Absent without leave

So its been over a year since I last posted – I feel guilty, I do, but I do have an excuse or two.

  1. (chronologically rather than importance-wise) B & I became 2 out of 4 joint leaseholders of a pub; spent a month refurbishing said pub, opened it and set about making it a profitable business  before; falling out with our business partners and thus needing to become more responsible for the project whilst having less time to do so because:
  2. I got pregnant and had a baby

yup. Here it is in  (slightly less) brief:
Jan: Planned for pub & got keys
Feb: Spent 15hrs/day refurbing pub; opened pub
Mar: Ran pub; found out I was pregnant
Apr: Ran pub, prepped for beer fest; felt rubbish
May: Ran pub, saw proto-baby for the 1st time, climbed a mountain with my Dad
Jun: Hols with W, Ran Pub, visited in-laws
Jul: Ran pub, 2nd Scan, publically acknowleged pregnancy
Aug: Ran pub; failed miserably to organise maternity cover but did lots of paperwork
Sept: Ran pub beer fest, hol with B, failed to reconcile difference with business partners
Oct: Ran pub, desparately rearranged staffing, agreed change in role of business partners
Nov: Took maternity leave, went home, had baby
Dec: fed baby, changed baby’s nappy, tried to sleep

Small was born almost exactly 9 months after we opened the pub (probably not a coincidence) and in the meantime I navigated the ups and downs of running a small business whilst also trying to find my footing in the new way our relationships with the each other and the world would work.

W, B & I did not smoothly negotiate the new patterns in my working life, new timetables and new fiscal entanglements; we also did not resolve issues surrounding our desires and responsibilities to the precious life we have been gifted with
W’s parents have not been wholly supportive and she had a breakdown in her mental health in the last months of my pregnancy. Similarly, the failure of our business partners to put the time and energy we expected from them into the pub, coupled with differences of perspective led to conflict and a lot of stress.
And despite the hertache I now have 2 impossible dreams growing in front of me…..
Now not to fail them





Further thoughts on Beer choices

I was going to write a post about why although I enjoy beer and know more than many people about keeping and drinking it, I am not and never will be a beer blogger or beer expert; it centred around my disinterest in beer reviewing on a personal writing level and my rather more serious inability to care about technical terminology and professional food-matching but apparently casual beer categories are trending (See here, here & here). So instead I  shall jump on the bandwagon tell you what I give a shit about when I am picking beers.

I am not a scooper or a CAMRA spokesperson/committee busybody/member, I am not a beer sommelier, I am not (as mentioned above) a respected beer blogger or writer but I am a publican and a drinker. As such I can comfortably tell you that in the last decade I have tried over 5000 different beers and have prepared comfortably over 15,000 firkins for sale (no I didn’t count, yes it hurts) and although I didn’t write each one down I remember more than you might imagine.
Choosing beer will always have two elements for me… would I sell it in my pub and would I buy a pint of it.
With that in mind I tend to use the following 4 basic judgements: Is it in good condition/poor condition/off?; Is it well-made or thrown together?; Is it interesting or boring?; Do I enjoy it or not?

Continue reading

Work at t’Mill & Losing touch

I haven’t really talked much about my volunteering at the archive here (normally discussing it over at my other blog) but it deserves a bit of a mention since it is currently my only truly regular activity outside of the domestic sphere.

The archive itself is dedicated to Mills and milling heritage and operates from a lovely listed building about 40 mins walk from my house. I don’t really have enough background in archives to have any idea how it compares to others but they are certainly working hard to do things right both in terms of procedure and with regard to making sure the material is used rather than simply stored.
The theory is that I go two afternoons a week – the minimum commitment for a volunteer is supposed to be 1 full day a week but in a fit of self-awareness I acknowledged mornings are hard for me and therefore 2 afternoons are more achievable and also get me out the house twice rather than once a week. However, I still struggle; it turns out that going into an office ticks all of my social anxiety boxes and that heading out of the house in the middle of the day might allow me to wake up appropriately but does also give me time to worry about going. Usually once I get there I can relax unless someone tries to talk to me or worse I need to ask someone a question… which fortunately doesn’t happen very often because actually cataloguing stuff is pretty straightforward and I now know as much or more about it in this context as anyone else. (It is more interesting than it sounds too)

Its good to get out of the house, and not just to walk the dog, because I am finding socialising pretty daunting at the moment. Not being at the pub means that people notice when I walk in and then I feel pressured into making conversation but without the safety-net of a bar between us. This effectively means that I only go in when there is someone with me and worse I have been semi-avoiding other bars in town because I know that there will be people I know in them as well. I need to push myself to break through this not just because its bad practice to ‘give-in’ to my anxiety but also because otherwise I will end up totally out of the loop with regard to new beers and best-sellers. I need to know what is available, what tastes good and what is doing well in the area if I am going to retain my position as ‘guru’. I don’t want to lose touch with what is going on in the world of beer just because I am currently between jobs, especially if I am going to order beer for next year’s beer festival and even more especially if I am ever going to run a pub of my own…….

