At St. Michaels church in Beer this morning the vicar talked about reflection. He started with a question – do you recognise yourself when you look in the mirror? This struck a chord with me as a few months ago I realised that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognise the face looking back at me. This wasn’t some spiritual moment but one of getting older and not realising that I actually look like I actually look!
I wonder when it happened? I know I stopped dyeing my hair in April 2016 as I was finishing work in the August. I’m now really embracing the ‘salt and pepper’ look but various other things have occurred to me –
1. When I fill out a form I’m ticking the 45 – 50 age box and that won’t be for much longer……..
2. When I was in London at Christmas two people gave up their seat for me on the tube.
3. My left hip joint and right knee ache and I prefer going to the Physio rather than for a massage.
4. My Mum bought me a foot filer for my 48th birthday and I was very pleased with it.
5. I don’t care and I think it’s perfectly acceptable to carry and use my fan in public for hot flushes.
6. I have come to accept that on occasions my brain is just not linked to what I’m saying.
7. I just don’t worry about stuff that I can’t control or influence.
The vicar also asked about what other people see when they look at you? This was a more difficult question. Many people will see a woman hurtling towards middle age (or actually in it!) but I don’t feel like that. I’ve got more energy now than I did in my 20’s despite the few aches and pains. I do yoga five days a week and am walking The South West Coast Path.
So whilst I may not recognise my reflection in the mirror I feel fitter. I think this period of my life is one of the best, despite the heartache I went through when those close to me passed away. I’m embracing points 1 to 7 above.
I wonder what you reflect on as you get older?
The shy little girl I met when she was 9 has transformed into this beautiful young woman who I’m so proud of. I read the other day that someone said of their step daughter ‘She’s my daughter, I just didn’t know her when she was born’ which I thought was just lovely. I don’t mind admitting that as she made her way into the barn I got totally emotional.
It seems appropriate to talk about weddings on Valentine’s Day. Alexandra and Simon’s wedding on the 4th February at Park House in West Sussex was simply stunning. They chose a winter wedding as the 4th was when they met five years ago. Alex was hoping for snow but in the end got one of those perfectly freezing but sunny days.
Barry was such a proud FOB (father of the bride) and did a great job of making our guests laugh and at times cry, and Simon’s groom speech was a triumph. Their wedding cake, made up of 5 cheeses with two adorable bunny rabbits on top was so different and the evening guests appreciated it with lots of different crackers and chutneys. I’m just glad Alex seems to have got over her obsession with Eeyore otherwise it would have been topped with donkeys! The added surprise of a sax player and bongo drummer playing along to the evening disco was superb.
This week we have Emma Tanner staying in The Boat Shed. Emma had her wedding arranged for her by The Wedding Wishing Well Foundation who are based in Devon. She married Jamie in May 2016 but unfortunately he passed away soon after. Her story and Naomi’s can be found in this video –
I first heard about TWWWF when I moved to Beer and donated my own wedding dress to them. It was being stored in my wardrobe and I just thought it would be lovely if the dress could be used for some good.
Naomi has been shortlisted for the Mother of the Year category for the Venus Awards for Devon and Cornwall for her amazing work so please do vote for her. Last year I heard that Emma was organising a fundraising dinner for the charity so I contacted her to give her a weeks holiday with us as an auction prize. It raised £500 and the lovely people who bought it then donated it back to Emma so she could enjoy a holiday away, which is how she came to be staying with us this week. Emma has also been nominated for an award as Fundraiser of the Year for TWWWF.
In my view these two woman are an inspiration and I’m in awe of them. I will be thinking of them both this Valentine’s Day.
What can I do for you today?
Having just returned from my own holiday in India it feels appropriate to quote Mahatma Gandhi –
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so”.
This totally sums up my job as Chief Holidaymaker. It’s fast becoming my attitude towards life. Not just in my business; if I’m asked a favour or to help out in the village I always try to say yes.
I’ve often been on the receiving end of incredible customer service. Twice I was wowed by the same company; Belmond. After my father passed away my Mum and I took a trip on the Orient Express to Venice. In Venice we were staying at The Cipriani and they came to do the check in actually on the train in our cabin. Whilst they were fiddling with paperwork I said to my Mum ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful to watch Murder on the Orient Express this evening after dinner’.
When we arrived at The Cipriani we were told that we had been upgraded to a lagoon view. We walked into this amazing room and there waiting for us on the table was a bottle of wine, nibbles and a copy of Murder on the Orient Express! What a memory.
The second time Belmond wowed me was when Barry and I got married in Rio. We weren’t staying at The Copacabana Palace but we went there in our wedding attire and asked if we could have a drink in their bar. We were escorted to the bar where a man was playing the piano and ordered a glass of champagne. We had the bar to ourselves and with the pianist playing soft melodies it’s a lovely memory.
