Recent Posts

With all the invasive media information pouring into our lives through the iPhone, iPads, newspapers and television, we are rightly being made very aware of the growth of mental illness in the UK.

Unfortunately this is frequently not a degenerative disorder brought on by old age but is effecting people of all ages.

I, myself, have been saddened to have a number of middle-aged friends whose lives have been blighted by what we used to call ‘breakdowns’. I count myself extremely fortunate to have not suffered from any mental issues, although not all my chums would necessarily agree!

There was a period, many years ago, when personal tragedy touched my life and appeared overwhelming at times. I would climb the hill outside our house in the Devon village where we lived, until I could see the entire village laid out in front of me.

Knowing some of the traumas taking place amongst our neighbours helped me to put my circumstances into perspective, as I looked down on the homes and people below me. My issues seemed to lessen as I considered the health and family problems ‘down there’.

These days I no longer need to go climbing hills but if I am troubled by life, which fortunately is a very rare occurrence, I simply go straight to the Armada Pinterest board entitled ‘Inspiring People’.

A few minute contemplating the creators and achievers on this board always puts me in a positive and admiring frame of mind. I hasten to add that I am not suggesting that this is a cure for mental illness.

For me, another way of keeping my spirits up is to dwell on the disabled achievers in life. Folk like Jonnie Peacock, the Paralympic sprinter who is currently appearing on Strictly Come Dancing or the army of Paralympians and Invictus Games athletes who never cease to amaze and inspire me.

It is my total admiration for these people that causes me to be excited whenever the Help for Heroes catalogue drops through our letter box, as it did last week. I couldn’t wait to open it, knowing that any purchases will contribute to this great charity, helping disabled service men and women.

At the back of the catalogue I found a new range of clothing and accessories, celebrating the charity’s 10th Anniversary.

In no time I had selected various items and ordered them on line. Three days later I picked up a large carton from our local Sainsbury store and hurried home.

Rather like Ian Waite, I whipped out my trusty penknife and began emptying the box of goodies. A couple of hoodies, polo shirt, T shirt, socks, ladies’ scarves and two teddy bears for the younger members of the family.

I was super impressed by the speed of service and the care taken to pack the box. Maria was so proud of her work she even put her name on a card to tell me it was all her own work.

So far so good, but what was the merchandise going to be like? Doing a Benetton shake of each item, her ladyship and I were gobsmacked by the quality of the clothing. The sizing’s, the vibrancy of the colours, the intricate embroidery of the crests and the amazing softness of the bears (one has already been christened Jonnie by our grandson). Everything was sooo much better than we had hoped for.

Before the box had been put to one side we were already making a list of family and friends we have who will be delighted to receive a gift from Help for Heroes for Christmas.

I can’t recommend too highly how you should look at their web site and spoil yourself. You can, like us, make Christmas shopping so stressless by pouring a beer or glass of wine, sitting back and having the festive shopping delivered to your doorstep. At the same time you can help those who have had life changing injuries whilst they were fighting to protect us.

Go on – take a look, you know it makes sense!!

In the meantime I’ll sit here snuggle in my new hoody – very hygge !

 

A couple of weeks ago we threw a bag in the boot and headed off to deepest rural Dorset, to celebrate a rather special anniversary.

Dorset is a county I know well, having spent many happy years visiting clients throughout this enchanting but largely overlooked part of the south-west. One day I might be in Wimborne financing scaffolding equipment and funding the fit-out of a restaurant in Swanage, the next day I could be at a nightclub in Blandford Forum or a gym in Bournemouth.

The rolling hills and deep valleys of Dorset fold in on themselves as if they are wanting to protect their villages and folk from prying eyes.

We meandered through the lanes before stopping and parking in the village square of Beaminster. Down this way you need to remember not to pronounce the ‘a’ or the locals won’t understand you.

Although Beaminster is little more than a village, it still boasts of a renowned restaurant on the square, together with a decent hotel and many delightful shops, such as Cilla and Camilla. This gift shop, coffee shop and ladies trendy boutique is a regular haunt of ours.

