Lee Rotbart

Posts Tagged ‘Cornwall’

Introducing Little Leaf Guest House

In Preparations in London on December 8, 2010 at 11:40 am

8 weeks ago I got home from work to find Danny hunched over the computer browsing Google. I should mention that this is not an uncommon sight. Danny absorbs information like sponges absorb water. If he had lived before the internet he would have been the kind of person who read dictionaries.

Unpacking the shopping and going about the usual faffing that comes with arriving home after a day at work I wasn’t really listening when Danny shouted something at me: ‘What was that?’ I yelled back, to be greeted with an even louder yell of ‘How about Little Leaf?’….

I loved it. I didn’t even have to ask what the context was. I knew immediately that he was referring the name of our guest house. We’d been talking about it for a while, going over all sorts of Cornish combinations and looking up words in the thesaurus; but as soon as he said ‘Little Leaf’ I just fell in love. It sounds cute, homely, unique – perfect for the kind of establishment we plan to be running.

The Legend of St Ives (courtesy of the St Ives Guest House Association)

The legend tells how St. Ia, a Virgin Saint of noble birth went to the seashore to depart for Cornwall from her native Ireland along with other Saints. Finding that they had gone without her, fearing that she was too young for such a hazardous journey, she was grief stricken and began to pray.

As she prayed she noticed a little leaf floating on the water and touched it with a rod to see if it would sink. Lo, as she looked it grew bigger and bigger. She saw that God sent it to her and, trusting to Him, she embarked upon the leaf and was straightaway wafted across the Channel, reaching her destination before the others.

Little Leaf Guest House

This is our little leaf; our hopes that this will turn into a boat and sail into the horizon, and not sink! A boat that will weather the storms, that will take us on an exciting journey to a new land and new experiences.

Massive amount of thanks go to Tristan Peters who, with the utmost patience, put together our logo which we are very excited about and very happy with.

Little Leaf Guest House Logo

You can now find us on Facebook, and online http://www.littleleafguesthouse.co.uk (temporary page courtesy of Tim Reader), and from 23rd December (because I am a numpty and managed to scupper myself on Twitter) you’ll be able to find us under a relevant name there too.

A new start indeed. We do hope you like it.

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Me, Danny, and a big house in Cornwall

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

You may have noticed that I’ve gone a bit quiet this week. This has predominantly been for the following reasons:

  1. We have been moving – still! After moving Danny out of his flat, we then had to move (some of him) into mine, we then had to move most of mine into storage, we then had to move the rest of mine, and a little bit of his, into my parents house where we arrived last night, and where we will be for the next 3 months.
  2. We have been completing and exchanging on all 3 properties, which – inevitably – come with their own set of unforeseen problems and mini-crises. Notably a ‘Danny Dash’ from his office in Kensington to my office in Soho to sign papers that had we had emailed to us on Wednesday morning and needed to be received by the sender by Thursday morning (I can be grateful for the fact that it was a rare day with no tube strike).
  3. We have been planning our website and logo which is very exciting, and we have both been loving it, but our designer has been throwing questions at us that we hadn’t really considered and therefore every meeting has resulted in 2 -3 hours of debate.
  4. Work has been hell (and I am not exaggerating). I have had both my CEO and Commercial Director in Singapore and Australia and am being managed across different timezones and different cultures via email. For the managers among you, this is NOT the recommended approach for building staff motivation and commitment.

As an aside it has taken a HUGE amount of restraint not to use this blog to rant about my bosses and I am proud of this, along with the fact that I have resisted taking a AK47 into work and doing what the Vietnam veterans of America were doing in the 80s and 90s.

Going postal, in American Englishslang, means becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment.

The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1983 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, and members of the police or general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1986 and 1997, more than 40 people were gunned down by spree killers in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage.

Anyway… excuses for the silence aside, I am delighted to announce that Danny and I have exchanged on the property in St Ives, along with completing on our respective flats (well, Danny’s is nearly there). That’s it now, there is no going back. We are just us two and a big house in Cornwall. Oh, and a larger than expected storage box room in Bow which is absolutely stuffed to bursting.

As we drove away from my flat last night, with the few belongings that are going to see us through the winter in the back of the car, I thought that I’d be sad and a little nostalgic for my beloved flat; but that wasn’t the case. Instead I was excited, excited about the future, excited about being self-employed, excited that it wasn’t the end but the beginning, and excited about our new logo which arrived on email earlier that day. This excitement briefly manifested itself in the Big Yellow Storage building in Bow where we ‘surfed’ on the trolleys through the empty gangways (well it was 9.30 at night).