When Barry went to pay, the barman said ‘Congratulations, the champagne is on us’. We didn’t know but the man who took us to the bar was the Operations Director. When we left he was still in the lobby so we thanked him for his generosity given that we weren’t guests of the hotel. He said ‘you’re welcome, and maybe if you come back to Rio, you’ll think of staying here’. We haven’t gone back to Rio yet however when we do I’d loved to stay there, even if it’s just for a couple of nights!
With these wonderful memories you can be sure I’m always thinking of how I can make our guests stay more magical. That’s why it’s so great to be a semi-finalist in the Venus awards for Devon and Cornwall. As I live sandwiched between our holiday cottages before I open my front door I smile as that’s when I’m on stage hoping to help our holidaymakers create wonderful memories of staying at The Folletts at Beer.
Did you watch it? Last night our beautiful village got into the finals of The Village of the Year competition hosted by Penelope Keith on Channel 4. Why did we make it? According to the judges it’s because “the people who live there are devoted to it; both physically and to their traditions. In short, Beer is doing everything right”.
Everyday last week 4 villages in the Western region battled it out to win their daily heats. Beer’s episode was on Friday and saw off strong completion to get into the semi-finals. Last night in the semi-final we were up against Polperro, Colwinston, Aberdaron and Mousehole and we won!
The judges comments were simply wonderful. Of course I already knew how special Beer is but when others speak of it so highly I just feel so lucky that we found it. Here’s a selection of their views –
- This is a truly splendid village – it’s in a stunning setting within a sheltered bay with one of the last fishing fleets in the UK, where the catch of the day is landed on the beach as it was over 100 years ago.
- It’s situated in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of England’s first World Heritage site
- It’s got the balance right; there’s a village community underneath the tourist destination
- It’s a quintessentially British village and slightly eccentric
- It has extraordinary traditions; lace making was brought over by Flemish refugees and this tradition has carried on and passed to new generations
- The first cinema Wurlitzer organ was brought over from the US in 1924 and is housed in the village Congregational Church. It’s amazing to hear this fabulous instrument that was used to accompany the silent movies of old
The overall judges view was that Beer has an amazing atmosphere and such history it had to make the final which will be shown on Saturday 10th February at 8pm. All episodes last week are on catch up if you missed them.
As Penelope said “it sounds like something served in a pub – it’s frothy, tasteful and so lovely it can make you unsteady on your feet”.
Come and see for yourself. You can even have a pint of Beer in the Barrel of Beer, in Beer! We have availability for the Easter week but then limited free weeks afterwards so don’t delay – Beer is the Best of the West.
Christmas = Games in my family. My brother and I grew up on games. Every weekend with my parents we spent hours playing cards but also the board games of Monopoly and Cluedo. They remain our favourites but over the years were supplemented with new games as they emerged; Pictionary and then UNO which was introduced to our family by my husband in 2002.
When Josh was born games also became one of our traditions. He grew up on Monopoly and to this day can recite the value of every property, and the rent when you hold more than one property, even when they have houses and hotels on them! When the Bournemouth and Poole edition of Monopoly was launched my brother refused to play the London version ever again as he lived in Poole. Josh tried to get us to like The Simpsons Game of Life but I refused after I realised that even if you went to University you weren’t guaranteed a better job, and often didn’t win after all that investment of time and money.
I love the way that games connect people. On our ladies trip to Turkey in October, UNO was played every night. It’s interesting to see how other families play a game that you know so well. When learning Mah Jong recently, three people knew how to play it and the others didn’t, and the conversations along the lines of ‘this is how we play it……….’ emerged. I like that you can get so comfortable with a game that you make up your own way of playing it.
Josh came home for Christmas last week and of course the first game we got out was Monopoly. He’s been playing it at Uni and informed us that we were playing it wrong – we weren’t auctioning the properties if we landed on them and didn’t want to buy them. It turns out we’ve been playing the wrong rules for over 50 years!
It’s well known in my family that I love Scrabble. That game was instrumental in helping me learn to spell as more often than not I would put a word down and my Mum would patiently explain that you don’t spell it that way, whilst my competitive brother would take great delight in beating me every game. The day I first beat him I’ll remember forever – the look on his face was priceless. These days the Ipad can keep you connected through games. I play Scrabble online with my Mum and also Words with Friends with other people. Even when you’re apart you can connect through a love of words.
For the last couple of years I’ve got a new game for Christmas. This year it’s the ‘Hum n Guessin’ game – very funny especially when you’ve had a few Proseccos! My love of games will continue into 2018 with the set up of the BGC – the Beer Games Club with my friends in the village. We’re kicking off on the 25th January with a game of UNO and will play a different game each month. I can’t wait for the Scrabble session. We may even invite the husbands and play ladies versus men – I can see that being a good night!
