-Weekly newsletter from the Landlord
22nd of May 2013
And another good morning to you all, although it still is not what you would expect of the last week of May. On the other hand perhaps we should be thankful for the weather we get and realise just how much worse it can be in other parts of the world as was seen this week in Oklahoma. It is times like this when we realise just how lucky we are with our weather and really do not have too much to complain about.
Not too bad a week to report although as it happened the week days were better than the weekend although Sunday was still a good busy day. We opened Monday evening for the West Suffolk Wine Club who had a well attended meeting and tasting on French wines given by a gentleman who has a shop a very short drive from Calais. By all accounts, and I can confirm this as I was brought a few tastings by Peter at the end of the evening, the wines were excellent. Because they were being sold for private consumption they were very well priced although I think you may have to go over to France to collect them but I am not sure if this is so. Certainly there were some very happy members at the end of the evening.
On Tuesday evening we hosted a meeting for the Entrepreneur Circle all of whom I expect were about to join the Aspiring Millionaires Club. It certainly seemed a very serious meeting and I might even ask them for a tips. On Wednesday evening we had a large party from Boots the chemists having a meeting and dinner. This was attended by staff from several local stores and was quite a lively evening. On Thursday night we hosted our Bimonthly Quiz night which unfortunately was only attended by two teams and one of these had been attracted by a message put out by Sam on Facebook. However a very lively competition ensued with the We Love Kittens team taking a half-time lead against Mike, Jill and Ted. Then just after the interval the cavalry arrived in the form of Ann who I think might have been at a press signing as her photograph had been in the East Anglian that morning. This team was so unlucky in as much as they went flat out for the 10 questions in the wipeout round and were only beaten by one question namely who was the first American dollar billionaire. They suggested Paul Getty but unfortunately the answer it seems was Rockefeller. Had they got this one correct or even not answered it they would have won the competition especially as ten correct answers get you a five-point bonus. This however was not to be and We Love Kittens won by a short margin. The bonus question went unanswered. For your diaries the next Quiz night will be on Thursday, 6 June starting as always at 8 PM. We also held the Abbeygate Badminton AGM and the Swayne Veterinary Group also held a meeting followed with a buffet.
Both Friday and Saturday were fairly quiet although Tom Raisin celebrated his 18th birthday with family. We did not have much booked for Sunday but as the weather was slightly cooler we did reasonably well on the carvery. Once again many people rang up fairly late in the day or came in on spec. Luckily as we have so much room available this is rarely a problem although it is always nice to know where we are going to seat people before they arrive. There were two parties of note namely Craig Lambert celebrating his 43rd birthday and the Wilson family having a follow up reunion after a recent funeral where people had returned from Australia to mark the sad occasion.
We advertised last week in the Job Centre for a few more bar and waiting staff and had a reasonable response. We are mainly looking for youngsters who can wait mainly at weekends but also on the few occasions in the evenings when we have functions. If they happen to be old and confident enough to do bar work then this can be an advantage. We often find that the young very nervous 16-year-old can in their last year at school be a very useful and confident bar person and should they go on to University they will never be short of work wherever they are studying.
The Gas Supply saga still continues although just possibly there is light on the horizon. Last week I dug up the pipe and found the end cap which had previously been fitted by British Gas. Hopefully once a stoptap has been fitted onto this a meter can then be connected and we can replace the old oil boiler with a new efficient gas one. I contacted National Grid and they came out and confirmed that the pipe was live so hopefully we are a little closer to getting a meter fitted.
Last Wednesday something happened which I am not too sure whether I should count myself very lucky or very unlucky. I will leave you to decide. A couple of weeks ago I ordered some frozen turkeys from Bookers and somebody was meant to contact me to arrange delivery. I heard no more till last Wednesday just before three o'clock a car turned up with the said turkeys. The driver one of Bookers managers seem surprised that we were not expecting him as he had been told to be there before three o'clock. I was upstairs at the time having lunch as we had closed early. Unfortunately I came down without putting my shoes back on as I wanted to take in the delivery as quickly as possible. The turkeys were in four boxes and as I walked to the freezer with the second the bottom fell out of the box and a 12 to 15 pound solid block of frozen turkey landed on my foot. I hear you ask what is lucky about this well I shall tell you. Luckily it only fell on my toes and not my foot as I am sure had it landed fully on my foot it would have broken every bone there. That is not to say it was not very, very painful and you would not like to hear what my language was like. As far as I know although two of three of my toes have gone a very strange colour I don't think there are any breakages although I have made an appointment with the doctor just to make sure. Unfortunately the first appointment I can get is Friday week so by that time I will either be walking alright or my toes will have fallen off. Just in case I have kept the offending box and Rosemary has taken very lurid pictures of my foot.
