Lee Rotbart

Posts Tagged ‘St Ives’

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.

Even the sticky toffee pudding was a sign

In Between the mortgage and the move on November 8, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Far be it from me to wander around saying things like ‘it’s fate that we met when we did’, and ‘I can’t second guess what fate has in store for me’, yet last Friday would have tested even the most cynical. It was just one thing after another, after another that made me feel that we were destined to live in St Ives.

Here are the signs:

PLANNED APPOINTMENTS

Arriving in Truro (on time) we had the opportunity to visit the stunning Truro Cathedral before our first appointment with our broker. We arrived at his place on  time, we then met the bank manager on time, enabling us to meet our solicitor on time, we then left Truro on time in order to arrive at the guest house we’d booked (in the name of research) in St Ives on time. Now, how often does that happen… A sign – no!?

FIREWORK DISPLAY

OK… I know that it was Guy Fawkes night and the fireworks were not put on for our benefit but we could have chosen any weekend to go down there, and it turned out that it was that one. Fireworks on Porthminster Beach and some of the best chips I’ve ever eaten… A sign – no!?

THE WEATHER

It was raining all day on and off. For the two hours between us leaving the guest house we were staying in and arriving in the restaurant for dinner it did not rain; it was also eerily warm and we barely needed coats to be comfortable on the beach. Arriving at the restaurant later on that evening it proceeded to rain constantly for 2 hours, stopping only minutes before we left so we could take a night time walk around the town… A sign – no!?

MEETING GLORIA

Sitting down at a picnic table on the beach we started chatting to a lovely lady called Gloria. Slightly over-excited after very successful meetings all day with our bank manager, mortgage broker and solicitor, we couldn’t help but tell her what we were doing and that this gorgeous oceanside town (seaside town sounds too twee to describe St Ives) was soon to be our home. It turned out that she was also buying a place in St Ives and moving down from South London (Surrey). We spent the next 45 minutes animatedly discussing our new location and agreed to meet at the same place next year to find out how everything had gone.

Of all the people we could have sat next to, we sat next to Gloria… A sign – no!?

SEATING ARRANGEMENTS

We had no plans for dinner and I had lost the restaurant recommendations that people had sent us. Wandering down the harbour among a throng of teenagers all looking for a ‘piss up’ on a Friday night (some teenage traditions transcend London) we came across the cutest restaurant in the corner of the harbour; covered in ivy it looked cosy and inviting; the menu was all about fresh fish and the prices didn’t scream ‘rip off’ so we went in to Hobblers.

We were sat on a table towards the back of the restaurant for about 10 minutes whereupon the friendliest waitress we had ever come across offered to move us to the best table in the restaurant as it was becoming free. It really was a fabulous table, overlooking the harbour, and we clinked glasses over a slighly wet but still beautiful St Ives view. Of all the people in the restaurant she moved us… A sign – no!?

THE STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING

…which we had at the end of the meal was quite possibly the best sticky toffee pudding we had ever tasted. I kid you not, I would have left Danny for that pudding! At that stage in the day, with everything having gone so right, even the sticky toffee pudding was a sign.

Danny was slightly less convinced about all these signs, however I suspect he welcomed the fact that I was being distracted from having exchanged on my flat earlier that day, and that listening to me talk about destiny was preferable to listening to nostalgic stories from the last 6 years. He did however, challenge me to make it sound viable in a blog which, reading back on it, I think I may have done.

Putting my hand up

In Between the mortgage and the move on October 26, 2010 at 11:52 am

It’s easy to moan about London: About the rudeness of commuters, the impatience of pedestrians, the misery of retail staff, the unfriendliness of cafe owners, and the over zealousness of the paper terrorists, i.e. those that hand out the plethora of free papers and magazines in the most awkward of places, like the entrance of tube stations during rush hour.

These are not uncommon moans, they are regularly on the lips of everyone I know who lives and works in London. They are listed loudly and frequently by friends, family and fellow ‘get me out of london-ites’.

However, it occurred to me yesterday that as much as I moan about the aforementioned things I am as big a contributor as the next person. During my commute into work I imagined shouting “Can you get dressed before you leave home” at the woman dawdling up the stairs in front of me awhile she put on her jumper, coat, hat and scarf right in the middle of the station stairwell. On the way home I stormed the wrong way through Tottenham Court Road station, as that gets me to the platform 45 seconds quicker than the usual route, irrespective of all the people going the right way. I then ‘tsked’ my way through Bank station at the other end, and gave someone a dirty look when they walked the wrong way down the stairs at the exit.

I’m not proud of these things; in fact listing them all out like that makes me feel a little bit ashamed. My instinct is to blame London for turning me into this kind of person, but that’s a load of old codswallop. It’s my choice to behave like that, it’s my choice to not smile at people, to ‘tut’ and ‘tsk’, and throw the odd person a dirty look. It’s my choice to roll my eyeballs at the people who don’t let you off the tube before they try to get on, and it’s my choice to not ask how someone is when I order my morning coffee.

What if everyone is like me? What if everyone is secretly a really lovely person who, just by virtue of being thrust into a city of 19 million people, turns into a miserable, grey, moany commuter? That means that I am frowning at genuinely good people. It also means that I am probably shouting obscenities in my head at people who rush home to have dinner with their family.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it’s not always everyone else’s fault, that somewhere between the moaning and the eyeball rolling I am doing my fair share of adding to the stresses of travelling through, and working in, London.If I point the finger at the City, I have to point the finger back at myself as a City dweller.

This observation also hammers home the point that when I finally make it to St Ives it will be ME that has to make an effort to shed these habits, the emphasis should not be on people in Cornwall being more pleasant, it will be on me to let go of my London ways. It will be my responsibility to change my instinct to tap my foot when people talk to the cashier in the supermarket when I am in a hurry; and it will be my patience that I have to work on if some people walk slower than me down steep hills.

I naiively believe that when I depart London I will leave the nasty commuters and inconsiderate people behind me, yet I would be lying if I said that living in London for 34 years is something I’ve escaped unscathed from. I can be as impatient, as inconsiderate, and as thoughtless as the person next to me at Bethnal Green tube and I’m looking forward to being better than that when I get to Cornwall.

If I was a student of the Dalai Lama I would probably have to say that the real trick is to be kind, lovely, and tolerant all the time, even in the most of trying of situations (i.e. the tube at rush hour), but being the spiritual amateur that I am I’m just going to take the easier, softer way and move out.

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.