Updated: Apr 2, 2020
Exactly two weeks ago today I left London to come up to the Horse & Groom to sit out the Covid-19 crisis. Like a wartime refugee- just minus the gas mask and lunchbox- I crowded onto the 6:25 at Paddington and headed West. I probably shouldn’t admit that the real reason for leaving London was that back at home in Chiswick we had run out of loo roll and all supermarket shelves in London were bare!
In some ways it feels like leaving London behind was a long time ago, a lot has happened in these last few days. We’ve closed the pub to visitors, trained an amazing small army of local community volunteers, ‘pivoted’ our business to provide a takeaway and delivery service to help feed our villages, and said a difficult temporary “goodbye” to most of our staff as we were forced through these circumstances to ‘furlough’ them (a new word for me!). We’re probably beating local supermarkets in sales of loo rolls, milk and bread (“two steak burgers & chips, 2 pints of Butty Bach, a large white bloomer and 2 loo rolls please” – you know who you are!).
Still, as one of very few people left in the UK who can still legitimately spend an evening inside a pub, drinking nice cold, perfectly conditioned cask ale, it could be considerably worse! This may be limited though as most of the local breweries have shut shop and stopped brewing until after the crisis. We’re still offering and providing a fair amount of take away ale in 2 and 4 pint containers, so we are busy making enquiries to ensure the ale keeps flowing! I hear that the Horse & Groom Inn kept pouring ales through both World Wars, and I’m not going to let a microscopic virus stem the flow now!
Whilst the takeaway idea, take home beer cartons and supporting some of the most vulnerable in our villages are proving successful, I feel I should share with you though some of the less practical musings that have come to either Norman or me over the past few days. Usually at the end of the day after a few glasses of ale. Maybe we’re going stir-crazy already. First was Norman’s idea to put pub quiz sheets into every takeaway bag and invite folk to enter their answers into an online system, a prize being awarded to the highest scoring entry. I think he’d forgotten about Google and the high probability of several entrants scoring full marks. Then there was my idea to deliver a virtual cocktail class. We could deliver the necessary ingredients for several cocktails then people could tune in to a live stream masterclass in cocktail making and make along with us. Could you imagine the chaos? Norm wanted to run the planned wine and food matching event we have planned for 27 May as a ‘virtual’ event, again delivering the food and wine to customers in advance and having them tune in to a stream of Stan (our fantastic wine supplier) talking about each of the wines and the food pairing. The logistics would be baffling.
However, as time goes on and we become ‘confined to quarters’ for longer then it just may be that these barmy ideas seem like great ruses. All other ideas on a postcard please… Don’t leave it up to me and Norm or there’s no telling what will happen next…