Faye and Mark


Faye Sharpe in conversation with
Mark Collins

Mark is my neighbour. He’s a talented brewer of very fine beers. He reduces his stock, 2 pints at a time, by leaving me a gift at what is now dubbed ‘The Flower Pot Pub’.

Note 1: March-May

The situation is shocking, not easy to get my head around.

I work on my own. My company is a radio. I listen to the news. I found it quite concerning right from the start. I can’t tell you why.

8th February – we went skiing. Landing in Turin, our temperature was checked by people in suits and masks. A bit of a wake-up call. At the resort, nothing was different.  But something struck me. I got on a chair lift with an older Swiss gentleman. He said, “Enjoy your last year.”

10th March – my last brew. 15th – my last working day. 19th – the pub group announced they were closing. 

I’m very good, surprisingly, at doing nothing. I’ve spent so much time working. It’s been a struggle. Now the days disappear.

You turn to family and friends. Peoples’ health is the most important thing. There is a bigger picture.

Note 2: May-July

I am delivering three barrels a week. It’s usually twenty. When this started I had an excess of forty and no idea where it was going to go.

I’ve started bottling. I didn’t have any bottles. That was the first challenge. The next was coming up with a name and labels.  I did about a thousand bottles and they’re pretty much all sold.

I go to the brewery. It feels safe there. I’ve stripped the system down and given it the best clean since it was new.

I was supposed to be at the Isle of Mann TT. It would have terrified me to be in their presence. Hopefully we’ll do it next year.

I had tickets for three concerts of my favourite bands. They’re all out the window now. 

I enjoy the empty roads and the pub being closed. I’m not that excited about everyone coming back. Apart from the money, I’d like it to stay the same.

I’ve been thinking about moving to France. Maybe it’s time.

Note 3: July-August

The pubs re-opened 4th July.

I’m back to ‘normal’. Full capacity. It’s been really busy. Because I didn’t haven’t any stock and the pubs didn’t have any stock, I’ve been starting from fresh. Really chasing my tail to catch up.

I did 2 brews at beginning of June and then furloughed myself for the rest of June, in the anticipation of pubs re-opening in July. I had 20 casks ready for 4th July.

For all of July to now, I’ve brewed twice a week which is, basically, my standard. The beauty is because I have their backing (the pub group) they’ve taken other beers off.  They’re keeping only my beers on tap. They’re down to two, even one in some locations.  My beers. Very fortunate.

What is interesting is that our pubs, our group of ten, are up on this time last year.  A lot of that is down to the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme. People love a bargain! They’re making the most of saving themselves £10.  Monday to Wednesday you can see it’s as busy as it ever has been. The weekend trade has suffered slightly.  Everybody’s shift patterns have had to change. Traditionally, you’d see at the end of July and beginning of August, pubs usually are quieter but people aren’t going abroad as much, so we’re getting trade.

It really has been going back to ‘normal’ for me. The only thing that’s different is that I would have be doing outside events – beer festivals and fetes which are not happening now.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen when the weather changes, when everything has to move inside. The pub group have decided to carry on with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, absorbing the additional cost themselves. Closing pubs to open the schools, I can’t see that happening, but you never know.

I think something that came out of lockdown and the virus, is a new perspective. Part of what I enjoyed during lockdown was that it gave me a proper break, not a one week holiday. It gave me time to sit back and re-evaluate things, though I didn’t see how things were really going to change.

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