After coffee and a mooch about we drove off to investigate some of the other local gems, before travelling down another memory lane, arriving at The Summer Lodge Hotel in Evershott.

Although now owned by the Red Carnation Group of hotels, Summer Lodge was for many years owned by our good friends, Nigel and Margaret Corbett.

This Relais & Chateaux hotel continues to offer 5 star luxury in comfort, service and dining, much as it did in Nigel and Margaret’s day.

As we were shown to our room or seated in the drawing room my thoughts kept slipping back to the days when I was there on business. “Was this one of the bedrooms where we financed the furniture and fittings? Were these the sofas I paid for? Is their kitchen the one we financed and do you remember the trouble they had with the flooring in there?”

Tearing myself away from the past and happy memories so that I could give my full attention to the gorgeous wife I have been married to for so many years, I beckoned one of the attentive staff to add champagne to our tray of tea.

During dinner that evening my focus was reserved for my wife so I have little recollection of the food we had. Suffice it to say, I do remember a few ooh’s and aah’s that evening. I know that the sommelier gave us his undivided attention and the outcome was a very fine bottle of Californian chardonnay.

Looking back over 43 years of Armada has given me a lifetime of happy memories and great relationships with clients but enough of this reverie, there are hotels and restaurants needing our attention today. More funding for equipment, furnishings and fit-outs.

Must get on.

Another summer begins drawing to a close with the weather in the South West being particularly good this year and one of the best August Bank Holidays on record. Little wonder that the British gin industry is booming!

Her ladyship and I stepped back from work for the last two weeks in order to help look after our grandsons, while their parents concentrated on their careers.

I don’t know who had more fun or was more tired at the end of each day, the boys or us. Days were spent on several of our amazing beaches, surfing, sand castles and the ritual being buried up to the neck. Ice creams and sea food renewed our energies. Time was spent teaching our 11 year old to drive my tractor and then trust him not to put it in a ditch – he didn’t and then we screamed and giggled whilst being bounced along the North Devon coast on a rib (rigid inflatable boat) looking at seals and dolphins. Wow!

We are fortunate in being able to be stand-in parents for the boys when they are on holiday but my heart goes out to working parents who haven’t got family to support them or can’t afford childcare.

Many sporting organisations are attempting to meet the need for family support, such as the initiative of the English Cricket Board this year, using professional cricketers to organise events for local youngsters.

Some rugby clubs, Rugby Tots and many other organisations arrange participation events for both boys and girls but this doesn’t fully answer the need to cover 8 weeks summer holidays, let alone the Easter and Christmas breaks.

For some years I have been aware of the problem parents have in balancing their work commitments with a safe haven for their children during holidays.

Running in parallel with this problem is the issue of an ever increasing, healthy retired population. Who doesn’t regularly see cyclists and joggers in their seventies and eighties? What are they doing when they are not outside keeping fit and what about the army of older people sitting down waiting for Old Father Time and his scythe?

Recently Channel 4 presented an inspiring mini series entitled, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds. Do make a point of downloading this but some of you will want your tissues. Suffice it to say that the children had an amazing effect on the elderly folk in a retirement home near Bristol.

Do you see where this is going? An aging population in need of stimulation and the need to be needed and vast numbers of children requiring protection, care and structured time whilst the mums and dads are working.

To bring the two sides together would require significant organisation on a national basis but the prize is worth the effort. Elderly people out of their chairs, enjoying the company of children and feeling they can still contribute will have a significant impact on the national health bill. Children being supervised and cared for and running around outside will also help the health budget and reduce the incident of future impact on policing and the courts. All this can be achieved at minimal cost to the parents, whilst giving them peace of mind and reduced stress. WIN! WIN! WIN!

If you can make this happen for the country you deserve a knighthood, however your use of social media and the internet to raise these issues and promote the solution would make life changing differences. Thank you.

 

Do you spend enough time sitting quietly, just thinking and listening to your thoughts?