So 2017 is nearly over. It’s been a wonderful first full year without working full time. This has been the year to fully settle into our life in Beer. I wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas – enjoy yourselves and perhaps let me know which games you’ll be playing.
Hurricane Maria damaged my hotel and it closed 5 weeks before I was due to fly to the Dominican Republic. In a panic I called Nicki Richardson of Let’s Go travel who I knew from my Lyme Bay Ladies network. I hadn’t booked my BA flights with her but that didn’t matter. It was a Friday night and despite being in the car driving back from the North she had hotel options for me in less than 24 hours. One of them was The Zoetry.
I’m still here in Punta Cana and am just blown away by this place. I can’t find fault with it. It has what they call ‘Endless Privileges’ which I’m loving –
You don’t have to check out of your room until you are ready to leave. I’m here with a friend and we are being picked up at 6pm on Thursday and can keep our rooms until then. No packing and leaving your suitcase with the front desk. No haggling for a late check out, going to the courtesy room or getting ready in the spa or gym before you leave for the airport.
There are three restaurants here and you don’t have to pre-book any of them. You just turn up whenever you like. Whilst there’s a menu the chef will cook you anything. A couple asked for seafood paella yesterday for lunch and the chef just did it.
There is complimentary laundry so I’m going home with clean clothes. Yay!
The yoga teacher is exceptional. I’ve learnt things I didn’t know and her classes are really good. I’ve also tried Aqua Cycling as well. I’m sure those bikes are going to get rusty pretty quickly though?
There are no bad rooms or rooms in poor locations – we were both upgraded on arrival (another one of Nicki’s gifts as she had requested this for us).
There’s even your own butler who roams the resort asking ‘Helen, what can I do for you today?’ Not much as I have everything I need already!
Horse riding on the beach is included and a free 20 minute massage in the Spa is on offer. My visit will be on my last day to get a facial to ensure I get on the plane minus the sand.
I think I can fully appreciate what Zoetry is achieving here as I’m in the business. If I’ve persuaded you to have a look at this wonderful Wellness and Spa resort I have a tip – don’t book direct. Call Nicki at Let’s Go as she got us a great deal and much cheaper than their website.
Zoetry’s marketing says ‘It’s time to exchange a life of pressure for the Art of Life itself, where your only obligation is to yourself. TO REST, RENEW & REVIVE. It lives up to it!
On my last blog I wrote about the importance of holidays and how people choose to spend time away with those that they love. My Dad’s last holiday, before he passed away 3 years ago today, was to a holiday cottage in Sutton Poyntz near Weymouth.
We spent a lovely week in August together despite him being so sick and not being able to eat any longer. It was to be his last holiday. He forced himself to play crazy golf with the grandchildren and join in the board games that were played some evenings. If he was feeling tired I just cuddled up to him whilst watching TV or he would sit between Mum and I cuddling ‘his girls’.
I will always remember and treasure that week away as we made memories that stick with me. That’s why, in memory of my wonderful Dad, each year I’ll be giving away a holiday cottage to a patient of the Christchurch Macmillan Hospice who took such good care of my Dad during his battle with cancer. The hospice chose who is staying with us this week and they have arrived today in beautiful Beer with their family. I hope they can create some special memories this week at The Folletts as I did with my Dad.
It’s no surprise in my family that I have the travel bug; they think I’m constantly on holiday! The thing is, I’m just so interested in other countries and love experiencing different cultures, places to stay and sights. I did a hotel and catering degree as I loved that programme that was on in the 1980’s called Hotel. There was this glamourous woman who was the assistant to the hotel manager and I thought her job was so cool.
As I’m now ‘in the business’ I love to travel even more. I love to google the places that are on my bucket list. I assess the warmth of the welcome when I’m checking in. I see what each room offers and I’m always thinking what more can I be doing to ensure my guests have a wonderful holiday with The Folletts.
I never underestimate the power of a holiday and how important it is to people. Our guests arrive each Saturday with the people they love, intending to spend time with them doing whatever they want to do with their week or two in Devon.
Barry and I have just come back from Santorini, a stunningly beautiful Greek island. Thank goodness we booked with easyJet and therefore didn’t have the problems of Ryan Air or Monarch. I was listening to the Jeremy Vine show on the day that Monarch folded and felt so sorry for all the employees, over 3,000 who woke up without a job, and for all the holidaymakers who have the stress of sorting out how to fly. My heart went out to the unfortunate man who was booked with Ryan Air and was then told his flight was cancelled. He rebooked with Monarch the week before the administration so it’s third time lucky for him!
Santorini has everything for a short break away – the spectacular sunsets received a spontaneous round of applause from all who were watching it. The greek salad just tasted so much better there – the juicy tomatoes and scrummy feta cheese washed down with a surprisingly good local white wine. I love that most restaurants only sell the local wine – a great way to support their own economy.