Rosemary actually managed to escape for a couple of days last week when she went up to London to celebrate her birthday, I won't mention which one, with Ian our son. He entertained her very well and the highlight was a visit to the Globe Theatre which thankfully was not spoilt by the weather as on that evening it was a little milder than of late. Being my usual lazy self I gave her money as at present which I know she enjoyed spending in town.
Well it seems I have excelled myself this week as the word counter stands around 1250 mark and I don't feel that I have told you too much about the week but hopefully enough to keep you satisfied. As always I will wish you well in the coming week and as always I will invite you to visit us up here at the Flying Fortress. So goodbye for now and hoping to see you soon
Yours faithfully and sincerely
All at the Flying Fortress
15 May 2013
Good morning once again to you all although judging by the temperature and the rain and wind that we heard last night you'd hardly call it good. On the other hand I'm sure it could get worse and probably will.
I am a slight disadvantage this morning as last week's booking sheet seems to have gone missing and knowing what my memory is like there will probably be things that happened last week that I cannot remember so I apologise in advance if I have forgotten something important.
I can remember that it was a slightly better week than of late helped partly by the fact we were open Monday Bank Holiday in the morning and although there were not huge crowds we were steadily busy. On Tuesday evening Abbeygate Badminton Club held a meeting and on Friday night the Bury St Edmunds Photographic Society held their annual dinner and presentation night which was very well attended and seemed to be enjoyed by all including the Mayor. On Friday morning Doreen Frost celebrated her 80th birthday with family coming from Yorkshire, Leicester and Oxford.
Saturday was an exceptionally busy day with the wedding of Sarah and Rob taking place in the afternoon followed by a dance and buffet in the evening. This was really enjoyable day and I would just like to repeat to you a very nice appreciative letter they sent to us on Monday.
"To everyone at the Flying Fortress,
Thank you for enabling us to have a perfect day (May 11, 2013). Everything ran smoothly and the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed - just what we wanted. We cannot fault the day at all.
All our love Sarah and Rob".
I am sure you will agree that this was a lovely letter to receive and encourages you to work even harder to make sure everybody enjoys themselves when they come to the Flying Fortress. Thank you once again Sarah and Rob for an equally good day.
On Saturday evening we had quite a few diners including David and Lillian Hunter celebrating their 33rd Wedding Anniversary with friends and also the Pamment party from Norton entertained guests from the village that is twinned with them in France. During the week also I notice that Sam Howells celebrated a 41st birthday, Tom Goddard his 21st and I am afraid that as we had only one booking in the diary for Sunday I have no information about the various get-togethers we had on this day. I do know that despite having very few bookings on paper we were nicely busy and had a good day which lasted well into the evening. This was helped by quite a few people stopping off after a day at the South Suffolk show at Ampton which I understand was quite busy and luckily the rain just about held off.
My fears about rising cost of food especially potatoes have been I am afraid justified as last week I had to pay £12.99 for a bag and these would you believe had been imported from France. There is no doubt in my mind that before the new crop comes in there are going to be some very high prices being paid for what we all take as a basic commodity. By all accounts other feedstuffs such as wheat for bread and flour are going to be equally expensive. I have started to get into the habit of calling in at quite a few different shops during the week just to make sure if they have anything on special offer and if so buying it straightaway because I know by the end of the week the offer will probably have been withdrawn. Another measure we are taking to help against the rising cost of meat especially Beef is to include Gammon on the Carvery more often as this is considerably cheaper than Beef and obviously if a customer chooses Gammon rather than Beef this represents a considerable saving. At the weekend we also include Turkey as once again this is cheaper to purchase than Beef. Perhaps I should not be telling you my secrets and I expect next week you will all be demanding Beef on your plate just to upset me.
Something else we have noticed is that some of the wines that we use in our wine cabinet are getting very expensive compared with equally good wines we can buy from other sources. As we had just been told that Cabernet Merlot will not be available in 3 L boxes this is a good time to experiment with selling red wine from the bottle rather from the cabinet. The boxes of wine can be anything up to £5 a bottle equivalent excluding VAT whereas it is quite possible to get some really reasonable wines from supermarkets for the same amount or less including the VAT. Once the Cabernet Merlot boxes run out I will be trying to serve red wine by the glass from the bottle and if this works successfully we will consider selling whites also from the bottle although the problem with this is it is more difficult to keep them at the right serving temperature. So watch this space.