Precisely 5 months ago (to the day) we arrived back from our holiday in Cornwall and announced to our friends and family that we wanted to buy a guest house in St Ives and move down there. 2 flat sales, a mortgage, and a fair amount of negotiation and planning later we find ourselves on our way to doing exactly that.

Is this the real thing, or is this just fantasy?

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Last night as I sat in a cafe in Angel drinking a strong, black Americano coffee I felt a shiver of excitement. I suddenly pictured myself drinking coffee down by the beach while listening to the waves crash on the sand and breathing in fresh air. The sun isn’t necessarily in the sky, but it is quiet, and it is clean…

(if this was a film it would now go into soft focus)

Breakfast is over and done with, and the cleaning is being finished off by Danny (go with it, it’s fantasy remember). I’ve grabbed Jasper Penworthy (our dog) and taken him for a run. He is now sitting under the picnic table on a lead while I sip my coffee out of a polystyrene cup and stare out to the horizon. Clouds are thick and grey, yet romantic in a Wuthering Heights way; and there are wave crests giving a few die-hard surfers a good time.

There’s chatter from a few tourists but it’s not busy as we’re out of season at the moment. Overall it’s quiet – really quiet; I’m wearing a windbreaker and a knitted scarf and enjoying the way the wind picks up my hair and whips it around my head. I realise that I haven’t used hair mousse for over 6 months, as the water in Cornwall is so soft my hair doesn’t need it. How funny, I realise I’m not wearing make-up either, and I remember that I haven’t worn high heels in – what feels like – years.

It’s a moment of peace. A moment that has become part of my everyday life since I moved down here.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the afternoon. I’ll probably take Jasper for another run on the way back and then settle down for lunch and a quick read of the paper. I’ve got some work to do, an award entry that needs writing for my old company, and I need to find time to bake muffins before new guests arrive at 5pm. Danny’s doing the shopping (again – go with it) and I was going to make a quick update to the website; but that can be wait till later.

Arriving back at the house I am struck, as always, by the way the skylight illuminates the hallway; it makes it look so welcoming. The smell of toast still lingers from breakfast, and I automatically straighten the umbrella rack as I walk through into the kitchen. I sit down at the table and boot up my laptop to check emails.

As I work I notice how peaceful everything is and how far away I am from London, from the commute and the noise, and I laugh to myself when I remember how worried I was about this move.

This time we’re serious (in 3 parts)

In Second time lucky on September 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Part One – the overview

One thing you can say about Danny and I is that we don’t hang around! Less than 3 weeks after we lost Porthminster View we have had an offer accepted on another property in St Ives. It’s just down the road, has equally stunning views, and (for the sake of our finances, sanity and mortgage-ability) is significantly cheaper.

Friday and Saturday were two long days. 5 viewings in 3 locations across South Cornwall, a dinner with my folks, a night in a tent (told you we were budgeting), an offer and acceptance on a beautiful property that feels ‘just right’, and a brilliant two-handed play at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol.

Exhaustion may well be the reason for not updating this blog for a while, and this was not helped by Danny dragging me round Victoria Park for a ‘run’ on Sunday (it’s in inverted commas because there wasn’t much running involved, just lots of panting and complaining on my part), followed by an evening of re-jigging business plans and cash flow projections.

Yesterday was all about getting the information we needed out of the new property (via our new BFF estate agent), calling our mortgage broker, and doing yet more sums to check we can afford to do what we want to do with the property (we can!) while laying down a 35% deposit and putting us in a much better position with the lenders.

So… all in all, there’s a fair amount going on but this time we know what we’re doing. If all goes according to plan we’ll be in uncharted territory soon enough but that would be good – that would mean we have had a ‘yes’ for the mortgage, and my ever so patient buyers will still be hanging in there ready to exchange at the drop of a hat.

Part Two – the detail

When we lost Porthminster View it was both sad and liberating; sad because we’d put so much into it, and liberating because we felt that we’d finally been given ‘permission’ to look around at other properties and, as duly reported, get back in the driving seat.

Organising the 5 viewings over the weekend was exciting, looking on all the different sites and choosing properties based on size, turnover and location gave us a real insight and understanding into what we wanted (something that, because we’d just stumbled upon Porthminster View, we hadn’t had so far). As is inevitable there were 2 or 3 that we really liked on paper, and 1 or 2 that were just making up numbers.

Seeing our ‘favourites’ on Friday was a little depressing. They’d seemed so perfect, so right.

  • Property #1 was almost too perfect, what could we do with it that hadn’t been done already? Plus the location was a little out the way and Danny and I have to live where we run the guest house, we can’t just plonk ourselves in the middle of nowhere and hope for the best, hope that even though everyone that goes into business with their partner will have relationship issues at some point, being in the middle of nowhere won’t make things worse – hah (but that’s a subject for another blog).

