2007: A Licence, Umbrellagate and the Blues

Thursday 8th March 2007

diary page mar 8

Life in 2007 was a little too busy to write a proper diary entry. As you can see March the 8th saw a fair bit of travelling in my work for Archers Brewery.

9.45 Visit dietician. This was part of my recovery and health plan after the episode in hospital a few months ago.

The phone call to Heather Airlee would have been about something to do with Manchester CAMRA. Probably to promote an upcoming event in their area.

By lunchtime I would have driven to Swindon and met up with Liz at the Brewery. I then picked up Ruth and drove to Kingston. Our accommodation appears to be at the Kingston Lodge Hotel nearby.

For the event at the Willoughby Arms we called a taxi to the pub around 6 and set up our stuff in the back function room. Rick Robinson, the landlord was a top bloke for this sort of event. He was fiercely proud of his pub and knew his customers really well. They included a notorious subsection of real ale fans, the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood. We prepared to be given a hard time. As it happens they were very friendly and the evening of beer quiz, sampling games and free give aways went down well and lasted well into the late night.

If I was due to take things a bit easier then this year had no evidence of my intention to do so. Things came and went very quickly and by the end of the year I was living in Colne, running a pub and couldn’t be further from a hospital bed in Wycombe.

The year had these highlights.

Between March and June we held Archers promotion evenings at:-

  • Admiral Lord Rodney Colne
  • Sirloin of Beef Portsmouth
  • Sun Lydiard Martin Swindon
  • Willoughby Arms Kingston on Thames
  • Wellington Bristol
  • Shepherd and Crook Romney Marsh Sussex
  • Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff
  • Crown, Manfield County Durham
  • Crown , Oakengates Telford

On the 16th of May I completed the local course to become a Landlord. As tests go it was one of the most straightforward. A morning of being told what to know for the test in the afternoon where the answers to the multiple choice questions were still clearly in one’s head. I believe the licence doesn’t need to be renewed beyond what would be its expiry date in a few months time so I continue to be a licensee if needed. Not that I have any intention to be one.


My essential mugshot

My last week in Princes Risborough was a pretty chaotic and thoroughly enjoyable one.


24th May. Glyn came around in the afternoon. He was down from Bradford and heading to Oxford to meet friends. Of course my house was a convenient stopping off point and we could get the Thursday night experience in the Bird.

Friday 24th

Morning – Pick up Woody from Heathrow. He had been away in Miami so I went to pick him up as a favour. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Peter Clark, my accountant, to discuss plans for the guide and how I might best to record expenditure and sales. In the evening we made final plans for the Wembley day out of Saturday.

Saturday 25th

Bristol Rovers V Shrewsbury at Wembley. 40,000 Gasheads were heading to London. I was bringing new fans for the day, ten of them. Fiona’s brother Chris and his daughter Jessica were joined by Chris and Kate, Mark and Helen plus Helen’s sister Cat, Mark’s brother Spug and Woody. Six are pictured below.

on our way to wembley

On our way to Wembley

The day started with breakfast at my house. Full English for the team with just a little champagne to help us on our way. We wouldn’t be bothered with a pub near the ground so we headed for a pre-match pint in the Bird and then on to the train that was already full with the clever folk who went via the local car park and train ride idea.

Sammy Igoe finished the game with a goal from the half way line in the final minute and we joined the queues home. We did but Mark tried to be clever and take some of the gang into Marylebone thinking he could get a less busy train back out. What he forgot to do was stay with the rest of his breakaway group and was left at the station as the others sailed away back through Wembley to Risborough. We had to congratulate him with conciliatory beers later in the pub. The evening involved a victory trail in to the town. It ended with a walk home in pouring rain with no umbrella. What else could we do but liberate a pub version to keep us dry. Of course we returned it to the Bell garden the next morning. Chris and Kate hosted the late night sit on the floor and listen to music session with appropriate winner’s spirits.

umbrelklagate.jpg 2

Monday 28th

Travel to Burnham on Sea and book in to a seaside hotel

Tuesday 29th

Meeting with Enterprise Inns at the Puriton Inn near Bridgwater. They wanted to get some new landlords to run pubs and I wanted to hear what they had to offer. We met and discussed how they operated. I left quite convinced that I would never work in any pub owned by them. John McEvoy of Archers phoned me in the evening and suggested I might want to meet him the next day at the Admiral Lord Rodney in Colne. It was closed temporarily and needed a landlord to run it. He thought I might be interested.