The chickens have been laying exceptionally well and for little time we were experiencing a bit of an egg glut but after last Monday's Winetasting evening I managed to move quite a few to the people as they left the tasting. I will admit to putting them in a very prominent position but I'm sure that the amounts of good wine they had tasted made no difference to their decision to buy the eggs.
Not that I am a Norwich supporter but I was pleased to see that they have managed to keep in the Premiership for another season. It would be nice also if Ipswich could regain their position in that division but it seems we will have to wait another year at least before this comes to fruition. Without both teams being in the same division there is an awful lot less to talk about at the bar and quite often teams like Manchester United, Spurs and West Ham get spoken about much more than our local teams which reminds me to congratulate Bury Town for beating Lowestoft in the cup last night. Well done and I hope to see you all soon up here in your new football stadium.
Well the clock tells me that it is nearly noon and the word counter is approaching 1100 words so I think I have spent enough time this morning writing this letter and must get on with the rest of the day. Don't forget the Quiz is tomorrow Thursday evening starting at seven o'clock and Sam tells me she has advertised this on Facebook and is expecting a few more teams to take part. I'm afraid I am still in the 19th century when it comes to Facebook, e-mail and texing so it is nice to have somebody who understands andcanuse this new technology.
So it's goodbye from me, hoping to see you soon during the week up here at the Flying Fortress
Yours sincerely and faithfully
All at the Flying Fortress
8 May 2013
Good morning to you all and welcome to another newsletter from the Flying Fortress. As always the weather is the first thing on our minds and following a brilliant period of fine weather we are back to cloudy drizzly skies. On the other hand I'm sure the gardeners and all farmers need a little rain to get things moving
As so often happens we did not get too much benefit from the Bank holiday weekend although by opening Monday lunchtime we did have a bit of a bonus as we were quite a bit busier than we would normally have been on a weekday lunchtime. The early part of the week was really quiet and apart from the ladies knitting on Wednesday evening there was nothing much to report. On Thursday we had the first of the monthly quizzes and although we had only three teams taking part a curious mix of questions kept everybody on their toes and it was never too sure who would win the prizes. At the halfway mark there were only a couple marks between all the teams but by the final round the team of Anne, Ted, Jill, Mike and Stewart had put on a spurt and won by several points. The bonus question was not answered so this money goes forward to the next quiz.
The weekend itself was quite reasonable if a little quieter then we might have expected but then we put this down to the weather being so nice that people either went down to the seaside or got the barbecues out for the first summer taste of charcoal sausages etc. Every year we notice that when the weather gets nice for a week or two we are a little quieter on the carvery but then the novelty of the barbecue wears off and trade returns to normal. Hopefully this year will be no different but should the weather get worse then this will happen even sooner.
Over the weekend there were a few birthday celebrations we learnt about namely Darryl Peck's 21st birthday, Brenda Rash's birthday and Carol Bunning's 71st birthday. Congratulations to all these and of course to anybody else who was celebrating but we did not pick up on the occasion.
You may notice that the style of print keeps changing and some of the words are in a bolder style than before. I can assure you that this is nothing to do with me just the dictation machine having its little joke at my expense. Suddenly the print goes to a different style and the bold light comes on and I can think of no explanation for this so will carry on regardless. In fact the gremlin is really having fun and games with me this morning and I am getting a little fed up with him. Does anybody have the telephone number of the Ghost Busters because I have urgent need of them?
Anyway I shall attempt to continue and see how we get on. We have been advertising for a new manager to help us with the workload and we are pleased to say we have found an excellent candidate in the form of Sam who used to work for us as a barmaid some three years ago before she left the area for a while. Both Rosemary and I are looking forward to a little more time off now that we have experienced manager to take over in our absence. We are also looking for a couple of waitresses mainly for weekends but if they were old enough to do bar work as well then this might be an advantage. If you know anybody that might be interested please get them to give us a call. We will in any case the advertising this at the local job centre.
You'll be pleased to hear and hopefully notice that the potholes down the drive had been filled and no longer have two negotiate a safe passage down to the main road. This was carried out by M and TJ Garden Services. They are also responsible for cutting the grass around the property and we are pleased to recommend them to anyone needs a good job done efficiently and at the right time. With the hedge being cut down and the benches re-stained the garden is looking a lot tidier now and hopefully will be used whenever the weather is suitable. The next job will be to get the sunshades out but at the moment I think this is tempting fate just a little too much. We have had to put our initials onto the parasols as last year within a week of them going out one of them grew legs and walked away. Hopefully if somebody does that now they will be advertising the Flying Fortress in their back garden so this may make them think twice.
