The Girl In The Easter Dress (Part One)
It was fast approaching Easter, another significant event in the calendar that held no fond memories for him.
Steve Berry had grown up with a dislike for all family orientated occasion, New Years, Easter, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night and especially Christmas with all its nauseating jollity and faux fun.
Unlike most of the people he knew he had no happy memories to anesthetise him against those occasions.
His parents were alcoholics and from a very early age he had learned to fend for himself and most of his childhood memories of the big holidays he would rather have forgotten.
That was until Holly Davis opened his eyes to new possibilities and he realised that Christmas could also magnify joy and that life was full of wonderful possibilities.
And as they lay in each other’s arms in the early hours of New Year’s Day, having just made love for the first time, Holly proposed that they run the Pig and Whistle together.
Despite his first doubtful thoughts, when he thought it may just have been post coital exuberance on her part, Steve agreed based on the way the two of them had worked together through the Christmas period.
When he returned to his day job on January 5th his first action was to hand in his notice, much to the annoyance of his employers and the consternation of his co-workers.
His second action was to put his flat on the market.
Some of his friends suggested that he was burning his bridges whereas Steve believed he was merely following his heart.
Holly was buying the pub from her Uncle Phil, who sadly would not be around much longer.
But even allowing for the discounted price he was asking, she could only just afford it with the sale of her house and virtually all of her savings, which didn’t allow her any extra for the improvements she wanted to make.
She could of course take out a mortgage for what she needed but she didn’t really want to begin with a debt.
She had no idea Steve had put his flat up for sale, in fact Holly didn’t even know if he owned his own flat.
It wasn’t until the beginning of February when he said
“I have officially burned my bridges”
“What do you mean Hon?” She said
“I am now unemployed and homeless”
He said and handed her the written offer on his flat
“What are you saying?” Holly asked
“Our nest Egg” he said
“Are you sure?”
“All or nothing” he said
So Steve and Holly became partners in the Pig and Whistle and they sealed the deal in what had become the customary manner.
The Pig and Whistle had once been the Railway Hotel, up until the second world war when the Station was bombed out of existence.
In the post war years when the new station was built, it was inexplicably sited a mile away from its Hotel.
The Hotel was then sold off after nationalization and renamed.
It was ideally situated close enough to town to benefit from foot traffic but far enough away from the hot spots to avoid the weekend binge drinkers.
There was another hidden benefit of their location which would not be discovered until much later.
There were significant improvements made to the exterior of the building by Phil’s predecessor, upvc soffits, guttering and double glazing were installed as well as a number of others in fact it was improved to such an extent that they ran out of money, which was how Phil got it so cheap.
He and his wife Pat had big plans for the place but when she died suddenly the light went from his world as did his purpose for existing and he rather lost interested in the pub.
“So where do we start?” Holly said
“The roof” he replied
There was some remedial work required to the chimneys and some slates had been displaced in the winter storms.
“We can claim for the storm damage on Phil’s insurance and while they are up there they can do the chimneys” he said
“Excellent” she said “That will save us a bit”
“And then we should complete the kitchen extension and the Conservatory” Steve said
Phil and Pat had applied for planning permission before she died but it ran out in April so the clock was running in that regard but Abbeyvale conservatory’s were keen to finish the job they had started more than a year earlier.
In fact they were so keen Steve was able to negotiate a reduction on the installation cost.
So that was all set in motion and then they turned their attention to the interior.
Holly had worked in hospitality since she was at college and of all the things she had learned the one that stood out for her was not to put all your eggs in one basket.
You had to diversify but equally don’t try to be all things to all men.
It was an old pub with a big open bar, Holly wanted to reinstate the old layout and return it to three separate bars.
The lounge bar for the conversational drinkers, a TV bar for the sports fans and a games room for darts, pool etc. and the conservatory would be for the diners.
“I bow to your superior knowledge of hospitality Hol” he said “I’m just a bean counter, and as such I can say that it would be a relatively small outlay to replace the internal walls and it will be less expensive in the long run to heat three small spaces than one large”
“So is that a yes then?” Holly teased
It was essential they started getting customers through the door so they couldn’t afford to have the pub closed for any length of time.
A pub the size of the Pig and Whistle would haemorrhage money at an alarming rate with the doors closed.
They wouldn’t be able to pay the staff and so they would have to find other work and then you’ve lost your experienced workforce.
Holly decided they wouldn’t close for any longer than was necessary for the refurbishment.
So they closed for two days for the builders to put in the stud walls between the bars and closed the lounge bar for one week to decorate.
Then a week later they closed the TV bar for a week and repeated the process for the games room.
So by the middle of March all three bars had been decorated and re-carpeted plus the Conservatory was complete and ready for use.