Wednesday 30th

I took the keys to the Rodney. The thought was that I might see how it went and should it be of interest then sometime in the future I might have an option to buy the pub. It was closed, ostensibly because the last landlord had left without notice. The first aim was to get the pub open as soon as possible. The pub had some curious arrangements. It was the only pub owned by the Brewery. As a free house and brewery tap it was a long way from home, an arrangement that could only be explained by the need to swap beers with breweries in the north. Its greatest asset was its large cellar and northern location.

Thursday 31st

Set up Stedders Pubs as a business, Cleaned pub, ordered stock, sorted out pool table, took meter readings, created a bank account for the pub,

Friday 1st June

Sorted local licence arrangements, found some local staff in David Rose and Charlie. Talked to Alison Goode about the Blues Festival, ordered beer for next week and sorted internet access. Opened pub at 6 with 3 beers from the local beer suppliers. They were Sharps Atlantic IPA, Doom Bar and Archers Best. Doom Bar never returned to the pub. By closing time we had almost run out of beer. I worked the pub on my own and found I desperately needed help as the whole town had turned up to find out what was going on.

Saturday 2nd June.

I put notices up on the door that the pub would reopen properly the following Friday, 8th June. This time the beers would be Timothy Taylor Landlord (Another last appearance at the pub), Naylor’s Barmpot, Sharps Atlantic IPA, Allgates Napoleons Retreat and Goose Eye Golden Goose.

blues outside

Within a day I had the local doom mongers chewing at my conscience. I had a full informal list of former landlords with a break down of their weaknesses and ways of doing things. Apparently the Blues would test me out. The Great British Blues Festival is one weekend a year when 30,000 people descend on Colne for a full weekend of Rhythm and Blues. The Rodney was a Road House, a place that would host up to 18 bands / singers / guitarists over the weekend. Arranged in two hour slots the Rodney had a reputation as the most intimate and quirky of the pubs that hosted well known and up and coming performers. According to the locals it was the weekend that generated so much money that the landlord would take and need to take a holiday in the week that followed. Over the years we had some great people who appeared at the pub. My favourites include locals and some who were international acts.

graham at the blues

Good mate Graham Robinson playing the Rodney

My top ten is: (Not in any particular order)

  • Graham Robinson
  • Derrin Nauendorf
  • Claude Bourbon
  • Dave Acari
  • Junkhouse Dog Blues Band
  • Welsh T Band
  • Krissie Matthews Band
  • Emily Druce with Steve Jones
  • Lee Bates and Billy Newton
  • King Rollo with Dr A

kates behind the bar

The two Kates helping me out at the Rodney

I survived the Blues weekend because all the Risborough crowd came to help me out. They took the bank holiday weekend and came to stay and run the pub. Ray Williams from Milton Keynes also came and threw himself in to the cellar. The two Kates were naturals behind the bar. We managed not to run dry but had to get extra beer in from Bowland on the Sunday to make sure. We sold something like 36 nines over the weekend through a cellar that only has 12 available lines at any one time. Woody provided the marquee that went up and was held down by beer barrels. We partied very late in to every night and learned very quickly how the pub might operate in the good times. In general the Blues fans were fun and very complimentary. Some of the regulars and locals were a total pain in the neck. I got to meet the biggest pains in “Yorkshire John” and Sammy. By contrast I also found out that some of the locals would become great friends. That includes you Peter Leaver should you be reading this. The pub had a wide range of characters, old boys, artists, musicians, actors and politicians among its regulars. It also had more than its fair share of folk who had set beer purchasing power and ultimately that was a factor in my decision that the pub wouldn’t be for me. A good weekend or Friday would inevitably be followed by a bad weekend or Saturday. The people only have so much money to go round. The Blues was not the money spinner as described because the locals have no idea of what went into running the pub and paying for the bands / extra staffing.

risb crew at rodney

Ray, Kate, me, Chris, Mark, Helen and Woody


1974       Huddersfield H 2-1

1975       Manchester United H 1-1

1986       2nds Bacavians H W 25-23 it

1997       Wycombe A 0-2

2003       Shrewsbury H 0-0

2005       Southend A 2-2 (3-4 pens)

2011       Tranmere A 1-0

2014       Plymouth H 2-1

1 Comment

  1. Sounds like your experience at the Rodney was similar .. if on a much bigger scale… to our experience with the snackette in Guyana in terms of how the limitations of economics in the local community worked.


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