On opening the pub; as ours, we immediately walked around the building, taking in the true
extent of what we had undertaken, and talking plans for the ‘refurb’ out loud to each other. In fact, that evening we had to work out a last shift at our temporary place of employment, and spent the entire shift talking about what we wanted to do, but what would take priority in the 2mweeks we had planned for refurb, decor and change.
After work, we went back to our tiny cottage, and in a moment of madness, and pure elation westrapped a mattress to the top of Al’s car, filled both cars as full as we could with the stuff (firstmof many runs in the cars moving) and drove back to Black Torrington. While I underwent the chore of making a ‘bed’ up and cleaning the flat so we could move in, Al went in search of food. As I am sure everyone of you are aware, seeking out decent eateries in a new area usually involves asking neighbours etc. In this case, it was 10.30pm and knocking on our neighbours doors as the new people might not have gone down too well. I think Al ended up at the kebab shop in Holsworthy, and on his return (we still recount this as well), we ‘enjoyed’ our first supper in our new home, and sat in a cold, empty bar contemplating where we would even begin.
It’s amazing, what a good night’s sleep does. In our case our first night in the pub wasn’t the
best. Restless with 100 thoughts going around your head, and a kebab rolling around in your
stomach would of course explain this. Needless to say it was Saturday morning, and we had
today and tomorrow to move, and Monday we would start the refurbishment, so no dawdling; onwards and upwards.
Monday morning, Mel (many of you would remember her; she was our first bar/front of house staff member we ever had) and Richard (one of Al’s best mates, ex sous chef and was going to be the pub’s head chef when we eventually opened) were due at 8.30am. Plan 1, grab some essentials, deep cleaning products for both the public areas and the kitchen, Mel was sent out with a list; including the named and some basics such as tea, coffee and food essentials; I had to keep my work team fed and watered.
Richard was going to undertake the kitchen deep clean. A job I am sure he will remember
forever, but the rest of us will never envy; the fryer fat was black as tar to name but one
engrained memory of what sort of mountain had to climb in terms of cleaning. Al and I started to pile furniture into the centre of rooms, and moving all the bar glasses, drink and stuff we would keep into the cellar, the rest... .well we started to fill bins.
A few pictures of the before we messed things up!
I won’t go too into detail on the stories of the refurb, the before, during and after photos do kind of explain what went on.
Memories do stick, and Al and I starting our day at 6am, and finishing at 3am the following day became the normal. Rich and Mel would arrive at 8.30am and we would have a quick coffee, and breakfast and the 4 of us would graft, until 9pm when we would eat together and they would go home, and Al and I went back to it. At the time of doing all this, The Greatest Showman had just been released and all the songs from the film were in the charts. Waiting for the internet was the hardest; in a village with no signal, while trying to arrange contracts for electricity, water, etc (you know the score). As such our only source of entertainment was radio, and I think it’s true to say the songs from that film will always remind us both of those endless hours of being covered in paint, saw dust and dirt.
Week 1 of refurb came and went and week 2 we began on the floor. Al and a good builder friend we met when living in Dolton undertook the task of laying reclaimed wooden boards throughout the bar (the only bit of original floor in the pub is the wooden floor in front of the main bar, the rest we laid down on top of the concrete floor we inherited). We constantly hit obstacles, and found new bits that couldn;t be ignored. It was half Tuesday, and we had planned to open on Friday that week. Needless to say another piece of sound advice came our way; an individual (who we won’t name, but who was an endless amount of help in the process of purchase and initial opening) came over and to see the progress, and his sound words…. Were along the lines of , ‘there is no point opening half heartedly, and not complete and ready, you’re best off waiting another week, and ensuring things are as you want, and open properly with a bang!’. So it was decided the pub would open but a week later than planned. Friday 22nd June was the new deadline, and it gave us another week’s more breathing space.
The village had had their local shut for 3 weeks prior to completion date, and we now had it shift for another 3. Anticipation; so we heard was running high; we had whitened out the windows to conceal any work, changes, and keep the surprise. I personally hate surprises, so goodness knows what the villagers were beginning to think; we had come along, made huge amounts of noise, and had hardly left the village except to go to builders merchants. The decision to delay had been the right one, that same day, Al put his foot through the floor behind the bar; just another obstacle to overcome, and another job added to the list.
Would we ever get things done? Would we have enough money to get things done? How would everyone feel about our changes? Just some of the many questions we asked ourselves daily during that 2nd week of work.