The price and scarcity on vegetables continues to give us concern and I have got into the habit of visiting Aldi and Lidl whenever I happen to be passing and top up with any vegetables that they have got on special offer. This can be in Thetford, Attleborough, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Brandon or Haverhill. It is amazing just how much cheaper some of their vegetables can be compared with other suppliers. The beauty of collecting the vegetables yourself is that you can make sure you select the best of what is available and if the quality is not up to standard you can ignore them. This is much more difficult when the vegetables are delivered in especially if they are delivered before anyone is about. It is usually too late to do anything about the delivery as you need them for the next session. However the biggest problem at the moment is still potatoes as yesterday I saw them at Bookers on sale for £12.50 a bag. This is a vast increase on what we have been paying earlier when they could be obtained for around £7.00.
The word counter has just reached the magic 1000 words so I feel justified in bringing this letter to a close and once again would like to apologise for the state of the printing of the letter. I would also like to advise you that this Sunday morning Ray Howlett will be performing on the piano organ during lunch hours and also the next Quiz will be on Thursday, 16 May. It would be nice to have a few more teams taking part and remember the more teams the more money for prizes.
With this cheery thought I will take my leave of you hoping you have a good week and looking forward to seeing you soon up here at the Flying Fortress.
Yours faithfully and sincerely
All at the Flying Fortress
First of May 2013
I feel like starting this letter Mayday, Mayday, Mayday but things are not quite that bad yet even though we had a fairly quiet week and the bills come in faster and greater than the takings. But then I suppose the same thing is true for most of us. Anyway the sun is shining and all is well with the world (well almost).
The first thing for me to do this morning is to remind you that this Thursday i.e. tomorrow we have our first quiz of the month and this starts at 8 PM. As always all are welcome and teams of up to 6 are allowed. I should have reminded you last week but unfortunately did not get round to doing this.
The week started for us on Wednesday with a reasonable evening having the Sailing Club,CIBSE and the Knitters all having meetings and quite a few of them having food as well including a buffet. On Friday evening we noticed tents going up over on the airfield and realised it was the first of the summer events namely the Model Flying Aeroplane meeting. This was emphasised by the flight of a model B-17 flying Fortress which gave us a brilliant show for 10 min or so. With nothing in the background to compare the aeroplane with you could easily have thought it was a full-sized B-17 up there in the sky. Later in the evening the people who had been flying it came in for dinner and told us that it had not been ideal flying conditions as the wind was a little too strong.
Saturday morning was fairly quiet but the evening was quite busy with two largish parties in and quite a few others. In the New Conservatory Lynne and Trevor celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary with family and in the Old Conservatory group of model aeroplane enthusiasts came down from the airfield for an evening meal. Sunday once again lived up to our expectations and although not quite as busy as last week I was still stuck on the carvery for quite some time. In the Officers Mess Sian celebrated her 21st birthday with family and I'm afraid that this was the only celebration I got to hear about so apologies to anybody else that was celebrating a special occasion and I trust that you had a good time.
I expect you have all remembered that next Monday is a Bank holiday so we will be opening in the morning for lunch but not in the evening. I may regret this decision as we had a phone call asking if we were open in the evening for a largish family party and before I had gathered my thoughts and asked a few more questions I possibly missed the chance for a decent evening function which would probably have been better than opening on Tuesday evening. Never mind it's too late now to cry over spilt milk. Next time I must remember to engage brain before opening mouth.
I am still managing to get potatoes at a decent price that I know this will not last for too much longer and I have heard of many places charging £12 or more for a bag. Unfortunately Sunday lunch with boiled rice instead of roast potatoes does not inspire me and I'm sure customers would feel the same. Luckily last week I was able to get other vegetables at a very reasonable price although noticed possibly because of my own mistake that I was charged 99 p for new potatoes instead of 69 p. Hopefully I will be able to take the invoice back this week and get a refund.
If anybody noticed a fire engine up here at the Flying Fortress on Tuesday please don't worry it was only a routine fire inspection carried out by the Blue Watch team. This is a new way of carrying out the inspections and a fire engine and crew come out to do the inspection at the same time as still being on call. Luckily in the couple of hours they were here there were no emergency calls and the inspection went well. The only slight problem was a door to the outside from the New Conservatory that was sticking a little and needs some attention. Otherwise they were happy with the premises and gave us a good report. To be fair I had recently had the alarms and fire extinguishers checked and all other paperwork was in order. I always say that the Flying Fortress must be one of the safest pubs as far as fire exits are concerned as there is nowhere downstairs that you could not get out of the building within very few seconds. Having said this I hope we never have need to prove what I have just said.
