The kids break up from school. The adults put their out of office auto-responders on. We take a deep breath…
The advent of the festive holidays fills the majority of folks with unparalleled glee. A week, if not more, away from work; a whole host of legitimate excuses to spend more time in your favourite pub soaking up the convivial atmosphere; the opportunity to revel in the expanding sense of time with each unidentifiable passing day.
In case you were wondering, those in the hospitality, service and retail industries tend to grit their teeth at around about the same time, brace themselves and pray that they make it to January intact, without having murdered any customers, colleagues or themselves.
On the whole, it is actually pretty fun for us. The whole place looks like a giant, beer-infused, glittering grotto complete with roaring fires and steamy windows. A whole host of staff who we’ve not seen since summer return to our door, offering to lend a hand as 36,000 walkers descend upon us on frosty December days. Chefs happily plate up the same meal over and over again, knowing that summer days would be much easier if 100 people all wanted roast turkey instead of 100 different choices.
The whole place looks like a giant, beer-infused, glittering grotto complete with roaring fires and steamy windows.
Of course, it feels a bit like we’re playing sardines when it seems like an equal number of people who would usually spread out across our acre of garden are now attempting to squeeze inside our much smaller building. These 500-year-old walls don’t bend much and when we run out of chairs, there really is nowhere else to sit. We try really hard not to snap when customers answer the phrase ‘There’s a 40 minute wait on food’ with the question: ‘What, even for sandwiches?’ or ‘But we’re in a rush.’ (Funnily enough, the 86 other people who ordered sandwiches before you are also in a rush.)
There’s a breathlessness about the festive fortnight. If you stop to think you’ll realise there’s no possible way to feed all these people. If you don’t have a ridiculous can-do attitude, you’d have to admit defeat with the increasing number of staff coming down with norovirus and flu. If you look around, you’ll realise that the ice machine is broken, the cellar cooling is struggling and the fridge door doesn’t really seem to shut anymore. And if you try to find time to enjoy Christmas with your own family and friends then you’re only ever going to be disappointed.
But that’s ok, because we have the privilege of running some of the nicest pubs around and therefore the honour of hosting annual family reunions. When you’re on the other side of the bar, you don’t have to deal with the fact that your siblings aren’t speaking or your mother-in-law has asked for the gift receipts before she’s even opened her presents. You put your head down, pour the drinks, take the orders and let the customers fight over who’s going to pay the bill. It’s stressful doing our job but it’s also stress-free. You’re worrying about whether you’ve brought gifts for your boyfriend’s extended family and we’re worrying about whether or not we’re going to run out of pies. (Hint: yes.)
So when January finally rolls around and the apparently ceaseless march of Bank Holidays comes to an end, we find ourselves exhausted, exulted and relieved. You might be sad about going back to work and real life, but we’re pretty excited about finishing our advent calendars.
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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.