Half term

This is the first time I have paused to write this without any idea what I'm about to write. As last week was half term it seemed like work stopped for a week. Not sure if that's how other people feel who work from home and have kids. I used to have romantic thoughts of my daughters getting stuck in and helping make our products with us whenever they have a spare minute. Especially when mum and dad make cool things like Toffee Vodka. Sadly the reality is much different. It's very cool when they can say two minutes before going out to a party, Dad do you have any alcohol? What am I supposed to say to that.... You also have to spend part of your day regardless of what you have on being a parent taxi, a payday loan company and chef, I'm sure my wife could write a much longer list. Hey ho, the joys of parenting, especially with three teenage girls.

I did have a small show on Wednesday at Warwick University, it's a monthly market  and this was the third time I had done it. The first time was at Christmas which was amazing, the second was OK but bloody freezing, the weather forecast for this was much warmer so I was looking forward to it. I got there nice and early with no dramas such as nearly wetting myself or having to find a petrol station at 5am so all good. I got set up and then the first trader I spoke to said its reading week..waste of time....great! He went on to explain how no one will be there, I can't stand negative people so I did what I do well which is to blank him until he walked off and found someone else to whinge and whine to who would actually listen and join in with him. I on the other hand was enjoying being able to feel my toes and not having to wear long johns. I am very easily pleased. My positivity paid off because a lad walked past with his mum, his mum was straight in there sampling and then purchased! Happy Days. I thought that's one up for positivity! 

What amazed me at the university is just how many students turned down a free sample of booze. When I was a student I would of been straight in there, but they are clearly more disciplined them I was and currently still am. 

I started to notice lots of parents walking round with their teenagers. I asked what was happening and they said it was open day. Result. Lots of parents which was great for me. So had a pretty good day.

We had another show on Saturday which the Mrs was doing. As she needs to wash and straighten her hair and apply her war paint there is no way she could travel down in the morning and set up so I booked her into a hotel the night before. Booking .com is great, unless your an idiot like me and get the dates wrong and book and pay for a hotel for next Friday thinking your getting a great deal when actually it's the wrong date and you can't get a refund.. 

I eventually booked the correct date and off she went. The pressure was on her as we had two nights to pay for now. She did great and had a fantastic day, apart from the cold, she didn't appreciate me saying it was warm compared to how I've had it. Happy days.  

Here's to a good week ahead! 

 

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Puppies at 4am

Fawlty Towers

Last week was a big week for us, Friday to Sunday was our first big show of the year. I have been doing shows for roughly five years now and never had good shows this time of the year. However this year some friends on the show scene recommend this show at the weekend. The Shooting Show. 

The early part of the week was spent getting organised. In my wisdom I travelled to Coventry on Thursday to drop my stock off at the stand and partially set up. This is different for me, I normally turn up an hour or so before the event starts and wheel my stock in and twenty minutes later I'm tucking into a bacon roll waiting for the off. I arrived on the Thursday to the normal carnage of exhibitors parked all over the place, vans and piles of stock everywhere. Couldn't find a high vis clipboard carrying power crazy bod anywhere. I found an electrician who had a plan of the event and kindly showed me my stand. They had given me a nice corner plot, happy days. I was so prepared I even brought my trolley along so wouldn't have to carry the stock. I need bigger wheels on my trolley as it wouldn't navigate the gully just outside the doorway so had to carry everything from there. I put everything into the stand and went off to find the office to collect my passes etc, blimey the show was huge. When I got to the office the lad there (no high vis) told me I was in the wrong location and marked on my new shiny plan where I needed to be which was the other end of the row. I didn't mind too much as it looked a better location, and as it was indoors I could use my trolley. So off I trotted and started moving  everything with the trolley into the new location. We have tarted up our stand this year and had some black sheets designed to cover the back of the stand to make it look better. When I say designed, what I actually mean is Tesco designed some flat bed sheets which happened to be the correct height and were selling them for £9, bargain. I had just finished putting them up and admiring my work, ignoring the fact I should of ironed them, when one of those monsters in high vis turned up waving his clipboard to tell me I'm in the wrong location..I tried to show him the shiny new plan I was given but he was already on his radio talking to the young lad at the office, the lad at the office was telling him how he had told me where to go and I must of made a mistake...None of them would listen to me, instead they kindly offered to help me move. I did what I do best, spat my dummy out, told them to not touch my stock and in my rant started to carry the stock back forgetting I had my trolley. After two loads I regretted my dummy spitting but was too late, they had gone..I did remember the trolley so moved back and set everything up. No more dramas etc

I got up bright and early on the Friday travelled back to the show ready for 7.30am and the off. It was good to catch up with some friendly faces such as Steve Cheese and Fudgie (Shaun).  