We have also just had a report concerning the water at the Flying Fortress which I am not 100% happy with as it was imposed on us by the Council and was not totally accurate. So far it has cost us over £300 for telling us something we already knew and concerning something that we have had no problems with in the 25 years that we have been trading. Unfortunately these bills do not come alone and every one can seem like another reason to think twice about being in business. What you might call another nail in the coffin. I sometimes despair of our masters and wonder if they realise just how difficult it is to run a business even without such loads being placed on our shoulders. It is even more galling when you see that your Business Rates have gone up again but what you get for them seems to get less and less and that what little service you get you have to pay for through the nose. Unfortunately even though we are having elections this week I am sure whoever returns to power no changes to these impositions will be made.
It is nice to see the sunshine at last and hopefully this will improve trade a little. Certainly outside the pub looks much tidier now that Mike has re-stained the benches and weeded the flowerbeds. The next job I suppose will be to get the hanging baskets organised although with still the likelihood of frost perhaps it is just a little early. I must also remind Michael Jackson about the potholes on the drive as they once again need treatment. I am thinking that crows and rooks get their grit from these potholes as you quite often see them picking away at them.
I am sure that you will be pleased to hear that Nunnaway came last week to empty the septic tanks and also pressure wash the drains. I did this as an insurance measure as last Saturday we noticed slight problems with the drainage. Hopefully this will prevent me from offending the sensibilities of some of our customers if we happen to get a blockage during opening hours. I can assure them that the alternative to clearing any problem is a lot worse. I leave this to your imaginations.
I am not sure where the time has gone but the word counter now stands at over 1200 words and opening time beckons. One thing I must just mention is that if anybody has seen Brian please let us know for we have not seen him since his outing two Fridays ago and we are getting quite worried. We had saved his beer but after 10 days it had gone a little flat. Anyway I must end now wishing you a good week and hoping to see you soon.
Yours faithfully and sincerely
All at the Flying Fortress
23rd of April 2013
Good morning and welcome to another nice day. Really good to see the sun shining and the promise of really good weather ahead for the next few days. At last things seem to be on the move and proof of this is that we have had to cut the grass for the first time this year. Already we have noticed that where we cut down the hedge in the back garden the grass is growing much quicker and more evenly now that the sun can get in.
Not the best of weeks trade wise but luckily a couple of things including of course Sunday helped to bring some respectability to the takings. On Tuesday we should have had a Badminton meeting but as they had the match this was postponed until Thursday which came as somewhat of a surprise to us as no one had let us know. Fortunately, although we had two other meetings on the Thursday, we still had room in the Function room for their Cmeeting to go ahead. On Wednesday a supply company had an all-day meeting although they left shortly after two o'clock and they did not have quite the numbers they thought they would. However it was still a good morning for us although we had to get up a little earlier than usual to let them in. On Thursday we had SWAP holding their monthly meeting and also we held our bi monthly quiz. Although we only had three teams taking part we still had an interesting and enjoyable evening with every team going home with some of the prize money which I believe is the first time this has ever happened. The quiz itself was won by Alex and Jonathan. AAnn, Ted, Rosemary and Paul came second and the teachers won the bonus question knowing somehow or other that the Queen had sent her first e-mail or was it text in 1976. As Michael would say I'm sure not a lot of people knew that. Friday was a complete disaster being the quietest day of the week by quite a large or should I say small margin. One to forget about and hope next week will be better
.( Sorry about the print. It was the dictation machine and not me.)
On Saturday night things started to get better with a party organised by Mr Steed from Stowmarket area for his close family. Christine Westwood also celebrated a birthday party with colleagues, family and friends and had a really good time with a themed evening depicting the Roaring 20s, Speak easies, the Charleston and a murder mystery evening or even a mass murder mystery evening. At one time we had to reassure the Steed party that it was all make pretend and they were not really having a huge domestic. We also had a good number of diners in the pub making it an excellent evening.
Sunday I am pleased to say was a very good day and helped to make up for some of the poorer days in the week. We had quite a few regular customers but also quite a few new ones including several tourists from abroad. It was nice to be able to have the central heating off and for people to enjoy the garden for the first real time this year. Having had the tables re-stained recently certainly made the garden look a lot more presentable and it was nice to see virtually all the tables being used. Once again we were entertained in the pub itself by Ray playing a good mix of well-known tunes from a wide range of eras. Paul especially liked the White Cliffs of Dover and I am not sure whether he got something in is eye or they could have been tears. In the Function room we had a couple of tables being used the main one being for the celebration of Beverley Marshal's birthday with family so congratulations to her. Amanda Balaam celebrated her 21st but these are all the celebrations that I learnt about.
