"So what exactly is it that you do? Not roughly, not generally... on a day to day basis how, exactly do you fill your day?" Hm, I observe that Janey's eyebrows are nearly on her knees, anywhere past her belly and I know this is serious. Come on Craskie, thinking your way out of a situation like this is like taking jelly from a nipper, time to grind the big gears of the frontal lobe.
"Well, let me start by saying you're looking particularly beautiful today... and you smell lovely, is that a new fragrance?" I stop short of saying, Lavender, that might be ageist! I comfort myself that that is indeed a strong start and should oil a few creaky wheels..
There's a silence. Followed by a second silence. Followed by a rather shocking third silence. It was that last one that jabbed me in the ribs! If the eyebrows were a cause for concern, I could seek no solace from the corners of her mouth. There's a long sigh... "I haven't worn perfume since...." "The Pilgrim Fathers boarded the Mayflower, 1620?" Turns out any form of interjection, including Craskie banter, is ill conceived and badly timed.
But I persisted, "You know that if the wind changes, you'll stay looking like that!" was accompanied with a cheeky grin and flashing of eyelashes. The moment those words vacated my mouth I felt a deep sense of.... regret. My game plan of bombarding Janey with charm and one liners, had failed to recognise the absolute seriousness of the situation. On this occasion there was to be no leaving until she had answers.
"I delegate. And I er.... I'm the visionary. Yes, that's it, every good business needs a visionary. And visionaries need time and space for their minds to explore the blue skies that surround us and our empire, to bring forth harmonious change in a world filled with expectation and yet uncertainty. Oh, mind, you nearly knocked that candle over. In fact only this morning I was doing a spot of visionarying, and I've come to the conclusion...don't you just love the sound of those pan pipes, I've come to the conclusion....."
".. that you need to do more!" Janey was about to speak, I was about to listen. "How about starting with, something, anything. Vision this if you will, the wages need to be paid; the vat quarter needs to be signed off; the e-mails need to be answered; Wailo, Sarah, Avian and Sam need to be updated; the answerphone needs answering; the kids need picking up, feeding and taking to football; the dog needs walking; the hoover needs putting round; the chicken needs to be marinaded and basted (made that last bit up)..."
I'd switched off at 'the vat quarter', it was a very long list of stuff, and all I really noticed was her mouth moving and noise falling out. I was back in Visionaryland and all it's wonderfulness. A place that is totally amazeballs. (Pete you're 46, amazeballs!? That's as ridiculous as someone wearing super skinny jeans at your age.... what's that, you'll be back in a minute! I should add that I've lost 40 pounds since Christmas, to be fair it was a large turkey, and a new wardrobe was required. I've bought so many new clothes recently that even I'm worried that I'm about to open the batting for the other side! Padding up as we speak. And I've started listening to Michael Buble, hm... nurse!)
On reflection I suppose Janey's right, it's about time that Craskie got back on the horse, got back into gear. So I've taken the hint and I'm on it. Take this morning, changed a light bulb and put some Triple Velvet 3-ply in the Beach House. Don't stop me now, having such a good time... Craskie is back. Here we go.....
Yes, that's right, it's MC PC coming right at yer from good old sunny Polzeath. Hm, there are some inaccuracies in that statement... need fluid! Anyway, er, hello, hope you're well and have had a great summer hols. It's been a while since we last spoke (I wrote, written, writ, whatever), seems like pre-summer and we have soooo much to catch up on. Sadly in this format, it'll be a bit one sided... but hey ho, you can come back to me in your own good time. (The inaccuracies? - I'm not an MC, I'm not in Polzeath, not right now anyway, and it's raining outside, there that wasn't too misleading).
(photo courtesy of Surf's Up! Surfer dude Rick Benson)
But that does bring me to my first point of proceedings. You guys, hey yes, you guys... coming up on the beach and saying hello. That's awesome, seems like some people do actually read my nonsense, and then come and say they likey. In truth it's been a while since I've roamed around the beach with any freedom (more on that later) but this year I've been able to and I have to say that I've never known a year like it when so many old faces have come up for a chat. And I've really enjoyed catching up. There are many of you who will remember the old days and have followed the Surf's Up! journey. It does seem a long time ago, well 18 years ago, since myself and Janey were at the coal face (Janey would say she's still at the coal face and that I'm AWOL (definitely 'without' please see above)). It was a much simpler existence, just teaching enough people to put a tin roof over our head and some beans in the pan. If we had a five year plan, it was to keep the tin roof over our head and maybe add a few pork sausages in with the beans in the pan along the way, never anything more ambitious than that. Right place and right time put paid to that, oh, and a good deal of elbow grease.
Now we have responsibilities - our own kids, mortgages, staff, not to mention the well being of our clients. I can't place it exactly but I think it would have been about five years ago that we both started struggling to mix business and pleasure. The beach had become our office, not the playground it had once been. I don't expect any sympathy by the way, just telling it as it is. Taking our own boys down to the beach at Polzeath, was like going to the office on the weekend for most normal people. At that time the surf school was flat out, we were teaching up to 400 people a day - the largest throughput of any surf school in the world, by a fair margin. The challenge of keeping standards up, both from a coaching and a safety stand point and maintain a personal touch - we did our best, but it was a long way removed from our initial motivations back in '95. The surf school was all consuming and if I'm honest, not much fun.