Friday was a good day, never overly rushed but we chipped away and sold well. My Dad came for the day and managed to not been thrown off the stand, a first for both of us. My Mrs came down on the Friday night and was staying for the weekend. In my wisdom I thought perfect, a romantic weekend away whilst working and earning money... 

We had a nice meal and a drink in the hotel and set the alarm as the Mrs wanted to wash her hair in the morning . Woke up in the morning to find there was no hot water..called reception, no answer. Went down to reception, no one there. Heard someone singing, I found the night Porter with headphones on singing away whilst setting up for breakfast. Couldn't resist tapping him on the shoulder to which he pooped himself. Told him the issue with the water and he said 'I know mate, I've started the boiler and it should be hot later'. It was pointless discussing it as we needed to get away so off I went to boil the kettle so the wife could wash her hair. 

We went off to the show and had a really good day, during the day I called the hotel to check the water was hot etc, I explained that when we get back if it's not hot we will check out and go elsewhere as I couldn't have a cold shower two days running. We got back and checked the water and it was lovely and hot. Went out for a meal at a lovely pub had a great evening, I'm putting that meal down as her Valentine's treat (lucky girl), and headed back to the hotel. I fell asleep quite quickly but then was woken by the words "Ant, Ant there's water coming through the ceiling". That's not something you hear everyday. It took me ages to register that I was now stood in the bathroom looking up at a large crack in the ceiling with water pouring through. Part of me wanted to simply close the door and go back to sleep but then I thought I wouldn't be able to have a shower in the morning so I telephoned reception. They said they would move us to room 57, so I packed all our stuff whilst the Mrs collected card and then off we trotted to room 57. I then used the card to open room 57 to immediately find a man on the bed shouting "what the beep are you doing" , I quickly closed the door. He then proceeded to open the door stood in his underpants asking what we were doing. We again trotted off to reception, told the lady that someone is already in there, she replied it's empty, I said go and have a look for yourself, there is a very angry middle eastern looking man in his underpants in there. She declined my offer and found us another room, we had to sit and wait whilst she went and checked it was empty before sending us up there. So we eventually got into the new room around midnight, alarm set for 5am and no more dramas. Wasn't quite the romantic weekend I had planned, from the Saturday morning brain freeze to disturbing the man in his pants..but there is never a dull moment and it gave our friends on the show a laugh.

Sunday went well so was a really good three day show and will be back next year if they will have us. 

Hopefully less drama this week but still productive.. 

 

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Fudgie eyeing up the cheese

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Puppies missing us

A New Record!!

That was a week I won't forget in a hurry. I started the week full of gusto, that was when I went to bed Sunday night. 5 am Monday morning when alarm went off I woke up with my second lot of Man Flu for this winter. Must be my age. In true manly fashion I pulled up my socks and got on with it..anyone who knows me or had the misfortune of seeing me last week's knows this is utter nonsense. I went to my 6am Gym class winging like a baby. I got through the class without too many people noticing how poorly I was pretty well. Monday is my big gym day where I do a strength class in the morning and then a range of different classes in the evening. The last class is body balance which is like yoga. Luckily for me I have no shame and do not get embarrassed as I am as bendy and flexible as an iron bar. You can quite often hear ladies behind me giggling at my attempts at 'Dancers Pose' or 'Happy Baby', if you don't know what these are look them up and then imagine a lanky pot bellied middle aged man with zero flexibility doing them. Not pretty is it.

I had a show on Wednesday, it was a market stall in the middle of Birmingham. I had to be there by 8am so up at 4.30, the dogs were not pleased at me disturbing them so early, Ralf was soon nudging his food bowl round the kitchen trying to get it filled up. That dog never stops thinking about food, funnily enough one of my daughters is exactly the same. I drove to Birmingham in good time apart from the last 3 miles which were awful, stop start stop start, desperate for a wee, things got so bad I was eyeing up the empty Costa cup, I decided against that, the idea of standing on a stall all day wet and smelling of wee didn't appeal. Luckily I was a big boy and held on. I set the stand up, I was one of five stands which should of told me something but filled with eternal optimism I stood waiting to say hi to the passing customers . Boy did I have a long wait...mid day came and I still hadn't even done a sample. That was a record in itself. The stall holders that had done it before said it was a lunch time crowd. So I waited and waited and waited..1.30 and I did my first sample. Still no sales, I was having a laugh with the other stall holders which always helps then just when I resigned myself to blanking a guy came up to the stand at 2.30 and spent £20. No sampling so chit chat just bought. The event closed at 3 so packed up, raided the float to pay the car park and headed home. Over 3 hours later arrived home. The day was so bad all we could do was laugh, I did a total of 3 samples and £20 in takings. So £20 is the new record low...that's the number to beat. I took the actual £20 and stuck it in a frame and it sits pride of place in the kitchen. It's a great reminder, especially during the highs that it can quite easily be a £20 day.