I'm afraid the thieves have been operating in Thurston again as when I went to feed the chickens Monday morning the first thing I noticed was the electric fencing unit had gone walkabout. This unit powers the electric fencing around the chickens and is there only protection against foxes and any stray dogs. It is very annoying and frustrating to think that some TB for the sake of a unit that is probably worth £20 has put defenceless creatures at risk of annihilation. I hope they sleep well in their beds at night but if what I am hoping happens to them they will never have a good nights sleep again. I just hope that I have that power. Luckily I have another unit but cannot put it out until I have made it a little safer and at this moment security precautions are being taken to make the unit a little more secure. I know that if they have it in mind they will still take it but it will not be quite so easy. The good news is that with the nicer weather the birds are laying better and apart from the customer who managed to break six of the eggs they are all selling well and most days we have to turn people away. At the moment I am selling them for 75p a half-dozen but driving round I see that most people are selling them for £1 and as the food has gone up from £7 to £8 bag I think I will need to put my prices up as well. I hope my customers will understand.
We certainly have noticed that people much prefer to have the Carvery out at every session and although it makes little extra work for us and there can be a little more waste I think it is proving to make good sense. There is no doubt that people prefer to see the joint out on the hot plate being carved especially for them and then choosing their own vegetables depending on their likes and dislikes. It also makes for a much more personal service as whoever is carving usually has a few words with the customers which hopefully not always as in my case telling them of my woes and troubles or insulting them. There is one cloud on the horizon however and this is the price of most food products at the moment and it seems that they will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. It is important, we find, not only to source the most economic product but also make sure that the quality remains high and this obviously is the secret of the whole food business. By and large people do not mind paying a little bit extra if they know that the food is of the best quality. It is for this reason that I go out every Thursday to find the best fruit and vegetables available and why we buy our meat and fish from local suppliers who know the business well and only deal with the best.
With the clock striking midday and the word counter showing well over 1000 words I think it is time to be bringing this latest letter to a close. The sun is shining, Spring is in the air and I have other things to do. Hopefully my chicken protection methods can be put into operation tonight and we will not suffer any further losses. If some miscreant is found screaming in agony and in possession of a fencing unit don't say you weren't warned. To everyone else I wish the best of luck and hope to see you all soon up here at the Flying Fortress especially on Friday night as I do not think I could stand another one quite as quiet as last week.
Yours faithfully and sincerely
All at the Flying Fortress
16 April 2013
Good morning to you all and I'm sure you'll agree that it is really good to have some decent weather at last. Rumours are that it may not last long but at least we have had a taste.
Up here at the Flying Fortress we have been doing a little Spring cleaning ourselves and I am sure you will notice that the hedges all around the property had been trimmed back as you might say short back and sides in hairdressing speak. As this is the first time we have done this in some 30 years it is taking a little bit of getting used to every time we look out of the windows. You forget just how much our high hedge cuts out the rest of the world and now we can see the roundabout and the Wallows from our upstairs and also as we have cut back the cherry tree at the top of the drive we have a much better view of customers coming up the drive. There was a moment of panic during the cutting when the hedge cutters lit a bonfire to burn the trimmings and somebody noticing the smoke called the fire brigade. This of course was quite embarrassing but we should be thankful that somebody noticed and bothered to do something about it. In any case we had to stop the burning as the smoke was blowing into the pub. I have made a mental note to ring the Fire Brigade when we eventually burn the trimmings but they have already said that if they get a 999 call they are obliged to respond.
At the same time as the hedge trimming was being carried out Mike was also finishing the staining of the outside tables which he had power washed a few weeks ago. It is nice to see them a clean brown colour rather than the green stained wood that they had become.
As I predicted and feared last week was not the busiest we have had and takings were quite a bit down for the week. Even Sunday was considerably quieter than usual and we put this down to people taking advantage of the nicer weather and going a little further a field. On Wednesday lunchtime Mr Pattle celebrated a birthday and then on Saturday Tim Cutting celebrated his 22nd birthday and Margaret Cutting also celebrated her birthday.
