I lied to a nine-year old girl.
She’d told me she had two weeks off from school for the Easter Holidays. I gasped in fake horror.
“Two weeks?” I shrieked. “That’s crazy! Guess how long I’ve got off for Easter…”
“A week!” she answered triumphantly.
“Easter Day?” she questioned, less certainly.
“Nope,” I repeated. “I get nothing. Nada. Not a day.”
She clasped her hands to her mouth in horror. Her dad laughed and made a joke about how I’d be getting paid triple time for my trouble. I bit my tongue from telling him that doesn’t exist as a concept in the modern workplace and that the current balance of my bank was five-hundred-and-two-pounds-and-eleven-pence-actually.
They finished their drinks, wished me a Happy Easter and left to collect the younger sibling from pre-school.
It was only later that it dawned on me that I’d been glorifying being busy/making a martyr of my own working life. And with that realisation came another: I don’t actually work that much anymore.
When we first took over the Fleur De Lys, Nick and I did not have time off. Not only was there not the infrastructure to leave the pub in anyone else’s hands, we just had far too much to do to take time off. And I’m not talking about holidays, I mean a day off. The way normal people have evenings and weekends off? Alien to us.
Then, just when we’d started carving out a slight work-life balance, we bought The Bulls Head in 2016 and boom, we got back into the groove of working all of the waking hours to get that off the ground too. We are no strangers to 7-day working weeks and frankly, that feels more like our normal.
But then, since the summer of 2017, things have changed. Manager Tom at The Bulls Head and Manager Emma at the Fleur De Lys have unburdened us. We finish work at 4pm on Monday and don’t start again until Wednesday morning. That’s an actual day and a half off work! We have Friday nights off to watch crap tele or annoy Pam and Ralph as they eat dinner. Weekends are still our busiest part of the whole week, but we split the shifts up for fair distribution of labour.
Which is why, on Easter Monday afternoon, I suddenly felt a pang of guilt for lying to my horrified nine-year-old friend.
As I scoffed my way through a couple of hot cross buns and dog-sat the hyperactive puppy, I realised I was in fact having time off over Easter. It had, in fact, been a fairly easy, drama-free weekend, and so my woe-is-me tale had been completely unwarranted. As I later slipped into a nap whilst spooning the aforementioned puppy, I wondered why I still perpetuated a myth about how hard I work.
And I guess, really, it comes down to the fact that even if I’m not out front pulling pints or scheduled for an AFD shift from morning till close, my brain is still working. My brain never stops. As a small business owner, it’s really hard to switch off, whether you’re worrying about paying bills or creating mental shopping lists for the next beer/food/wine order. Case in point? I’m writing this blog in bed on a Tuesday morning – the sacred, hallowed day off – when I could be drinking tea and reading a book.
Because when you jump off the cliff of safe employment into the untested waters of going it alone, you find that you are constantly treading water. You can have two weeks in the Indian Ocean, or a friend’s wedding in Somerset, or a family birthday celebration that you carve ‘time off’ for, but in reality, your head is always still in the game. But how lucky we are that we can now indulge those thoughts in a less harried, more relaxed manner.
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Slowly but surely you helped to breathe life back into the place. You filled it up with love and laughter. You have dragged it back from obscurity to place it back into the heart of the community.
Like so many others, we got into this trade because we love sharing these little boltholes with others and watching you enjoy them and make memories to cherish between these walls. We do it because we like a bit of banter whilst pouring a beer. We’ve always believed in doing the best we can with the circumstances we’ve got.
Time to whip up a quick homemade soup with whatever veggies you’ve got in your fridge.