Tuesday 1st April 2008
As we are new to this country we thought that it would probably be unwise to upset the natives this year by running an April fool, plus we do not have a base yet to run it from. Carolyn has suggested that instead, just in case any of you out there reading this, if there are any of you out there reading this do not know what we did last year we should do a reprint. If there isn’t anyone out there reading this then we apologise for wasting your time and suggest you do not read the rest of this page.
For anybody that doesn’t know Axbridge in Somerset, it is a lovely little Town with a population of about 2000, most of whom know each other very well and all of whom use the shop, which as a rule is the place to go if you want to find something out or where you will find something out even if you don’t want to.
At the Crown Inn we used to attract a certain amount of criticism because we would not bow to tradition and be trampled upon by the traditionalists that either did not want change, or only wanted it if it suited them. It would be fair to say that we had upset a few of these people because of our stance on certain issues and insistence on a level playing field for all and now they watched every move that we made in an effort to shoot us down at every opportunity.
At the Crown Inn we used to publish a monthly newsletter which was our way of advertising the business, it had little snippets of news about the teams in the pub and any little gems that may have occurred in the previous month. We used it to advertise what was going on during the next month and used to allow non profit making organisations to advertise their fund raising events free of charge, we would then deliver them ourselves, firstly to make sure that they were actually delivered and secondly because we needed the exercise.
In the build up to April 1st 2007 we had been quite high profile because no business in Axbridge had ever gone out of their way to do this sort of advertising, and as this was going to be only our 3rd edition we felt that we needed to pull the stops out and give people something to talk about.
The idea came about because the road out side the pub was very narrow and people were always driving up it at breakneck speeds, over the years a couple of serious accidents had happened but nothing had been done by the authorities to improve the situation, so we decided to come up with a solution.
In the centre pages of the Newsletter we printed the following article under the heading Pub News, just so that it wouldn’t be too obvious we printed all of our usual little snippets first and made it look like this was an unimportant add-on. It went like this.
After weeks of discussions with local Counsellors we have come to an agreement in principle on a proposal put forward by us that we feel would benefit both the Crown Inn and the people of Axbridge.
The proposal is that the Council would narrow the road outside the Crown Inn reducing its width down to one lane thereby causing traffic to slow down to negotiate what would effectively become a natural chicane in St Mary’s Street. It is felt that this would make this road a safer place and reduce the risk of accidents for pedestrians and road users alike.
It is proposed that on completion of these works the Crown Inn subject to usual planning consents would be given a 99 year lease on the land outside the pub with permission to build a conservatory on said land providing us and our customers with a larger trading area and improved facilities which it is felt could only be of benefit to the town.
The proposed scheme would initially be funded by the Council with the Crown Inn paying a rent based on the market rate for the space used and liable for the upkeep of said space ensuring that the property and surroundings are maintained to a satisfactory standard.
It is proposed that the building be in keeping with the surrounding area and it is anticipated that we would use local stone and local craftsmen to complete the project ensuring that the scheme will bring maximum benefit to the people of Axbridge.
It is understood that there will be some concern amongst the residents of Axbridge and with this in mind it has been decided that initial drawings will be available to view at the Crown Inn from April 1st in order that residents may be involved in the design of this proposed development prior to final drawings and applications being made.
We hope that you will see the benefits of this scheme for all concerned, with safer roads, improved amenities for the Town and local businesses working with local Counsellors towards a common goal. Whilst also providing the local residents with the opportunity to influence the future of Axbridge and the democratic process that will shape the future of the Town for years to come.
Please come along on April 1st and view the initial drawings where your observations and concerns may be taken on board by a team of counsellors who will be present prior to final drawings and applications being presented to Sedgemoor for consideration.