Sunday as mentioned was quite a lot quieter although we did have quite a few people coming in who had not booked. There were quite a few regulars in but also one or two customers that we had not seen for quite some time. We did have Ray entertaining us with his piano music and this seems to be very well received and customers are beginning to comment on how nice it sets the ambience for a relaxing Sunday morning dinner. He should be playing again this Sunday although the arrangements are very flexible.
Once again I should remind you that we have a Quiz night this Thursday the 18th starting at 8PM. This is for teams of up to 6 and I am pleased to say that the questions have already arrived so there will be no panic this week waiting for them to turn up on the Thursday morning which has been the case a few times recently.
I cannot remember if I told you about my problem with the oil delivery recently when oil was delivered at about one o'clock but the delivery ticket with the meter reading on it said 8.30. I asked the suppliers why this should be and they have sent me the satellite navigation details of the lorry but nowhere does this show the date or the time of various stops. I would have thought that similar to a tachograph the meter that records your delivery details should have the correct time on the ticket. Unfortunately every time I have tried to speak to the company after waiting listening to recorded messages you get told no one is available or the line goes dead. I am sure they will be in touch with me in due course. You might think that if you remember my problems with the gas supply that I am always having trouble with energy providers but I was pleased to get a statement from my electricity suppliers telling me that I am £500 in credit. As I record my electricity use every week I was not totally surprised as I knew that the amount I was using was less than the standing order I was paying each week but it is always nice to see it in writing. If there was any doubt whether it paid to change electricity suppliers from time to time this has proved the point.
I am getting a little concerned about the supply of vegetables for the Carvery as they seem to be going up at an alarming rate. I was quoted £10 a bag for potatoes the other week whereas before I was getting them for seven pounds and even less if you were prepared to take the mis-shapen ones. I did see some on the roadside at seven pounds bag but they did not have too many and said they were about to put the price up anyway. Other vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflowers have also risen alarmingly in price and with a late spring it will be a long time before we get fresh supplies. For the time being we will be keeping the cost of the carvery the same but we might have to review it if prices continue to rise. It would help an awful lot if the government would lower the rate of VA T on food as at the moment if the carvery is £9.50 then we have to pay £1.58 or so in VAT. The situation is not helped by the fact that nearly all our other costs such as the meat, the gas, the business rates and heating oil are all rising all the time. It really does make you wonder sometimes how you manage to keep going. Never mind, the fact is that we do and so far thank goodness we have managed to keep one step ahead of the bailiffs.
Over at the field and Thurston it is good to see that the grass and clover is beginning to grow and the chickens seem to be getting more of their food from the field although they still come running to meet me in the morning when I bring their grain and any vegetable feed that we have leftover from the kitchen. Yorkshire puddings and tomatoes seem to be their favourite foods and watching one chicken trying to prevent 30 others take away her tomato can be quite entertaining and certainly could be televised as a new sport. The cold weather is not encouraged them to lay too many eggs but hopefully now that it is getting warmer they will repay me for all my efforts and diligence in going over every day to look after them.
The word counter tells me that I have written just about 1200 words and the clock tells me it is gone 11.41 and it is time I think for me to get ready for the rest of the day. One of the staff has rung up ill so it looks as though I am your waitress for the day and my name is Keith! Just as well I didn't have anything else planned but that unfortunately is always the case one phone call and all your plans can be turned upside down. The phone just rang again and the time is now 11.47 and the machine has decided to print all across the screen rather than in a letter form. Please, please let it be right when I save it and put it on to the website. I am now about to attempt this so here's hoping and also hoping to see you soon up here at the Flying Fortress even if it's just to make sure that we are still in business because after what I have written above you may think there could be some doubt.
Yours faithfully and sincerely
All at the Flying Fortress
Ninth of April 2013
At last a little sunshine and the promise of warmer weather. And not before time I hear you say but let's just hope it's here to stay.
The big news this morning is obviously the death of Margaret Thatcher and I'm sure we all have views on her term of office but I think everybody agrees that she was a lady of principle unlike several of our politicians today.
You will be pleased to hear that we had one of our best weeks for some time and I would like to think that this is a sign of things to come but sadly looking at this week's bookings I think we are in for a very quiet week. All we can hope is that the nicer weather brings a few more people out the use the garden which as I speak is being tidied up by Mike Davis who is water jetting the pub garden furniture ready to give it a fresh coat of protection. Overwinter they have turned to a nasty shade of green and it is nice now to see them back to their normal natural colour.