I Suck at Job-Hunting

I really really do.
I am not very good about being positive about myself and I am very cranky about the available jobs in my local area. The list of jobs discounted because I am woefully unsuited to them is growing ever longer – in part as I discover brand new job titles that I never knew existed and in part as I read job descriptions.

The list particularly includes anything that has as its main feature: working with children; driving; software development or programming. I am unlikely to be able to do any job in construction or serious manual labour in the near future with my joint problems and I don’t think I have sold enough of my soul to go into recruitment…
IT companies are still the big employers in this region and the only type of work which has more consistent vacancies around here is care work but I’m not really convinced I could do anything in either of those categories. I know that I haven’t published enough or got enough teaching experience to head back into academia. So I have been looking at nebulous admin and managerial roles.

Turns out to work in admin you need to have worked in admin – as far as I can see entry-level positions just aren’t available (presumably because there are either enough experienced people looking for work or interns to make them unnecessary) and although I have experience of basic administrative work I have never done front of house or secretarial work for an actual office. In a similar way it is remarkably difficult to show how managing a pub translates into more broad management roles (especially as I don’t have any formal management qualifications) – I need to learn how to sell my transferable skills in a meaningful way and I mean both my pub skills and my academic ones. I can calculate profit and loss, am experienced at using social media for marketing and know the drinks industry pretty well; I am good at high level research, presenting myself formally and informally both on paper and at conferences; can work to deadlines, motivate myself and others, manage conflict and organise events but I can’t make any of those things fit to a job description.

Mind you, there are some things that I have seen in job descriptions, particularly for management internships, that make me wonder if I could ever get a job in the real world. For example, I cannot in good conscience describe myself as “gregarious, confident & motivated by money” – I could re-write it to say “good with people, willing to speak up and in need of money” but that’s not quite the same… Oh yeah how about mustering some “optimism and enthusiasm” for a role that the advert barely describes?
Looks like I won’t be getting a job outside the pub trade anytime soon then.

Beer ordering

I’m not realIy sure why I let Kitten talk me into doing the beer orders for the festival with her.
She has always been more CAMRA orientated than me – and where I let my membership lapse many years ago she meandered her way into young members officer and branch secretary over the course of our mutual pub careers and though I have volunteered at our local festival for the past 11 years I have always avoided the controversy that accompanies responsibility.

Last year, however, beer ordering did not go smoothly and this year’s festival needed something of a serious overhaul in that department (2 people quit the role because of other commitments and 2 more were made redundant because of the problems they had). My boss was fairly quickly persuaded that she should take the role but declined to do so without my support.
Right now I am finding hard to remember what I thought I would get out of it…
In some ways we make the perfect pairing – she fronts the publicity and charms people into their support whilst I provide structure, she does bursts of intensive activity while I provide non-stop back-up (its a lot like how the pub still runs and the conversation I had with my previous boss when he left). But right now as she juggles the many roles she has taken on and I keep trying to work out where I am going, I wonder whether anyone noticed. I won’t know whether or not I did an ok job til the festival has been and gone (I’m already disappointed with my efforts) but the question is whether or not it will make a difference to my professional standing within the industry and what happens next…

Drink my beer people!

Hot-tubs, Articles, Bussiness plans & Christmas

A lot of things have happened since I last really sat down and wrote an update.. Not least of course finishing my footnotes, binding and submitting my thesis.
But in addition I took a much needed break with B which involved the luxury of a hot-tub, realised that the festive madness had very much snuck up on me and I started some more serious contemplation of the future.

At the moment this forward-looking has 2 phases – firstly the adaption of my thesis for publication and secondly looking into the purchase of a pub.
With regard to publication – although ultimately I feel that it would make a good monograph I want some more guidance on suitable publishers and of course it seems pointless to move too far down that line whilst waiting for my examiners’ comments. On the other hand I want to improve my publication profile so journal articles are an absolute requirement. At this stage my plan is to rewrite some of the conclusions/key ideas into papers for each of the 2 disciplines that I was working with. Cornish Studies is easy enough to plan an article for  and pick a journal but Classics… not so much; since it was the discipline I did my initial studies in I am more nervous of getting it wrong and it it is tricky to find the right journal for the topic.
With regard to the pub – well thats a more complex beasty all round.
I have now been a barmaid for nearly a decade (Gods save us all) and a pub has come in the local area. Its not a particularly successful pub but I believe it could be and I think I could make it work. Trouble is: a) money [I’d need to borrow a fair bit] b) the in-laws [tee-total and inclined to make W a little nervous] and c) time [I worry that I wouldn’t be fairly considering W & B if I made this move]. However, just as boldly as I move into the realms of academic publish I must also look for a real job and so I am drawing up a business plan even as I type.