The response was amazing, unfortunately April 1st was on a Sunday so we had to deliver the newsletter earlier than we would have liked because we were too busy to be able to deliver it on the Saturday. We had to deliver it on the Thursday and within 10 minutes of us starting our deliveries one of the Town Councillors had screeched to a halt in his car out side the house where Ian had just delivered a copy, and with his wife in the car was demanding to know from Ian which councillors we had been in discussions with over the proposal and was presumably wondering how it got that far without him knowing about it. Which asks the question how many underhand things do go on within a Council? When a Councillor can jump to the conclusion that this had happened you do have to wonder. Ian just told him to come down the pub on Sunday and he could see the drawings for himself.
By lunchtime the local unwashed that used to hang around in the square and had so for many years, had picked up on the plans and was wandering round the square telling everyone that would or wouldn’t listen that we should be run out of town and that it was a disgrace that this could happen in Axbridge.
By the evening probably two thirds of the people we met were unsure about whether it was true or not and most of them would not even mention it just in case they made themselves look stupid. Any that did mention it we told to come in on Sunday and they would be able to see the drawings then. In the meantime, because of the effect this was having on the Town we thought it only fair that should anybody come in on Sunday to see the drawings they shouldn’t be disappointed, so we got the kids to do a load of drawings of what they thought the Street and the Pub would look like if there was a conservatory built onto the front of the pub. The drawings were not quite architect standard but pretty good for young children who had been asked to do it with very little notice.
The local papers had been inundated with calls saying that it was outrageous so they were soon on the doorstep wanting to take photo’s of the plans and when we explained to them what it was they arranged to come in on the Sunday to take them with the children holding them up for all to see. The press also confirmed that Sedgemoor Council Planning Department had also been fielding a lot of calls from anxious Axbridge residents but declined to say how many.
As we said earlier, because the 1st was on a Sunday it lost a lot of its impact on the day because people had time to either work it out or be told by a friend, but we still had a few people turn up in the pub on Sunday, just not as many as we had hoped. We did however have a strong show of support for the idea from a lot of people who were genuinely concerned about road safety in St Mary’s Street, most of whom thought that although it was a bit drastic it was the best idea anyone had come up with so far to solve the problem.
At the end of the day it ensured our place as enemy No1 amongst the great unwashed in the Town Square, embarrassed some that should know better and gave a lot of others a bit of a giggle.
Back to 2008, it looked like winter might be over, the sun was shinning the air was warming up and all was looking bright and beautiful.
We took the kids to school and did a stint of listening to children read, the system is far more laid back than back in the UK and our kids are in a bit of a comfort zone at the moment because in the UK system they start a year earlier, we are going to have to make sure we keep pushing them otherwise they are going to become complacent and start slipping backwards because it is too easy at the moment.
We went to the Café and did the usual email things, we also arranged for a PO Box in the post office over the road from the Café because unlike England the Post gets left at the bottom of the garden in a box rather than being delivered to the door and we don’t like the idea of it out there all day for all to see while we are out.
We have arranged to have our phone line connected at the house on Friday although they sound a bit BT’ish so it probably won’t happen on time, we also set up accounts and arranged meter readings for Gas and Electric who sound far more efficient.
We picked the kids up from school at the usual time, Kristian has been eaten by a mosquito or something similar but is not over bothered by it, Marisa almost completed her first back flip this afternoon and is confident that she is going to achieve it soon, Fraser is just very happy with life at the moment and doing well in school, we think the grounding that they received from Axbridge First School has held them in good stead.
Early nights all round, if Australia does April fools it has gone straight over our heads, hopefully we will notice it next year, we will definitely be putting one together although it will have to be quite tame because we don’t want to get deported just yet.
Winter is possibly coming back again tomorrow 21 degrees on the forecast; we are getting desperate for our belongings to turn up so that we can get out the thermals.
Also, please take a look at Jonny's travel blog www.travelpod.com/members/jonnymatthews
currently in Santiago, Chile. He adds more photos than us so far so it should be good for those of us who have never visited the areas. Good to hear from you Jonny.