Hard work is to be encouraged and thankfully in the UK we are blessed with a nation of doers who have a serious work ethic. However, if we don’t take time to STOP, block out the extraneous white noise and just listen, we may be missing out on a great future.

Stephen and Bernadette are an example of the importance of finding time to be inspired. Having spent twenty years building up a small, successful retail business they decided to sell up and take a change of direction, albeit without knowing which road to take.

While their proceeds gathered dust in the bank they purposefully awaited for inspiration to point out their future direction. Several months later Bernadette’s cousin asked if they would be interested in a property based joint venture. He had acquired a large redundant nursing home that he was turning into apartments and preferred not to borrow more money for the venture.

So started Steve and Berni’s property business. Slowly over the next ten years they built a portfolio of letting properties, some residential and others, serviced offices. The bigger they grew the more work Bernadette had in running the day to day operation. Stephen got bored and a little left out.

Sensibly he decided to take himself off for a break in Cornwall and spend time walking the beaches, thinking and listening and trying out the many excellent restaurants and pubs that Cornwall has to offer.

When he returned he knew which road to take for the next phase of their business. They now concentrate on providing serviced accommodation with dedicated office facilities incorporated within the ‘bachelor apartments’.

So popular is this concept that they require Armada to finance the fit-outs and furnishings, including all the technical requirements for the offices, so that their profits can be used for property purchases and building works.

Fortunately for them, Stephen was prepared to take time to listen to his thoughts. Not for him the dull grind of the treadmill. He is always excited about where inspiration might take them next.

Being an hotelier is no bed of roses! Constantly having to be aware of pricing, market share, staffing, TripAdvisor and the rest of modern marketing and social media are all issues that lay in wait for us.

At times there is so much to think about that we can slip up on the obvious and forget that this is the hospitality industry.

Having been involved with hotels, extensively in the UK but also throughout the world for all my working life has given me experiences of the brilliant and not quite perfect hotel offering.

I like to think that I am a fairly normal hotel guest, certainly not too demanding, so what do I look for in an hotel that I will want to revisit.

Of course, the first impression counts, so a relaxed, friendly, smiley, efficient welcome is a good place to start.

After travelling to my destination, I want my room to be ready when I arrive and to find that housekeeping has done its job properly. After unpacking, the shower or bath is calling so that I can freshen up and change.

Here is where many hoteliers have taken their eye off the ball. Lovely large, white, fluffy towels are provided but where is the face cloth? Ok, I did think to pack one just in case but it’s so disappointing that the hotel couldn’t be bothered.

Never mind, the water is hot, so after drying off I jump into the bath robe, make a pot of tea and crash out for twenty minutes. How would you feel Mr Hotelier if the dressing gown your wife bought you for Christmas didn’t cover your nether regions or even meet up in the front. I must be careful not to walk by the window when I make the tea!

If you’re eating in, the whole question of food is very subjective, so if the menu doesn’t suit, it’s my own fault for not checking the iPad before I booked the room. But if you are using the restaurant, please Mr Hotelier, train your staff to know that customers are normally patient once they have a drink in their hand. If you are going to make your guests wait for a drink or the menu, you will probably be storing up niggles for yourself for the rest of the evening.

After a good meal and a decent bottle of wine I always go to bed happy, but sometimes not for long. Too many hotels in the UK are still expecting their guests to sleep on 4ft 6ins or 5ft spring loaded mattresses. Now neither her ladyship nor I  are that big, but please, king sized, memory foam mattresses in all rooms or stop calling yourself an hotel in the 21st century. How can we expect to attract more continental or inter-continental trade if we can’t provide the basics?

We need to consider that with a less robust pound, more Brits will remain in the UK and other nations will take the opportunity of favourable exchange rates to visit these near perfect islands.

If my blog hasn’t caused too much offence, do bear in mind that I have been funding hotels and their purchases of linen, beds, furniture, carpets, catering equipment etc. for over 40 years.

If you are thinking that perhaps it’s time to cut the bathrobes up for cleaning cloths or even turning them into flannels or giving your guests the beds they deserve, you know where to turn for finance, support and expertise.