As an aside, this was an awesome B&B, run by awesome people who were going to move onto bigger and better things down the road… not a great start for us with the original owners taking all the repeat business.

  • Property #2 was the saddest we saw. In the middle of St Ives, with spectacular views, the house was bereft of love. It was as if someone had come in and just sucked all the joy, warmth and joie de vivre out of the place. Small, cramped, basic rooms, and sad looking en suites only looked good when you compared them to the kitchen which looked like it was being prepared to get a special mention on ‘How Clean is Your House’. It made me want to buy it, gut it, and turn it into the beautiful place it had the potential to be… but at a price tag of ¬£550k that wasn’t going to be possible.

Dinner that night was an animated affair as Property #3 had given us something to think about, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that even that one, while so much better than the other two, was too much of a ‘project’ for an inexperienced couple, and its location and view just didn’t have the WOW factor that we were looking for.

So… you probably think we were being too fussy, asking too much? And maybe we were, but if any of you reading this have ever bought a property you know that it has to feel right, on every level, and that when you’re dealing with ¬£hundreds of thousands you can’t afford to settle, especially when it’s for a B&B where we want to be proud to open the door to our guests.

As we walked up to Property #4 on Saturday morning our demeanour would have not looked out of place in a funeral march. Vocally reminding ourselves that we had to keep an open mind even though we thought this one was a waste of time we tried to keep each others’ spirits up as we climbed the granite steps. This wasn’t as hard as we thought as we turned to see the view provided by the raised pathway and got an instant reminder of why we’re doing all this.

Our funeral-esque attitude turned to, not very well hidden, excitement as we walked through the house (Note to self: NEVER attempt to play poker). Low expectations were quickly forgotten as each room was airier and brighter than the one before. Things on our checklist were slowly being ticked off, great views from all the bedrooms, an enormous kitchen, a beautiful garden, a bright dining room and ample storage. I was too scared to look at Danny at one point just in case he hadn’t fallen in love as fast and as hard as I had; but one glance midway through the tour was enough to reassure me that I was not alone.

Adrenaline coursing through us an hour later we phoned up and put in an offer, not a doubt in our minds… then, as was necessary, we quickly focused our attention on Property #5.

Without going into much detail about this one (as it seems quite pointless at this stage) it’s only worth me saying that this was a close second, and Watergate Bay is quite possibly the most beautiful place I ever seen in the UK.

Driving up the M5 on the way home a few hours later I noticed my phone had an answerphone message. It was Steve Cross informing us that from a remote beach in Thailand the owners of our dream house had accepted our offer.

Part Three – the irony

Yesterday morning Porthminster View’s proprietress phoned me to say that their new buyer had lied to them and the place was ours if we wanted it.

Suffice to say, we are going ahead with the new property. I guess everything really does happen for a reason.

Location based small talk

In Second time lucky on September 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Someone once told me that you can tell you’re a Londoner by the fact that you can have a one hour discussion on how to get from Wembley to Notting Hill by public transport during rush hour, yet you can’t point out Dorset on a map. When I first read that I laughed in recognition, not a shamed bone in my body, completely conforming to the stereotypical view of a Londoner.

It’s crazy to think that there are entire parts of the UK that don’t talk about tubes, that don’t care how you got to work, and that don’t spend hours of their time working out where (to the nearest mm) to stand on the platform so that you get off the train opposite the exit.

Today there is a tube strike and London has been thrown into chaos. The hundreds of thousands of people that exist below ground from 6am through to 8pm are now above it, blocking up buses, hailing taxis, and cycling around on bikes they found at the back of their garden (if they have a garden).

Danny and I have been exchanging texts all day about living a life that doesn’t involve tubes and hordes of people, and it makes me laugh to think that I’m going to be engaged in a whole new type of small talk.

Instead of talking about tubes am I going to be talking about tides?

Instead of moaning about traffic am I going to be moaning about tractors?

Instead of discussing smog am I going to be discussing sea air and rust?

So much conversation is ‘location / situation based’, it’s inevitably why we are drawn to people that have had similar experiences to us. It’s the human need to belong and in London we are pulled together by the universal subjects of rain, smog, public transport, the price of public transport, the time it takes to travel across London by public transport (you could get to Birmingham quicker!) noise at night, and new bar / restaurant openings.

What is in store for us now? What discussions are going to keep us up at night? Are we going to get fed up with the fact that we can see our (new) friends by walking 10 minutes down the road, or are we going to be popping round for tea and village gossip every day?

Whatever it is, it will certainly be different.

There are some constants though, it’s 2 more sleeps till our property weekend (we are up to 5 viewings) so it’s not so hard to guess what we’ll be talking about for the next week or so.

*YAWN*