An innkeeper’s insight:

a 2020 vision impeded...

This last year has had the sensation of riding a rather wild galloping horse; really quite tricky working out how to get off, and if one is going to end up in the ditch or land on one's feet. All very scarily exhilarating and dangerous, yet with the growing realisation as you approach what you hope is the end of the course you find in fact you have a very trusty steed that has looked after you all the way. The Nare has certainly been our trusty mare this year. Despite the world changing events the hotel has not only survived but has proven her resilience in adversity, of which I am truly proud.  Under the very level-headed and inspiring leadership of Matthew Voyle, the General Manager, the staff should be praised for their steadiness under extreme conditions and their sheer grit in working through the very challenging conditions.  I am extremely grateful for their determination. The true character of the establishment has blossomed in extremis.

Likewise we were all particularly heartened by the support received from guests who have been our rock and hope.  In the gloomiest days of April, with a revenue of just £122 for the month and a considerably larger 100 employee wage bill, there was an enormous boost to morale in just hearing a loyal guest postponing their deposit with the words “We’re definitely coming - just as soon as you can get us in – but make sure we have our booking for next year as well”. So thank you all who kept the faith and supported us. Never was it more appreciated than in this year.

A significant consequence of this tremendous guest support brings the satisfaction that I have been able to uphold a pledge given to all staff as they were sent home in March for their indeterminate enforced spring break. I am very proud to report that we have not had to make one single member of staff redundant. For that fact alone, perversely, I consider 2020 a successful year. So strange are the times we feel blessed that everyone is still here.

Interestingly the last time The Nare was closed during the summer season was when requisitioned during the Second World War. This year we were very fortunate in Cornwall to be able to reopen in July – sadly our hotelier friends in London were not so lucky. Of course in the last few years the country has faced A for Austerity, B for Brexit, and C for Coronavirus. Let’s avoid D becoming Depression or Depravity but rather D for Do-your-bit-for-Britain. Therefore I urge everyone please to support British jobs - Your country needs you!

So rather than continuing to wallow in the woes of the global annus horribilis this Natter contains a few snippets of joy and cheer that are timely reminders of just how lucky we are. 

In July I experienced the hospitality equivalent of a sugar-low. I confess I slightly lost my cool with a gentleman who was over-pressing the office for a 15% reduction on his already confirmed booking for the Pendower Suite. Despite a waiting list he was seeking an extended stay claiming as an impoverished banker (sic) he was "struggling to keep shoes on his daughters' feet". Presuming he might have a sense of humour I could not help myself but quip that they should try flip-flops rather than Ferragamos; and furthermore, for contributions to the last global recession, he should really have a 20% surcharge for being a banker. Luckily he did indeed have a sense of humour. We made up over a glass of Taittinger and they did enjoy their family holiday. 

Perhaps the following is also an apt and classic definition of a first world problem; consider relaxing at The Nare on the terrace in the sun and, as the waiter pours the tonic (5%) pondering the dilution of VAT versus dilution of gin (20%). What indeed is the net VAT rate of a G & T? Some things just don’t matter - perhaps we should consider these challenges to be trivial? I certainly do. 

However the most touching moment of the year, which will remain ingrained in my memory, was the premature departure from the hotel in March of our last guest on lockdown Monday.  A charming young doctor with her boyfriend explained how her grandparents, who felt unable to travel, had gifted to her a much needed short break before she resumed duties at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. The couple had been enchanted and refreshed at The Nare, yet I sensed the real anxiety and trepidation of what she faced going back to the medical frontline. It helped put the situation into perspective when briefing staff 20 minutes later how lucky we were to be in Cornwall. Indeed would we see her again? She was our heroine, one to follow. Speaking to her recently whilst on night shift she was modest about how tough it had been (her grandfather revealed she had been signing death certificates at the rate of four a day), and whilst weary and tired she seemed chipper. Surely some care at The Nare and the remaining nights of her foreshortened stay would be something to look forward to? So with much appreciation the gesture was accepted – gratis. 

An architect's render of the Whittington Suites at The Nare
This architect's illustration shows the south elevation of the four large Whittington Suites that have been added to the western end of The Nare

Finally I am delighted to announce the good progress of four new hotel suites, constructed below the croquet lawn, which will be ready by March 2021. As you can imagine it has all been a bit stop and start this year, the builders forced to come and go as if they were doing the hokey-cokey.  Miraculously though the suites are just about on time, but most importantly they are looking splendid, comfortable and spacious*. They also have stunning sea views, naturally!

I send you my very best wishes for a deservedly better 2021,

Toby Ashworth

The country house hotel by the sea