Friday night was the launch of our toffee vodka bar, at the local rugby club they let us set up and sell to the people attending the curry and race night they put on. It was only a small event but was a success. It was also great fun, toffee Vodka and Prosecco was the most popular, followed by single shots. It was an eye opener to be sober behind the bar seeing and listening to people getting drunk and then by the end of the night lining shots up and watching them neck them. Was a real laugh and certainly wasn't work. We even got two more bookings from it so happy days. 

The end of the week saw our chilli product ready to taste. Oh my word, who in their right mind likes things that hot?? I said to my wife we need to taste it, I even said just dip your finger in it. I walked away, she didn't hear me so poured some into a shot glass and sipped it like we do our normal samples. All I heard was 'you beep beep beep' followed by sounds of pain etc I then proceeded to dip my finger in it and dab it on my tongue. Bloody nora first my tongue was on fire and then went numb. Do people really like things that hot?? They clearly do as I put a picture of it on Facebook and suddenly people are wanting to try it or buy it. People are mad...totally mad. I have a larger batch infusing as I write so in a week or so those people will get a chance to experience the delights of Naga Toffee Vodka...rather them than me

 

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Time Flies....

Where on earth did last week go? Seems like only yesterday I wrote my ramblings and managed to mess up posting it on Facebook again...

It's strange as the week flew by so quickly I felt like I didn't achieve what I wanted to. One of the biggest benefits of me writing this blog is it gives me a few minutes to reflect and review what I actually did.  

We had a mid week show again on Wednesday, at Warwick University. Apart from being bitterly cold and traffic an absolute nightmare it was a good day. Was great to see lots of people come back to see us who had purchased before Christmas. When I say that I genuinely mean it, you don't have to come back to buy, simply saying hello and if you enjoyed your purchase can lift our spirits (my god a pun) on a cold day in January.  

This is how interesting my life is now, and makes me sound really old but hey ho I'll tell it anyway. I was really excited to try out my new woollen boot insoles. After standing with blocks of ice in my boots the previous week I wanted to see how these bad boys failed. I have to say they worked a treat, my feet were toasty for most of the day...no I'm not sponsored by the company that makes them. But if they are looking for people to sponsor I will gladly offer my services. Blimey that's 20 seconds of your life you will never get back...sorry

We finally completed making the toffee vodka bar, lights and everything. It must look good because even the 4 women who I live with openly said 'that's cool' or 'that looks great'. You could of knocked me down with a feather...a bloody compliment from the powers that be..my wife and 3 daughters. Maybe there is hope for me. 

We have our first venture out with the bar this week and if it all goes tits up, it doesn't matter, after being with the wife for over 20 years I have finally impressed her! Oh and I have my own bar..happy days. 

It's the wife's birthday today so Sunday was spent treating her round Norwich. It was nice just spending the day together. We started with a full English breakfast and then hit the shops. Going in every ladies clothes shop around. Fair play to her she didn't spend hours and hours deciding and it was a fun day. As I have to have a moan about something, can the manager of the shopping center please put more signs up saying the toilets are closed, so I don't rush to it in desperate need (like a 5 year old) to find it closed and then having to go up two flights of stairs and run/shuffle/waddle to the other side of the center to find toilets that are open. It then didn't help that as I sat down in the cubicle my phone fell out of my pocket and slid under the partition into next doors. I won't explain how I got it back...

That's enough of that talk...we're onto this week. Have a great week. Good luck to everyone in the Toffee Vodka Competition, it's being drawn today. Off to creep round the Mrs as a Birthday treat for her. 

My names Flo and I love getting muddy

My names Flo and I love getting muddy

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Momentum

Firstly my god it's bloody freezing at the moment, not sure if I'm getting soft in my old age, but I never used to feel the cold. Certainly not like this last week.

We had a busy week booking shows and generally planning the next couple of months. Even though it's almost impossible to predict what's going to happen from week to week I always feel better with a plan. Even though it usually changes every five minutes. 

