manner of scenarios that are too painful to put down here. Eventually I stopped at the Leigh Delamere service area on the M4. Rolling to a stop I didn't even bother to put the seat back, I simply set the alarm, closed my eyes and drifted off. My mobile phone started ringing and I awoke with a start. It was still dark, so I figured that I hadn’t slept too long. Looking at my watch showed that I had only been asleep for five minutes! It was Helen, checking up on my progress. I didn’t want her to worry so I didn’t mention my tiredness, but decided I should press on. I drove for the next hour and a half until I finally got to the hospital. I rushed inside and was pointed to a treatment unit where I was told Helen and the boys would be. I found them in a side ward. The two boys were top to tail on the bed fast asleep and didn’t appear to be injured. Helen was sat at their bedside and looked tired and worried. I won’t bother detailing the next couple of hours as it was all very emotional and trying for Helen. She was in a very self accusatory mood and nothing I could say would change her outlook. To me it had been an accident, a bad one granted, but an accident all the same. They were all okay and able to come home with me. That morning I took them back to our home in Northampton and set about sorting out the insurance, vehicle recovery and a myriad of other details that this sort of thing throws up in its wake. The car was taken to a local garage for assessment and later that day I went to see it. I was staggered at the state of it. How anyone could have got out alive is beyond me. Anyway, I arranged for Helen and the boys to come back down to Devon with me later that day and we attempted to get back to normality.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Year's Day

As mentioned previously, I was up early on New Year's Day to get breakfast for our overnight guests. I have to say that Karen Tucker came to my rescue and helped me with the fry up - That woman is a godsend. Three and a half hours sleep had not left me feeling on top of my game, but there was plenty of work to do. The cleaning up of the bar area was the first order of the day and my brother-in-law Melv assisted me in removing all of the debris left over from the previous evening's revelry. This done I started to replace bottles in order to be ready for the lunchtime session. The cellar needed attention too. I removed all of the empty barrels and made sure that the temperature was okay in there. I couldn't afford to let what beer I had left (half a barrel of Spitfire) get abused. This was going to have get me through until my next visit from the dray man. Lunchtime was relatively quiet. We had a few people in and when we shut the doors at two thirty I prepared to say goodbye to Claire, Steve, Kelly and Alex. They had been a massive help and it had been wonderful having them around during a really important phase of my time here as landlord. They left at about three o'clock and Helen and I sat by the fire with the children and Mon and Melv. I was feeling quite fed up. The whole Christmas/New Year thing had been incredible, but now it was over and it all felt a little anticlimactic. Furthermore I was about to say goodbye to my family and although I would see them the following weekend I was still feeling down. They left for Northampton at four thirty after lots of hugs and kisses. Max, my four year old had a 'Jedi Knight Light Sabre' and was prepared to use the force if necessary! It would soon be time to reopen and I was hoping that it would be a quiet evening. Mon and Melv were staying an extra night and this softened the impact of saying goodbye to Helen, Max and Joe. I had given the kitchen staff the night off and planned on getting an early night myself. If only I had known! From seven o'clock that evening people started to arrive in steady numbers, it was obviously not going to be the quiet night I had planned. By eight o'clock I was flagging, but Mon and Melv kept me plied with coffee and apart from my concern with having only one beer available, everyone seemed happy. I had spoken to Helen earlier on to check on her progress and I figured she would be home between nine thirty and ten. It always takes longer with the children on board as you have to stop for more comfort breaks. Anyway apart from needing a bottle of ProPlus pills to keep me going, everything was ok in the Provi'. At nine thirty the telephone rang and I expected Helen to tell me she was home. Instead I heard her say, "Tim, don't worry, we are all okay, but there has been an accident." My heart missed a beat and the most fearful images raced across my mind. A vehicle had come towards them with its lights on main beam. Helen had moved to the left thinking the other vehicle was too far over towards her side of the road and we think she suffered a blow out. She then lost control of the steering and careened across to the opposite side of the road hitting a tree; the car spun and then rolled over ending upside down in a field. Thank God for seat belts and child seats! I was stunned and couldn't concentrate on what was happening. I told Melv and he took over behind the bar for me. I had to wait nearly an hour before Helen was able to talk to me again. She told me that they were all being taken to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford for checks, but that they were relatively unscathed. I made the decision to go to them there and then. I'll tell you more later on this week as I have to go now and prepare the bar for tonight's session.

