Saturday, 18 February 2017
I have just realised that in the summer this blog will be ten years old! Ten years I've been here in this little corner of the inter web writing a whole load of waffle and sharing pictures. It seems like a very long time.
I have been very slack of late writing here and I certainly don't blog as much as I used to, I often ponder whether I should just close it down and hang out on Instagram instead. I'm still undecided.
I started writing the blog and sharing bits and bobs when my second child was a babe in arms, his cot was in the spare room where the computer was and in the quiet darkness of the night when he woke for a feed, I'd power up the whirring pc and discover a world of other mums and creative types online.
It wasn't just blogs I'd read, I soon became addicted to flickr, discovering other film photographers, although I always found it strange that we'd scan in our images to make them digital to upload!
One of the best things about this blogging malarky is the people that I've met and now call friends. It cuts out that initial 'finding out about you' courtship, instead you know that you have loads in common, I guess similar to online dating.
So all that leaves me to ponder is one very big question just how do you celebrate a virtual birthday? Ideas would be most welcome...
Saturday, 11 February 2017
This morning I was invited to a bloggers brunch at The Bottle of Sauce in Cheltenham, which was fab. A chance to catch up and meet new bloggers and 'grammars from around Cheltenham and the Cotswolds and set the world to rights, we should do it every Saturday!
I heard heard about The Bottle, the latest pub from the Oxford based institution the Dodo Pub Co who also own the Rickety Press and The Rusty Bicycle in Oxford. It has a uber trendy dark grey exterior that I just love and a very cool interior, red brick walls, trendy sign writing, exposed beams and plenty of enamelware as well as a games room with table tennis table and table football.
The menu is simple, rustic and bang up to the minute with wood fired oven fired pizzas, burgers and the all important weekend brunch featuring bottomless filter coffee and bottomless bloody Mary's! We enjoyed brunch, which included dishes such as The Boss Man - a full English for £10, really filling buttermilk pancakes for £7 and the chilli avo' smash - avocado, poached eggs, chilli, lime and coriander on sour dough toast for £7. They even have a hangover club - if the Bottle of Sauce has caused your hangover the night before they'll take 25% off your breakfast the morning after - you can't say fairer than that! I love the branding and logo too...
I'm looking forward to revisiting with the family for a game of table tennis and to order the truffle fungi pizza or maybe the pear and prosciutto pizza or even a mother clucker (buttermilk chicken) burger! decisions decisions...
Wednesday, 4 January 2017
Parenting guilt is the worst and I seem to carry it on my shoulders as if it were my army rank and number at the moment. My children also know how to tap into this guilt as if they are targeted missiles. So after neglecting them over the past two weeks of the school holidays as the pub has been super busy we decided to treat our family to 24 hours in London with a stopover in a hotel! My husband closed the pub for the first time in six months so the minute all the customers left on Bank Holiday Monday we jumped in the car to the big smoke.
We stayed in the trendy Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, sharing a room with two double beds, perfect for the five of us to squeeze into. The room had a record player and vinyl that you could buy and take home should you wish. We wandered along Brick Lane eating warm bagels from the bagel shops and discovered the amazing Princelet Street and the pink house pictured above.
Tuesday, 27 December 2016
I have been asked a few times recently for recommendations of what to see, where to stay and what to do in England by people planning holidays here. I am not the most travelled person so this is quite a responsibility but I thought I'd jot some thoughts down here of places we've visited and would recommend or places we'd like to go.
I love London but prefer to stay away from the very touristy places or shopping streets
Read - Katherine by Anya Seton, historical fiction about a romance between John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III and his mistress in Mediaeval England.
Stay - in the cool and trendy Ace Hotel in Shoreditch
Eat - at The Albion for traditional British grub and full English breakfast
Shop - Labour & Wait on Redchurch Street, Shoreditch
Go - beach combing on the banks of the River Thames and become a mudlark
Visit - The Natural History Museum - okay this is definitely on the tourist map but it's well worth it for such a magnificent building and awe inspiring exhibits
Peek - in at Wilton's music hall an authentic East End music hall, the last of its kind.
Stray - outside of the City and visit Petersham Nurseries in Richmond
then catch the overnight sleeper train from Paddington to...
I unashamedly love Cornwall, always have, always will.
Stay - in a beach hut at Gwithian Towans
Enjoy - the old fashioned goodness of Jelberts ice cream in Newlyn.
Visit - the dramatic Minack theatre that clings on to the cliff edge
Experience - a foraging walk around Prussia Cove
Tradition - buy traditional Cornish pasty's from McFaddens in St. Just & walk or drive to Cape Cornwall to eat them whilst dipping your toes in the pool carved out of the rocks.
Bath & The Cotswolds
Stay - at The Pig near Bath & enjoy a country house experience with a kitchen garden worthy of Mr. Macgregor from Peter Rabbit.
Eat - at The Woolpack, Slad near Stroud. Laurie Lee's local pub that features in his book Cider with Rosie enjoy a cider or pint of Uley Ale.
Walk - through The Slad Valley in Spring and enjoy woodlands bursting with spring flowers, wild garlic and bluebells.
