It’s been a tough year, but was I able to keep the promise I made to myself back at the start of 2010…?
At the start of 2010 I knew that the coming twelve months were going to be tough for all small businesses, including my own, so I made myself just one New Year’s Resolution: to still be in business by 31st December 2010.
What followed was, shall we say, a tumultuous twelve months that saw me get back in touch with old friends, own three different cars, have an accident with an ambulance on a live call, end up in hospital (not related to the ambulance accident, I’m told…), ride 60 miles on a push bike for charity, be the official time-keeper in a world record-breaking attempt, upset Sky television, be the “Voice of Strictly Come Dancing” on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and visit the factories of two Formula One teams.
And lots of things in between.
It’s actually quite difficult to pinpoint what have been the highlights and lowlights of the year.
The issues with the cars have probably been the most painful: at the start of this year I had a very nice, reasonably new, luxury car with a big engine and lots of toys on it. Unusual it might have been, but I like cars that are different and genuinely enjoyed owning it. Except for the fact that it was horrendously unreliable and, unfortunately, it decided that 2010 would be the year of being a right royal French pain in the arse and, at every given opportunity, it broke down.
The Vel Satis is one of those cars with an annoying ‘electronic’ hand brake that you don’t pull on, but instead push a button to activate. Or just switch the car off. Unfortunately, unlike an ordinary cable hand brake, when it goes wrong it costs £600 to fix rather than £20 and so, in frustration, I took it to the garage who told me that the gearbox was also munching on itself and that the total bill to get it working again would be approaching a mind-boggling £3’000.
In temper, and a little bit of panic, I changed the car for an older but more reliable – and infinitely cheaper to repair – bus of a thing. Which I then promptly wrote off by crashing it in to the side of an ambulance that was on an emergency call. (The dispute over which one of us was actually at fault is still going on…)
I got another Chrysler, newer this time, which has proven to be more reliable, if a touch thirsty, but at least I know when I go out to it it’ll start. (Although, for a petrol, it has recently taken on the worrying tones of a rattly old diesel.)
The day after the accident with the ambulance Ali discovered me collapsed and unconscious on the floor of our bathroom. Thus followed a ride in another ambulance (thankfully not the same crew as the one I’d collided with the day before!) and an unpleasant trip to the hospital and some time off work. Nobody has ever truly been able to identify exactly what went wrong but eventually they decided they didn’t need to cut me open and that I simply needed to spend some time convalescing.
Probably my favourite day of the year was July 25th, when I took part – along with some good friends from the pub – in a charity cycle ride from Pickett’s Lock in London to Midsummer Common in Cambridge, a distance of some 60 miles. I’ve never undertaken such physical exercise before (not even in the bedroom!) but we trained well and ended up completing the journey in five hours and fifteen minutes (including rest stops) and raised £3’006 that was split between our three chosen charities.
I’ve also managed to visit both the Lotus Formula One factory near Norwich and the Renault Formula One facility near Oxford, who next year will probably confuse everybody by both being called Lotus. I still haven’t managed to figure out which one’s which, but as a huge fan of the sport I’m grateful to the people who managed to put the trips together for me.
And another random fun day of the year was taking part in a world record-breaking attempt, in the form of … wait for it … beer mat flipping! Dean Gould took on the challenge of flipping 1’000 beer mats in less than 45 seconds, and I was invited to be the official time-keeper; obscure it might have been, but it was all good fun and you can read about it by clicking here.
Ali turned 40 in August (I’ve still got a little while to go yet…) and we had a big party at the pub to celebrate, including three live bands, and business held up well during the summer thanks in part to the World Cup.
At the end of summer it was announced that Uncle Paul was going to be one of the participants in this year’s Strictly Come Dancing, which prompted the breakfast show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to ring me up (obviously I’m a prominent local publican…!) and ask what I thought about it. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, you’ve just woken me up,” was my response being, as it was, 7:45 in the morning. After a chuckle and a discussion they invited me to be on the radio each Monday morning to talk about Strictly and, more specifically, Paul’s part in it, which posed me a bit of a dilemma: I just don’t watch those type of programmes, and suddenly I had to!
It was great fun, even if it was short-lived, and did get the pub some good radio publicity too.
Which brings me to an important point: we’ve had a change of Government, yet more legislative changes for the pub trade and the continuing struggle within the economy; it’s been a roller-coaster year of emotions, a lot of hard work and a lack of time off, but I kept that one, single resolution that I made myself at the start of this year:
It’s 31st December 2010, and I’m still in business.