This is a funny time of the year, where usually nothing really happens but surprisingly we had a really productive week. Our internet sales continue to grow and it's connected to our facebook activity. At this point I have to stop myself, reading that back I sound like a right knob pretending to know what I'm doing. I don't. What I have tried to do is simply share snippets on facebook of what we get up to. Not all the time and not everything because I wouldn't want to flood people's news feed. Just things that I think are interesting. Last week for example we painted the logo on the bar, I uploaded a picture of Mrs W painting it. I thought it was a cool picture and it looked like she was painting it by hand. In actual fact she was trying to correct the cock up I made by painting it in the first place and I had a stencil to use..painting and infact DIY are not my in my skill set. Like the time I somehow managed to get my size 11 foot in a pot of gloss and then proceed to walk down the stairs. I couldn't understand at first why I was getting screamed at..that was years ago and I'm used to it now. 

We also had a play with some Ghost Chilli's, as we have been invited to a chilli festival and I was told people like the product extremely hot. I am dreading having to taste test this one, thankfully a couple of people through facebook are willing participants in tasting for me. As is my friend and gym coach, should be payback for some tough workouts. 

I can't forget  that on Saturday I did my first show/market of the year. A one day market stall on Solihull high Street, when I booked it I thought it was a good idea, at 4.30 am Saturday morning when I was trying to defrost the van at minus 2 I was regretting it. When I got there and set up and bloody freezing my arse off I was still regretting it. However I had a few customers come and see me who had seen me before Christmas and that was a great feeling. Didn't defrost my feet but certainly cheered me up. I also set myself a target which I would be happy with and I exceeded that so all was very pleased with the first event. Hopefully that's started this year off and we can maintain this momentum.

Have a good week, in puppyville, all is good, Ralf and Flo are like partners in crime, raiding bin bags, digging holes and generally play fighting all of the time. 

Butter wouldn't melt

Butter wouldn't melt

Fully Recharged

I feel like last week was my first proper week back at work, it seems I've shaken the fogginess of post Christmas off and now back on it.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable Tuesday evening meeting with someone who is in the drinks industry and has done incredibly well. I've had the pleasure of seeing his operation, meeting his wife and seeing how far he has come in a relatively short space of time. As I've said to him I find it very inspirational. I was also quite touched when he said he had read my blog. We had a good evening just discussing the previous year, and laughing at the horror of bad shows. 

The rest of the week consisted of booking shows for the year, was a scary experience when I started planning Christmas! I have my first show this week, on a market stall in Solihull..think the thermals will be in order.  

Amazingly we have managed to book quite a few shows for February, some of which have been given the traders curse ' you want to do that one, it's a good one' we will see as we continue to play show roulette!! 

During the mayhem of the Christmas shows I booked a weekend away leaving last Friday, I wanted a log cabin in the woods, I managed to book one in a forest less than an hour from home. It had a hot tub, wood burner and you could take your dogs. Sounded perfect.  

I usually have these ideas, plan them and then get the girls all geed up as I big the idea up far too much and then usually disappoint. Like the time I took them to the forest to get a Christmas tree, told them that husky dogs pull you into the forest, you choose your tree, cut it down and then the dogs pull the tree back. In reality what happened was we walked round a muddy field, chose a tree that was already wrapped in netting and a big black dog pulled a trolley with your tree on which kept slipping off back to your car. To which we found the tree was too big to go in the car and had to be forced in with the kids sat virtually in it. The highlight was the screaming and crying on the way home as endless amounts of spiders and bugs decided to escape the tree onto the girls whilst I'm driving..wasn't one of my best moments.

So needless to say the girls were not overly excited to spend a weekend in a forest with no phone signal with mum and dad and a pack of cards. 

However..I only went and bloody exceeded expectations, not that expectations were very high, the weekend was fantastic. The log cabin was beautiful, lovely and warm with everything in it you could ask for. We had a great weekend, watching movies, walking the dogs through the woods and relaxing in the hot tub. Ralf (Choc Lab) was desperate to jump in but luckily we stopped him just in time.  

So now we're fully recharged and raring to go, so 2017 bring it on.. 

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A New Year

This is my first blog of 2017, firstly a short reflection on 2016 is in order. We started Fen Spirits in May, I remember how nervous I was attending the first show, this had to work for us, the first day was ok but after a few tweaks we had a great day on the Sunday. My wife bless her, was at a local show which was awful....We still made the decision for her to give up her full time job and come with me full time as of July, some say brave, some say foolish but I wanted her by my side, sounds a corny cliche but we are stronger and better equipped together.