Visit - Stroud Farmers' Market and purchase delicious local food and drink such as Hobbs House bread and lardy cakes (a local delicacy)
Delight - with a visit to Giffords Circus that tours the Cotswold's each summer.
It's then only an hour's drive to...
Wales & the Borders
Read - On a Black Hill by Chatwin & Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills by Neil Ansell
Stay - in Harp Cottage near Hay-on-Wye
Visit - Hay-on-Wye, a small market town known for its second hand bookshops
Shop - in Bailey's Home on the outskirts of Ross-on-Wye
Enjoy - wild walks in your wellies along gorgeous Welsh rivers and up mountains
Journey - further west to stay at Fforest to camp and enjoy the Ceredigion coastline
these are just a few places that I can think of, please leave your favourite places in comments so I can extend this post further and also discover new places too!
I'm loving all the dark kitchen units that keep popping up on Pinterest. I'm saving them all onto my new 'kitchen goals' board. I think I may give my old wooden units a make over with some dark paint to create a similar look.
Monday, 26 December 2016
"I was set down from the carrier's cart at the age of three...
...The June grass, amongst which I stood, was taller than I was, and I wept...
...Snow-clouds of elder blossom banked in the sky, showering upon me the fumes and flakes of their sweet and giddy suffocation. High overhead ran frenzied larks, screaming as though the sky were tearing apart."
extract taken from the opening of Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
When we arrived at the pub on one of the hottest summer days Laurie Lee's words were all I could think about and how our lives were about to change.
Our entire belongings rammed into a large removal van that only just made it down the lane to our new home. The removal men who had started the day in cheerful voice now were silent as they were faced with not one but three spiral staircases to navigate our furniture up. They did their job efficiently and quickly, pulling away at 4pm, and by 5pm the pub opened for the first time.
Lots of people came that first evening to check us out and see who the new landlords were, questions were asked, polite introductions were made, business cards for local meat were left. By 11pm I was upstairs in a state of frenzied exhaustion trying to find bedding for three beds for three very tired children on a school night.
We were offered the tenancy of the pub just weeks before our move and I had only just handed my notice in at work which meant that for a month I was still working a day job, then in the evenings and weekends working in the pub and at the same time trying to be a parent and unpack boxes. Looking back now I'm not sure how we managed to juggle everything.
At the same time that we were learning our craft there was the snagging and renovations to finish. Unbenowsnt to us when we moved in, the wet room & loo for the campsite had been taken off the renovations to save money and then added back in again at a later date. We then had to deal every morning with different workmen who came to finish the renovations and the never ending snagging list.
In the car park a generator was left which growled for 24 hours a day supplying power to the kitchen as the renovations included a new kitchen and the need for three-phase electricity had been overlooked. The generator would regularly break down but by the end of August we had mains electricity and the noisy and costly to run generator was taken away, and would you believe it, the weekend after we waved it goodbye we had a massive thunder storm and power cut - bring back the generator!
Looking back these were such difficult days, trying to create a good impression for customers, trying to learn about running a pub, trying to find staff, it was so so hard. I didn't blog or talk about our problems for fear of people not wanting to visit the pub. The exhaustion of the early days has now been replaced by the worry of finding a chef and how quiet it will be over the Winter months. There is still so much to do, so we take one day at a time and pray that people will visit and like what we do.
We get things wrong but the support we've had from family, friends and the lovely people on social media throughout this crazy journey has been amazing and keeps us going!
To be continued...
Thursday, 15 December 2016
I was listening to the Chris Evans breakfast show this morning and was impressed by one of his guests Matthew Syed, who talked about people who want to better their lives 'dare to fail' in order to succeed. It made me think about our year, how we've put everything on the line to open the pub and how bloody hard it's been.
I haven't wanted to admit to anyone how hard it's been in fear of judgement or criticism or people actually not wanting to come to the pub! But at the same time I have realised the enormity of what we've achieved in such a short period of time. We've opened a pub after it was closed for nine months, we've got it up and running and achieved our targets, we've dealt with a ridiculous amount of problems and outstanding work from the renovations, things like having a generator as the surveyor had overlooked the fact that the pub needed three-phase electricity then dealing with the generator regularly breaking down during service and not having wet room/loo finished so we couldn't open the campsite over peak summer holidays and therefore loosing income.
We've got things wrong, this business is harsh and unforgiving and you can't please everyone, in the early days I can remember sobbing outside the back door after being berated by an unpleasant customer. Things continue to be hard, it's difficult to find good staff when you're a rural business, I dread ice or snow and people not being able to get to us and family time is rare as we're working long hours. But we've come such a long way, we've proved we can set up and run a business and we've solved a million problems and will continue to face a million more.
But most importantly we've had the support from a huge amount of people, some through social media and word of mouth, family, old friends, new friends, local people who have come to see who these daft people are that have taken over the pub, it has been most humbling to have such support and we are so grateful to everyone.
It's still early days and I don't know whether we will succeed or whether this life is right for us as a family long term, but I do now realise that we did dare to fail and will continue to do so as we work hard to realise our dreams in life.