With so much going on, the beach became the last place we wanted to go to when we had the opportunity to take time out. And with that feeling we worried that our love of the sea, of surfing, of beach life wouldn't be passed down to our own - Billy (13) and Fin (9). And what a shame that would be. I feel this huge sense of responsibility towards anyone who surfs with us because it can be a real life enhancer, it can somehow make living a bit better, a bit easier, puts the strains and stresses of everyday life into perspective. For me to fail my own boys in that respect, would be a great failing of epic proportions.
But this year was a watershed, no question and I don't feel that claustrophobia anymore. My love of the beach has been restored. Why? A lot of reasons, but two that stand out - in no particular order, the first would be that the beach was quieter, the surf school was quieter. The likes of Wailin, Sam, Sam and Sarah, could cope with just a nudge of support here and there. We had a great team. And general beach life... no queues for food, no queues for parking etc a better holiday experience for everyone. We thought the Olympics was initially the cause, but the season in truth never really got up any head of steam. It was like an old car trying to start on a cold day, nearly, so nearly catching, but never quite properly running.
And secondly, our boys began their own love affair with the surf. I've observed it in other kids of many years, when one day it clicks, they just get it. Perhaps the first big unbroken wave or something as simple as a surf with great mates. The blood thickens with it and the body craves it. From that moment onwards the love affair with the ocean and riding waves can't be broken. It becomes a companion, a bestie for life.
Fin our youngest, is nearly there, but it's Billy who's blood runs thick. In the summer, he'd get up early, we might see him for lunch, but generally he'd return as darkness fell with his sidekick, cousin Charlie - best mates. When he comes home from school, he's straight on Youtube watching Kelly Slater's top ten. It's his, their, enthusiasm that's rejuvenated my own. My own surfing during this aforementioned 'blue period' hit rock bottom. After all these years living the dream, I should in truth be so much better than I am. I should ride shorter boards, charge bigger waves and make tighter turns. I've always hung onto the company dictum that the best surfer is the one having the most fun. I've always surfed with a smile, but that hides my deeper frustration. But what better way to be reunited with a true love than through my own. I'm excited by it and stoked that the boys love has come naturally, without any pressure and in their own time. I'm proud of that.
Billyman doing some lip bashing at Harlyn.
Latest update then.. we're part living in Ivybridge part in Polzeath. Myself and Janey take it in turns to be on the beach in amongst the Surf's Up! crew. We have some amazing staff - Wailin and little Sam deserve special mention. We could not do what we're doing without their support and without having the confidence in their abilities and dedication. They are phenomenal. The Ivybridge Football Academy gives the boys a chance to have a good crack at their dreams, we followed ours, so it seems right. That doesn't mean it's easy, but we're together under one roof now, rather than the fragmented existence of the last year. Fin's happy in his new school. And we've made some really good new friends. We have great friends in Polzeath, but perhaps because most are tied in with the surf school in some way, we'd become quite withdrawn from the Polzeath social scene. Almost reclusive. But up here, I feel a sense of openness that I haven't experienced before - refreshing and healthy... we've even had mates to stay at Polzeath and we meet up on the weekends to do stuff together. Totally unheard of in the Craskie life cycle, up to now. It's a part of life that I've learned to embrace and really enjoy. Janey remains private, but I think she too, is opening up to a new way of living.
Wow, taken you on a bit of a personal journey. Now then, it's important that I give you a quick update on the surf school itself..... Surf's Up! is what allows us to breathe. Although the beach was quieter we had an amazing year. We ran a better business, Janey worked her pop socks off to keep it tight and overheads down... and although you'll be the ultimate judge, I think this was one of our best years in terms of delivering a really quality fun service. That's the feedback I had. The Beach House was full right through and Sarah in the shop did a stirling job, bringing in new exciting products such as the new towel, that kept her busy in her domain when others in the retail sector locally quite possibly suffered. To give you an idea, some camp sites (not all) were reporting a 40% drop in occupancy!! That's a huge drop in sandy foot prints on the beach... we're protected to a certain extent as a lot of our business is prebooked. Most local business do not enjoy that luxury.... a tough, tough year for many.
Lessons are still trucking along on on the beach, September was really busy, not sure why that was? We're still running lessons everyday until after the October half term, it's a good time to get wet... water's still warm, the sea's pretty empty and the surf is normally pumping..... good combo.
Official business: Avian, our new boy in the office (a great addition to the team) has asked me to let you know some free dates for the Beach House - which are as follows... Sun 21st October 5 nights £550 sleeps up to 10. 26 October 7 nights £750 up to 10. If you're on your own and fancy a residential break our flat is available 5 nights 28 October £250 inc 5 lessons and use of equipment outside of lesson times...
Right, this has been emotional. I felt that we needed a good catch up... hope it hasn't been too long and too deep! There's always the delete option or unsubscribe! Started with good humour and went a bit heavy.... need to keep it light in future I think. But as you'll know, I write in the moment and from the heart, for me there's no other way. I hope you're good and life's treating you well - hope to catch up and make sand foot prints together very soon.
Love you, bye