A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF A COUNTRY
For just over six years, Tom Goss and I ran the pub together. However, personal circumstances have changed and now I am going it alone with my two little boys, Oakley and Henry. I currently work six days a week; it’s tiring but enjoyable and I find the challenge is to juggle working and spending time with my boys. Having always been the head chef here at the Oak, it has been a new challenge to manage the additional roles that come with running the pub alone.
In September many of my long-term staff left to pursue life at university, leaving me with many roles to fill. Fortunately, I am very lucky to have an endless supply of enthusiastic local teenagers, who come looking for their first experience in the world of work, and I am very happy to give them the opportunity to grow in confidence and skills. I now have a brilliant team here at the Oak that supports me both in the kitchen and front of house. Meggie and Josh are my longest reigning staff and have been there for me through the years and I’m very grateful to have them around. Thanks guys.
My first day of the working week. This week I am mainly working out front as I’m covering staff holiday. It’s a fun task of juggling food prep, front of house and normal management duties on my own this week.
I wake up for the kids at 7:30, but get up at 8am after cuddles and milk. To start the day; I change Henry’s nappy, get the boys showered and dressed and then quickly get myself ready. I fix Oakley and Henry some breakfast and then prepare their lunch boxes for nursery. I then dash downstairs to let in the deliveries for the day: fresh fish and mincemeat for the burgers, etc. The boys come downstairs with me while I clean the pub and toilets. We hoover and mop every day to keep everything as clean as we can. This week I have arranged an early drop off at nursery of 11:30, instead of 12, to give me time to get back to make the burgers and other prep before opening. On my way to nursery I have to collect some heating oil as we are running low.
After opening, I get on with emails and phone calls, phoning staff hours through to the accountant, and then my order to Wadsworth for the beer, spirits, wines and soft drinks. I am tied to all wet goods but Waddies take care of all the building and boiler maintenance, so it has its pros and cons for being tied, but it’s a lot less of a risk.
We have a busy lunch for a Tuesday. At 3:30 I put a chicken in the oven upstairs to get a head start on the dinner, while I go to pick up the kids. We get home to finish the roast dinner, but the oil from the tray has begun to drip onto the bottom of the oven, in turn setting off the fire alarms. Don’t worry, this doesn’t normally happen. Poor Oakley is rather upset by all the noise, as every time I think I’ve reset the alarm it comes back on! After all the drama I rush to finish dinner and open the pub again at 6pm, and a friend comes over to babysit for the evening while I work.
There are a few tables in the evening. Low and behold the card machine is not working due to poor internet service. This makes it really hard to provide a good service to customers as I have to make card transactions over the phone, once it’s finally working. Tuesday is a good night, as there is a good crowd in drinking, playing darts & bar billiards. At midnight I lock up, cash up, and make a start on the cleaning, ready for the next day as there is a lot happening in the morning. 12:30 shower and bed at 1am.
Another 7:30 start and all goes to plan, although today I am able to have breakfast myself … a bacon sandwich!
At 9:30, Pepsi comes to install their equipment as Wadsworth pubs are all changing over from Coke to Pepsi in hope of a better service. Wadsworth sent the wrong mixes, so only lemonade & Pepsi Max can be installed this week … we end up selling lots of bottled Cokes instead.
The electricians also come in the morning to put up the flood lights in the car park. This has been an ongoing problem and is still yet to be connected!
Norman, the area manager, comes at 10am to go over the changes in the tenancy agreement which I signed for another three years. Unfortunately, Norman has some bad news; as of March I will no longer be able to stock Guinness, instead I will be supplying Waddies own brand stout.
After the meeting I then drop the kids at nursery, getting back in time to open up for the lunch shift. After closing at lunch, I get on with the ales line clean for the week before setting off to pick the kids back up from nursery.
The next stress of the day was that we have no quiz sheet for the quiz this evening and the printer has decided it no longer wants to co-operate with email communication. Instead I try to send an email to a friend to print but yet again no internet. Finally, I manage to send an email to my phone and print wirelessly from that.
During the evening Auntie Julie babysits for me and is also there to help me sort through my paper work for my tax credit allowance. There are about 40 people doing the quiz so £20 goes into the church roof charity fund pot and the rest for prize money.
At 10:30, I ring through my orders for next day deliveries, cash up and do the cleaning. Then off to bed.
7am wake up! Kids jump in to bed nice and early, or at least it seems early when I don’t seem to get to bed before 1am these days.