Wish me luck

Things Happening

Time for a swift update, in no particular order:

  • Dentist today. Rotten wisdom tooth removed. Ouch!
  • Pub refurb. well under way, paint delivered and sugar soap everywhere. This means 1000s of PumpClips to sort, a sort of weird nostalgia trip for long defunct breweries and a soothing sort of alphabetising
  • The trial of the man who assaulted my sister will take place later this week. I will not be there but my father left for France this morning. I hope that the communication barriers will be easily surmontable and that my sister gets the result that best helps her get on with her life.
  • I have (re-)started therapy. Unlike the last few iterations this is not primarily CBT based which I think is a good thing. I am a little too skilled at CBT..with its emphasis on control of thought and action. This will be (it seems) more classically psychoanalytic and so far has taken a definite slant towards ‘dead mother’ issues which is irksome but unavoidable.
  • I am STILL rewriting chapter 1. My loathing of the whole concept of literature review has reached quite mammoth proportions and I fear I will never move beyond this section.

So thats a quick update of my last couple of weeks. I have some rants stored up for you so be prepared.

Shift Patterns

Have you noticed how the world is still organised around most people working a 9-5 mon-fri job?

Do you work that sort of job? See I don’t know many people who do – even those who work in offices now routinely work flexi-time hours. I am not just talking about people who have taken a specific arrangement to allow them to arrive late because of dropping off kids at school and make up the hours or who have complicated arrangements to allow them to continue working despite illness/disability or caring responsibilities. Increasingly I find most of my friends use work-from-home arrangements and routinely shift their hours to start before 8 in the morning or finish after 8 in the evening in order to compensate for complex projects or odd sleeping patterns. And that’s before we get into shift workers and service industries…
So why do we maintain the fiction?

Well first off I think there is the fact that everyone needs one day off a week (and lets be honest 2 is better) but a core set of hours is essential for real conversations because there are some things that can’t be done by email so why get rid of the ones that we already have?

But the second reason which we admit less often.. is that we also want core socialising hours. We want time to fit in those hours of meeting friends- days when plenty of people can go to weddings and funerals, parties and gigs.
Who wouldn’t?

So what do those of us whose job it is to cater to people socialising do? Those of us who decline invitations due to work commitments 3/4 of the time? Who work mostly evenings and weekends? When do we organise our parties? And how do we make our shifts more compatible with the vagaries of modern family life?
Yet perhaps as the world begins to shift to a more flexible model it will be possible to break out of the 9-5 mon-fri pattern and to still keep both work contact hours and core social connections – its complicated and it doesn’t work all the time but?



Isn’t that such a lovely word. I first learnt it age 9 off the back of the book Equal Rites.

It is however not really considered a desirable quality in a customer facing role like working behind a bar. The trouble is that years of working behind a bar really gives you an opportunity to see the misery people can bring to their lives and other peoples. There is nothing quite as boring, fatuous and noisy as a drunk man and personal space just stops being relevant to most of them too.

I know I am not, shall we say, at my most cheerful and I know I’m not a particularly gregarious individual but today was harder than most. Too many people too close and I was coping mainly by finding myself tasks.
Its not social anxiety, though if my general anxiety is up high I can get the paranoid they are all looking at me and judging me thought pattern but somehow its like an overload. The noise, the movement the constant requests.. I just wanted to find a quiet dark room, have a bit of a cry and go to sleep.

Feeling sorry for myself really, crying a little too much and blaming other people; I think maybe mirtazapine is losing its grip on my psyche above and beyond not knocking me out or maybe I’m just a bit flustered by looming thesis deadlines or the fact I STILL don’t have my f***ing period..

So sanity what was that like when it passed by?

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Hmmm. Watching re-runs of QI and contemplating music choices for the pub tomorrow.

My playlist needs to keep me occupied for 7hours (5 in the company of the general public) and can consist of up to 6 albums.  It has to not be so rousing as to disturb the poor hangovers of those around me but not so dull and depressing as to leave me asleep or miserable.

For me a little BB King is essential sunday listening, maybe some Waterboys for a little autumnal feeling but what else should there be?
There are some things I hate to hear in a pub but they boil down to 2 key areas: ‘pop classics’ and whatever Radio 1 is playing. By pop classics I mean to cover all manner of areas from Elton John and Robbie Williams, Genesis and Mud and so on… I’m sure these things have their place and don’t get me wrong cheesy music can be a great pick-me-up but its for parties or small doses not relentlessly piped across a bar on tuesday afternoon. As for Radio 1 – its either for the under 18’s or nightclubs – not pubs.
It also seems reasonable to me that different times and different days have different moods and that even without live music a pub can be somewhere to hear new music or things you would not normally listen to. I am happy that our pub leans towards metal, hedging rock, blues and folk in varying degrees but I want other pubs to offer other sounds.

More Thoughts?