We were staying at Caveland on a budget yoga retreat so the break was a great mix of yoga twice a day whilst living in a cave where wine used to be stored. With time for sightseeing the impossibly beautiful white houses, blue domed churches, hiking up a volcano and sitting by the pool just reading my book; it was a great holiday. Of course I found a local bakery with the smoothest coffee and selling mini ice creams for 1 euro = a daily treat!
So whilst I’m obviously in love with Devon I also love to travel the world. After arriving back on Friday, we turned around the cottages on Saturday, and yesterday walked another stretch of the South West Coast Path – Ilfracombe to Croyde Bay. After walking 33,896 steps and 24.1km, today is a welcome rest before I fly to Turkey tomorrow at 7am. I’m even excited about the 3.30am pick up time to get to Bristol airport for our 7.00am flight………..yes I’ve definitely got the travel bug and this time I’m leaving Barry behind!
Today was our last visit to the beach hut before it goes to bed for the winter. I thought having one would be fun but I didn’t realise just how much. When I was young I always wanted to be that family who had a little ‘house on the beach’ filled with toys, stripy chairs and complete with a grand-dad wearing shorts and sandals with socks with a knotted handkerchief on his head.
I’m often the first one at my hut; that’s the best time, when it feels like you have the beach to yourself. I love setting out the grass mat, the table and the chairs. I then sit and watch the beach wake up. First come the dog walkers, then the locals that swim every morning, followed by the holidaymakers who are weighed down with essentials for a day on the beach. I love hearing the children’s laughter as they dip their toes in the sea and scream. The water quality is crystal clear down here. I always feel like I’m on an old fashioned holiday – the ones where you sit and chat and appreciate your surroundings rather than touring all over the place rushing from one sight to the next.
I love to read at the hut whilst listening to the sound of the waves and getting a takeaway coffee from The Hideaway. I love to people watch as they walk past, wondering what their story is, although many do stop for a chat. I see locals that I know and walkers doing the South West Coast Path from Beer to Lyme Regis. We’ve even used the hut in the early evening, having gin and tonics whilst watching the sun go down.
This summer I’ve watched people doing stand up paddle boarding for the first time, puppies trying out the water for the first time, and people sailing boats, kayaking and even water-skiing. I even saw a nude sunbather and politely told him where the nearest nudist beach was!
So I’m sad that it’s time for the beach hut to have a holiday of it’s own. It will be back in April next year. Most weeks it’s been used by our holidaymakers and they’ve also fallen in love with it. It’s been a great addition to holidaying at The Folletts. Where else can you book a holiday cottage and get complimentary use of a beach hut?
Well we almost got blown off the South West Coast Path last week. We set off where we left off last time; in Lynmouth and walked to Heddon Valley. Barry’s excellent insight of the day was ‘They call this bit the Valley of the Rocks as there’s rocks either side of the valley here’. We were most grateful for his clarification as it was troubling us why it was called that. After 13k (18,784 steps on the Fitbit) we arrived and promptly set about attacking the marvellous gin selection at the B&B. Rhubard gin with Mediterranean Fevertree – just what I needed after nearly being blown off the cliff face into the Bristol Channel.
Day 2 – Heddon Valley to Coombe Martin was another tricky ascent – at one point we were climbing a stairway that I thought was going to take us to heaven. Being on the edge of the cliff was certainly bracing and we were rewarded with some spectacular views. On a good recommendation from our B&B we ate at the wonderful Helebillys in Hele Bay. The fish curry on the specials menu was yummy and the service provided by the owners 10 year old son who was helping out his Mum was incredible – that boy will go far in our industry. After 16.8k (22.945 steps) I was thankful for an early night.
Day 3 – Coombe Martin to Ilfracombe was a doodle at 12.4k (17,406 steps) with fewer hills. We walked around the harbour to view Damien Hirst’s Verity statue – a very impressive landmark that I couldn’t make up my mind whether I liked or not – have a google and see what you think). Whilst some of this stretch is on the road we saw some great craggy rocks with the waves beating against them. One reminded me of the Famous Five on Puffin Island. We could have almost been them although there were only four of us with no Timmy the dog. I’m going to get this out of Seaton Library this week to re-read it. I’m thinking of pretending to have a grandchild and getting all the Enid Blyton books out – The Secret Seven, Mallory Towers, St. Clares, I could go on and on.
Our last B&B was the wonderful Olive Branch which also houses The Olive Room, the Michelin star restaurant by Thomas Carr. After a sumptuous meal and a swim in the free standing tub in the bathroom again I was happy to hit the sack.
So our journey along the South West Coast Path continues. So far this year we’ve walked from Minehead to Ilfracombe, a total of 40 miles. Only 590 more to reach Poole………..the walking continues in October.