Normal morning routine. I need to make sure I am ready for 10am as the U3A walking group is coming to place their pre order for lunch, before setting off on their morning walk. Last time I was running late and had to jump out of the shower and run down the stairs to greet them with wet hair. Don’t worry, I remembered my clothes, although quite often workmen and delivery men end up seeing me in my pyjamas and big fleecy dressing gown!
As we are ready early we go to the park at Penton for twenty minutes before nursery. I rush back to open up and light the fires ready for the walkers. Today, I manage to get some paperwork done before picking the children up at 4 and on our way back pop into Enham Post Office to do some banking. When I get back to the pub I am told that the beer delivery won’t be coming, as Wadworth’s computer system is down and it might be coming on Saturday.
At 5pm, Mum and Dad come to pick up the boys to have them over night and all day Friday. They will then be dropped off at Tom’s in Portsmouth until Sunday evening. Normally Oakley and Henry are at home with me on a Thursday but this week I have to work the evening shift. The Rotary come in for their weekly meeting and meal this evening and then I cash up and get the cleaning done by 11.30.
I get up at 8am today as I only need to worry about getting myself organised this morning. I unlock the doors for the food deliveries and decide to make the most of the extra time this morning by deep cleaning the toilets. This includes scrubbing the floors with a handbrush. Next, I move onto the line clean for the draft ales and ciders and then get myself cleaned and ready for another trip to the post office.
Today’s food service comes with no surprises and then I spend the afternoon prepping dishes for the weekend. I make the pie filling using the slow cooker, this week, making a lovely creamy chicken and mushroom pie on offer. I also make a lamb jalfrezi … another slow cooker miracle.
This evening’s service is rather quiet, allowing all the staff to finish early and enjoy some time together, having a laugh and a chat with some of the locals.
Thankfully Wadworth’s are able to deliver the beer today, however, the delivery guys leave it in the back yard and so I have the fun task of lifting all the kegs and bottles down the stairs to the cellar. I pop to the garage for some more heating oil to get us through the rest of the weekend and then on to Tesco to grab some last minute vegetables. The other week my supplier charged me £22 for 8 broccolis, so I have begun to shop in Tesco where they are sold at 45p each! I quickly get back so that I can make all the sandwiches for an afternoon tea, and set the table with a table cloth and vintage china. Afternoon teas have been growing in popularity recently, especially for baby showers and christenings.
In the evening there is a 50th wedding anniversary dinner, they have pre-ordered to ensure no-one misses out on the choices they are looking forward to. All the staff work hard tonight, pulling together to ensure service goes smoothly and all of the customers are happy. We manage to finish at 12 but sometimes it can be a little later on a Saturday.
Lie in this morning … 9am! I get myself showered and dressed and I am in the kitchen by 10am with Josh to get ready for Sunday lunch. We make Yorkshire puddings, stuffing, cauliflower cheese, roast potatoes and roast vegetables. Each week our meat varies and today we have turkey, sirloin of beef and lamb. Food service finishes at 4pm and I make sure we all give the kitchen a good scrub from top to bottom before sitting down together to eat Sunday lunch.
About 5pm I take over at the bar and lock up at 6.30, ready to head off to Portsmouth to pick the kids up. It’s late by the time we get back, so we have a special Sunday cuddle and story time before they fall fast asleep at 9.30. After such a non-stop week I am fast asleep by 10.30! Can’t wait for my day with the boys tomorrow.
Time off and time with the kids! Once we are all ready we set off for Romsey Rapids. I haven’t realised how many schools are on half term, so it is very busy, meaning long queues and chilly boys. We don’t stay for too long as we are all very hungry and can’t wait to get to Pizza Hut. After filling ourselves with the pizza buffet and ice cream factory, we go to the indoor soft play in Eastleigh for a good run around and to burn off all the energy we’ve just consumed!
As we drive home, Oakley and Henry dose off in the car and I wake them up to help me make dinner. We have pasta tonight and the boys make sure there is enough left over for Meggie when she gets here after work! Meggie babysits on a Monday, giving me a little time to myself, which I use to go to a pole fitness class. I used to do gymnastics as a child and I loved that. I have found something equally as fun that works my body hard and builds my core strength. After my one hour of the week to myself, I’m back home to put the boys to bed. The plan is to get the paper work done next, but in the process of putting Oakley to sleep I dose off next to him at 9.30!!