Any of you who’ve met me will know I’ve got the most Home Counties Accent, ever. This affords me a few funny moments, especially during time I’ve spent in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In fact just anywhere outside of the Home Counties.
I’ve been in Launceston in Cornwall and people have asked if I’m from there. In Dundee people thought I was from Oxford, and in Wales, pretty much everyone thinks I’m from London. In Belfast people thought I was from Edinburgh. I think the best one was in Dundee: an international student on my course told me my accent was “really difficult to understand compared to [my friend from] Yorkshire”. I’m baffled. But it always reminds me that not one section of the UK (or the world) are the same and we can always learn more about somewhere new.
I decided, when I started University, that every Sunday would be “Adventure Sunday”. It was such a waste being 500 miles from home and not taking in as much of scenery as possible, and seeing things that some of my friends back home would probably never bother to do and see (like Dunnottar Castle, Inverbervie, Mid-point on the A4069…) Most of these Sundays consist of some driving around, finding some twisty roads and then culminates in finding a stopping point where I can devour, greedily, on Tea, scones, clotted cream and some jam…and perhaps a postcard if its a particularly interesting (quite a subjective point) place.
Some of the best cream teas I’ve had have been at little Tea Rooms or Coffee shops run by the stereotypical little old lady with blue hair in a creamy/beige pinny. Always being asked the questions “It that OK dear? Have you come far? Are you local?”
Obviously I’m not local to most of the areas I’ve lived since being 18, but during the week I’m more likely than not frequenting Costa, Starbucks or Nero for lunch, coffee or a hearty cuppa with very little change from £5.00 I feel it my duty, therefore, on Adventure Sundays to go an investigate the delights of small, traditional tea and coffee rooms or pubs – rather than go to the larger chains (if avoidable). It’s always nice to have a change, and often good to see what small business is all about. So “Yes, thank you. The food is lovely! I have come some distance today, and no, I’m not local. Do you know any good driving roads around here?”
My best example is the Black Lion in Llangadog. The far side of the Black Mountain Pass on the A4069. A cup of tea and cake comes in at about £1.50 or you could get a Sunday Lunch for £4.00 with all the trimmings. There’s not much in the town – three pubs, an eclectic gift shop, church and a few houses. Whilst looking at the map I had a conversation with one of the locals who mentioned that they were under the same regulations as the bigger chains – which included tax, and everything else – except they were obviously in a very much rural and lower income area. Was it fair to impose such standings on such disparate entities? Excise duty and VAT on alcohol sits at about 33% of the cost of a pint of beer which if you then factor in the cost of the beer and its delivery itself, plus the maintenance of the pub and payment of the staff – doesn’t equate to much left over for profit. The gentlemen even mentioned that what really hurts in the minimum wage requirements – they just can’t afford them, where as in the more populated areas it’s not so much of a problem.
Obviously that’s not a case study, but its interesting to see how different life can be from one rurality to another. If you look at the Plough and Sail in Paglesham in Essex (owned by the parents of Jaime Oliver) you’ll be luck to escape with change from £20, but I wouldn’t say the food was of massively better quality or the pub itself different in many ways.
What’s the point of all this?
Heston Blumenthal recently (and quite fantastically as you might expect) made the point that Pubs and local meeting points (such as tea rooms) have been a cornerstone of British life for a long time and it would be a shame to see them go – that’s true. From an entrepreneurship point of view – they’re key for networking and meeting people, especially in small towns and villages. Given than in the past, traders would exchange goods and news in these sorts of places they were key infrastructural points of knowledge transfer – the first step in establishing if there is a market need.
From a “city-boy” point of view they’re an excellent escape from the “same-y” chains, plus give you the opportunity to find out some really great undiscovered places. Effectively making your own mental guidebook. Not only does this help you to be more commercially aware of your surrounding area but it also lends different perspectives on life not far from where you live.
Plus when friends or family come to visit you can take them to some really awesome places – or at least have an idea to where you would want to take them – rather than perhaps the Pizza Express in the Bay, just like the one they went to in <<insert any city in the UK here>>.
If you’re interested in points such of these, or want to network with local businesses, start-ups, enterprising students or perhaps fancy a social evening – we’re starting our Enterprise Evenings again from October this year.
Come along and lets set the world right.
PS. The Fish and Chip Shop at Inverbervie is outstanding! (Ask for the Haddock rather than the Cod)