Monday, January 22, 2007

East Prawle At Christmas & New Year

Well, I’m back. Sorry for the delay – BT has a lot to answer for, but more of that later in the week.

December 1st came around really quickly, Helen and I arrived in East Prawle on Thursday 30th November and had meetings with various suppliers as well as trying to make the most of our free time before becoming the new landlords of the Providence Inn, henceforth referred to as The Provi’. We visited our neighbours in the Pig’s Nose and then took some time out preparing for the adventure to come. Paperwork needed sorting and we also had to finalise the menus with our head chef Karen. Arnie, the outgoing landlord was given a great send off by the locals that evening and we popped in briefly to raise our glasses to him. I watched him taking the pats on the back and best wishes from his regulars with interest. I wondered to myself if I would be in that position at some point in the future, or was I about to make a major mistake. The enormity of what was about to happen hit me like an out of control train! I put those thoughts aside and Helen and I went back to the cottage to get an early night in advance of our new start. I didn’t sleep too well. Had I done everything that needed to be done? Had I contacted all of the suppliers? Had I…..

I awoke on Friday and remembered that Arnie had arranged to show me how the cleaning system on the gas assisted drinks worked. I shot across the road ready and primed for action. The pub smelt of stale tobacco and spilt drink, there was actually something comforting about this, it seemed right in a peculiar way. I stopped and looked around me, John the cleaner and generally good egg had yet to start his daily routine and spent a few seconds taking everything in. I was about to go to the other side of the bar and claim dominion over the stock, fixtures and fittings and for the first time say, “What can I get you?”

Although we opened at lunch time, things were very quiet. Our first customers were Mr & Mrs Crawford from Strete and we welcomed them with the first drink on the house, fortunately neither of them had a penchant for pints of Brandy! Helen put the closed sign up at two thirty and we went to our room upstairs where we had to start unpacking and sorting out our belongings, how did we (read I,) ever collect so much junk - Who says you can’t fit a quart into a pint pot? Before we realised time had moved apace and it was time to open for our first evening as landlord and landlady of the Provi’. Five o’clock prompt and the sign said OPEN; two chaps came in at half past and stayed for one drink, oblivious of the naivety of their server. At six thirty two locals who we knew came in and wished us well, they couldn’t stay long and soon we were on our own again. Helen went upstairs to make herself look presentable and left me alone in the bar. At eight o’clock I stood alone behind the bar in a nicely pressed suit wondering if it had all been a mistake. No one was in the pub, had they all decided that we weren’t worth the effort? Maybe they all had hangovers from the previous evening’s revelry. No need to worry, at a quarter past eight the door opened and people began filing in and it continued that way for the rest of the evening. I can honestly say that we met some truly lovely people; we were wished well and made to feel comfortable amongst the locals from the village and surrounding area. Helen stayed with me until the following Monday, sadly she had to return to Northampton and I won’t pretend it was easy saying goodbye, but at least I knew that I would see her again the following Friday. I soon got into my stride and found that I really enjoyed being on the working side of the bar. Arnie the ex landlord has proved invaluable to me. His assistance has helped me through a few tricky moments when I found I hadn’t got the faintest idea of what to do when certain things went wrong.

As you may have read in a previous posting, the food side of our operation has kicked in and been really well received. The girls in the kitchen are working like Trojans (no horses on the menu – honest!) they have created a range of excellent dishes and people are coming back for more as well as spreading the word to their friends and associates. As we all know, a personal referral is worth far more than any other form of advertising. We also do Sunday roasts and they are going down a storm. Talking of storms, we have been battered by winds reaching speeds of over 100 miles per hour, torrential downpours and pea soup fogs, yet somehow, here in Prawle that all seems ok.