Over the week we had several different parties and functions with the week starting with a birthday party organised by Kevin and Edna White for their daughter and then on Thursday we held a funeral wake for Mr Tween which was attended by some 70 or so mourners. You will remember last week in my letter I mentioned that we opened on Monday morning as this was the Bank Holiday and proved well worth opening. On Thursday evening we had a dinner for a leaving and retirement of a member of staff from St Nicholas Hospice and this was a very nice occasion although we did manage to give the organiser and nasty shock when we presented the bill which was slightly incorrect. Luckily she spotted this very quickly and no lasting damage was caused. We also held our Quiz night on Thursday and with 10 contestants taking part it was an enjoyable evening even though the questions proved quite difficult. Three teams took part and the money was won by Jonathan and Alex with a team of six coming second having been wiped out. The next Quiz will be on 18 April so make sure you put this in your diary as soon as possible.
Friday was relatively quiet but on Saturday although a disastrous morning it was followed by a reasonably busy Saturday night although not quite as busy as we were expecting. This was due to a party that was booked for 49 turning out to be only for 30 people and you could not help feeling sorry for the organisers that they had been let down by some of the people they had invited. However we hope that those who did arrive to celebrate Tom's 21st birthday did have a good evening and did not mind being in a room much larger than was necessary. On Saturday night also Daniel and Lillian Hunter celebrated their birthdays with friends. We had a note also that Rebecca Afford celebrated a birthday but I am not quite sure on which day this was. In any case congratulations to all these celebrants and we hope that you enjoyed yourselves.
Sunday, Sunday, what would we do without you? Although we were having a reasonable week you certainly put the icing on the cake and we enjoyed the day, that is if you can count being rushed off your feet and just keeping your head above water (sorry about the mixed metaphors). By the end of the day it was well worth while. The Function Room was completely full with one table of 28 and four of 12 or so and this was the first time this room has been so busy apart from Mothering Sunday for quite some time. We also had quite a few in the other rooms giving us a really busy Sunday.
Although the reason for some of the parties was just a get-together we noted that the smart party were celebrating Stuart and Elizabeth's 25th wedding anniversary and the Dunnetts were holding a family reunion. Also a 61st birthday was being celebrated by the Byford family. I am sure other parties were also celebrating special occasions and I apologise if we did not manage to get round to find details of these. I am sure you could see that we were rather busy and we hope that you were well looked after.
Quite often on a Sunday morning we have our resident musician Ray giving us piano music in the bar area and with all the doors of the rooms open the music filters nicely through to all areas. Although by trade a drummer you would not realise this as Ray is very competent on this other instrument. The only slight problem I had this week was when the ice cream machine was not working and with the music and other sounds in the pub I could not hear the machine motor to see if it was running or not. I am hoping that once I had finished fiddling with a screwdriver on the temperature gauge that the problem was sorted out but will have to wait till next week to know for sure.
Talking of problems which seem to be part of every day life I noticed that a cylinder of gas ran out within hours the other evening but could not find a leak so had to call in Greene King's cellar service to sort out the problem. They were out within minutes and very quickly identified a bad connection on the lager font which was quickly replaced. It is at times like this you appreciate being so close to Greene King's and are grateful for their efficiency.
Following on from our very good Five-Star Inspection result last week one thing that was mentioned was the state of the floor in the prep room where the freezers are stored along with dry goods. This has a plastic tiled floor and after nearly 25 years of use they are in need of replacement. I must remember to get out Yellow Pages or the Parish magazine to find someone to replace this flooring and also possibly that in the passage way.
I am sure that all our Carvery loving customers will be pleased that during the week we are going back to putting the Carvery out on display at every session. For a short time we tried keeping it back in the kitchen if we did not have any bookings but needless to say when customers arrived and saw it was not out they were slightly disappointed although most agreed after eating a roast dinner from the kitchen that it was perfectly fine except they did not have the ability and pleasure of choosing which vegetables they wanted and just how many of each they could choose. We also noticed that people are more likely to have a roast dinner if they can see it out on the Carvery unit before they make up their minds.
We are pleased to see Nigel back with us hopefully firing on all cylinders after his chest problems. I suggested he had been away for his winter break in Barbados to which he replied "if only"! Talking of staff we are looking for one or two part-time experienced bar workers and also one or two waiting staff as well. Youngsters for the waiting work should check with their careers officer at school to make sure they're old enough to work evenings and for more than two hours on a Sunday. If so please give us a ring to arrange an interview.
With the word counter registering over 1300 words I think it is time to be bringing this letter to a close. As always we will be glad to see you up here at the Flying Fortress especially if you bring some nice weather with you. So goodbye for now hope to see you soon
Yours faithfully and sincerely
All at the Flying Fortress