We then got into a groove through the end of August and into September and things were looking positive, for our future plans. 

An important milestone was the granting of our premises licence which enabled us to sell product online and launch a website instead of just a Facebook page. 

My eldest daughter is claiming the credit for what happened next with the Facebook competition, Ill let her take the credit, its a small start to paying me back for the last 20 years..

It was crazy how things went through November both online with the competition and the Christmas shows which brings us to 2017...

We have some big exciting plans for this year, I will announce them as they happen, rather than in advance.

This last week has been a very odd one, after the excitement of pre-Christmas its been very hard to get going properly again. Its easy when you are simply making and getting out there and selling, this is much less enjoyable and more difficult. 

We are planning our shows for the year, getting them booked which is a lot of form filling, something I do not enjoy. Planning some building work on a new premises to produce from so looking for a Carpenter at the minute..

To assist with getting my arse in gear I decided to sort out another Facebook competition and launched it on Saturday afternoon. I would like to say this was carefully planned timing based on the analytics of the previous one but it wasn't, it was simply when I got round to taking a photograph and publishing it..then..BOOOM the worlds gone mental.

As it stands we have nearly 10,000 shares, over a million views and gained nearly 5,000 page likes. Mental....in a good way but mental.

We also went to a very good friends daughter's wedding reception last week, I made them some Wedding Favours which judging by the amount of people that cam up to me in the evening to say how great they were seemed a success. In my wisdom and due to the fact I had the camera out I took some pictures on miniatures and put a new page on the website called Wedding Favours and off the back of the social media stuff going on we now have several orders for Wedding Favours! It seems the simpler I keep things the more successful they become, I shall remind myself of that on a regular basis, especially when I get too big for my boots and decide to try to be clever.  Might even get myself a T-Shirt made with that on it.

On a totally separate note I thoroughly enjoy working out at the Gym and also running. I have an off road marathon planned for the end of February which I tried to back out off but both my wife and my gym buddy have told me to get on with it..so with their kick up my backside I went out yesterday and did a 13 mile run, so all is good and I'm back on track. 

Probably need to sign off now as its time for my protein smoothie which even the dogs don't bother begging for! have a great week and hopefully we can make some progress.

They are not impressed

They are not impressed

Man Flu

 Yes you can guess by the title I have picked up man flu, and it's really really bad. As I live in a house with four women I get very little sympathy, in fact zero sympathy, hopefully someone out there feels my pain. For that person I say thanks much appreciated, for all the ladies who tell me to man up and get on with it, you have absolutely no idea what I'm going through.

We had our final shows of the year this weekend, a friend of mine Mark kindly did a two day show for me Friday and Saturday which meant I had Saturday off and Mrs W had Sunday off.

It was a very strange feeling being at home working whilst other people were out selling my product for me, first time I have experienced that. It's something I will have to get used to if we want to expand in 2017.  

I then had my final show on Sunday at Leamington Spa, it was fifth Sunday in a row we had been there and to date they had all been very good. This Sunday was no exception apart from I developed the dreaded man flu.  

I had a very odd unpleasant experience Sunday, a man and his wife came up to the stand in the morning and tried the toffee. He asked lots of questions, more than the  usual but all was fine and said they would be back later. I thought no more of it. 

Late in the day they came back, I'm pretty good with faces so said hi, thanks for coming back and would they like to try some more. The lady walked away but he said yes, but doesn't mean I'm buying, anyone who has met me at a show will know I don't do pushing selling, so just said that's fine with me. He then proceeded to taste it whilst insulting me because my left arm shakes. When I didn't rise to it he carried on, after being ignored he said I'm a whisky man anyway and stormed off. It was a really odd experience,I couldn't get my head round why? Why bother even coming back over? Why then try to insult me? All very odd I have to say. 

I thought I would mention it on here but I can't let one arsehole take away from the fact we have met hundreds and hundreds of really nice pleasant people. Some of whom have had us in fits of laughter, like the lady who read Toffee Vodka as Coffee and when Mark pointed it out she asked what the difference is? Or the countless people who we say good morning to and they reply with No thanks!  

We have our works Christmas party tonight, which is just three of us, I shall take a picture and use it to see how we have grown come next year.

For whoever is reading this , firstly thank you for taking the time to and secondly have a wonderful Christmas x

Nearly forgot, puppies are doing great and are looking forward to lots of festive fun

 

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