Christmas was soon upon us. Helen came down with Sam, Max and Joe and for me it was perfect. My wife, my boys, our new pub and new friends as well. I found Christmas Eve to be quieter than I had anticipated, but I suppose that I was basing this on my being in towns rather than villages in the past. Don’t misunderstand, it was still a very good night and we enjoyed the company of all who visited. It was really something when the local carol singers performed for us. Mince pies all round seemed the least we could offer in exchange. The following morning started with the boys opening their presents and they had a great time. Then it was time to prepare for the Christmas lunch time session. We were open from twelve o’clock until three. So many people came and stayed for the duration or like others moved between the two village pubs, there was a lovely feel about the place with smiles all around. Eventually we said goodbye to our last customers and cleaned up. Karen Tucker had kindly left me instructions on how to get our own Christmas dinner ready, so I kept popping back and forth between the bar and the kitchen. I needn’t have bothered. She suddenly appeared and proceeded to take over, finally producing a fine feast for us all, she even set a table for us. What a star that woman is. I secretly think she was terrified of the chaos that I would bring down on her kitchen domain had I been left to my own devices! At least this way she could keep an eye on me. On Boxing morning I had to take Sam, my eldest to Bristol where his Mum picked him up and took him back to Northampton. He had had a good time and even made a few bob as a glass washer.

The following week was busy with locals and visitors and we gradually prepared for New Years Eve. I was slightly unsure how best to approach this event. I had been told that the locals often wear fancy dress and this left me uncertain if Helen and I should join in or not. In the end we decided to try and look smart and hope that the locals wouldn’t mind. My sister and brother-in-law; Mon & Melv joined us as did our close friends Claire & Steve and their daughters Kelly & Alex. I loved having people close to me around and it proved invaluable in the days that followed.

New Years Eve was a bit of a conundrum for me, I felt that we would be busy, but at the same time had to work out the correct amount of beer, wines and spirits to order. I also had to factor in the bank holiday Monday when I would normally place my order for delivery on a Tuesday, I hadn’t got the faintest idea of what to do, so I tried to approach it from a more logical angle (well, more logical for a dunce like moi!) I looked at the previous years’ sales, added an amount based on what was suggested by my locals and then added on a slightly conservative amount for good measure. I actually then started fretting that I would end up tipping beer down the drain for ordering too much…

The night started with the arrival of approximately fifteen young chaps dressed in women’s clothing. They all had a pint and then headed off to their next port of call. They gave me a hint of what was to follow. We saw all manner of costumes through the course of the evening and what a night it proved to be. All of our locals turned out in force and spent the evening enjoying the beer and good company. There were some amazing costumes and a large number of gentlemen turned up in finely tailored dinner suits. Now I have to admit surprise at the number of men who turned up in women’s clothing. Some of these fellows are local farmers, but boy, do they make fine women! Too well in some cases – you all know who you are! By eleven I realised that the consumption of alcohol was inversely proportionate to the amount left in the cellar. Panic bells started ringing in my head. I hadn’t got my sums right. Shortly after midnight the Dartmoor IPA ran out, this was soon followed by the South Hams XSB, a local brew that has been well received here. Still the assembled party drank on. We were now down to our last barrel of Shepherd Neame Spitfire. Bottled beer proved popular as did the top shelf. All around were smiles and good humour, everyone was on top form and we couldn’t have wished for more. Our friends helped too. Kelly did a sterling job glass washing and I have told her she can work here in the summer if she wants. Her Mum, Claire served alongside Helen and our ever trusty barman Martin. With apologies to Martin, I must say that the three girls behind the bar were a far better sight than the normal male contingent of which I include myself. We sounded the chimes of Big Ben and then everyone sang Auld Lang Syne. I stood back and took it all in. Sorry for sounding feeble, but I actually had a tear in my eye. Everyone was happy, but they were happy and enjoying themselves in our pub. I had experienced a Christmas and New Year in East Prawle and it was one of the best experiences Helen and I have had in a long time. We found ourselves amongst friends, family and I think it is safe to say, new friends as well. Our last customers left the pub at a quarter to four in the morning. Helen, Claire, Steve and myself each had a glass of our preferred poison and then headed off to bed. I had to be up at eight that morning as we had two chaps staying for breakfast!

New Year’s Day turned out to be far more dramatic than I could have ever imagined, but that will have to wait until later this week when I post again. I still have lots more to tell you. Hopefully I’ll have a few decent pictures to post too.