United we drink, together we fall over (I know that’s not how the saying goes)

The story of how my village saved our pub.


Half Moon main image


“Yay Balcombe!! We did it!!!” shouts a sign about three-times as tall as me, which emblazons the side of the Half Moon Inn in Balcombe (in a questionable font, but that’s by-the-by, and is not something that really matters to 99.9% of the population, who don’t work in publishing. Also …use of exclamation marks. Camaaaan. Whoever printed it was clearly very excited, so I’ll let it slide.)

So what we did, was to save our local pub from being sold. ‘We’ being over 250 investors (of which I am not actually one – soz. I am impoverished on account of owning a horse), who raised over £270,000 to purchase, do up and re-open the village pub.

That in itself is pretty cool. £270,000! (Appropriate use of exclamation mark alert). And after much head-scratching and searching for the right tenant, they (the committee in charge of the afore-mentioned campaign), re-opened it last week. (For the unabridged version, click here.)

Balcombe Community Pub logo

It looks bright, it looks modern, it looks clean, and – most importantly – it was full of people over the opening weekend. And I loved it.

I have really missed the pub. You can’t beat a pub. I’m genuinely delighted to have it back.

But how long will the village – and those beyond – support it for?

The campaign was amazing, hard-fought, truly impressive. But it was not without its nay-sayers. (This is Britain, after all, and we love to nay-say …is that a thing? To nay-say?)

There were impassioned speeches, there were calls to arms, meetings, posters, newspaper articles, and yes, even tears (not mine, for once).

But there were also mutterings about locals only supporting it because it would affect their house prices if it wasn’t there.

Some asked the question, ‘who were these generous benefactors, who never used the pub as a resource before and probably wouldn’t again?’

There were even some who just chipped in with the curmudgeonly, “it’ll never work” – very constructive. (Also quite Victor Meldrew – Eighties reference anyone?)

To them I say, does it really matter if those hundreds of people don’t use the pub? Of couuuurse the more that do the better, (and it must definitely hold its own as a viable, and hopefully successful, business), but would it not just be nice to be extremely grateful for their very generous contributions to the cause?

And to the Victor Meldrews I say, guess what? It did work. And will continue to work for as long as the village continues to do what it does best – stick together.

Yes, please do come and support the pub, come for a drink, for a snack, for lunch, supper. Or, if that’s not your bag, don’t – but don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, and don’t begrudge what even the most-hardened critics must confess to be a huge, phenomenal, fantastic achievement, that will only serve to benefit the village.

Now let’s all get drunk and fall over.
(Do I have to say ‘please drink responsibly’ after that? Surely not.)


That’s a bitta history, right there, and we saved it. 

My fête is sealed (not a spelling mistake)

The brilliant but slightly bonkers village fête, and how a local celebrity got it very wrong.

Balcombe Village Fete 2017

I was told by a celebrity-who-shall-remain-nameless-but-lives-nearby that they visited our village fête two years ago and that it was “sad and shabby …not fulfilling its potential”. (She actually said more unkind things than that, but I don’t feel there is anything to be gained in repeating them.)

Having lent a peripheral hand at this same “disastrous” event for two years now,  I can safely concur that the nameless celebrity may well be famous, stylish, lauded even, but she is also so very far from correct on this matter.

Sure, it isn’t all Cath Kidston gingham and Liberty of London prints (which are both things I love, by the way) – it isn’t smart, it isn’t chi-chi, and – truthfully – in parts it is a bit rough around the edges. But that is what makes it so wonderfully brilliant, so rural, so rustic, so bonkers, so British.

The fête as a notion is hilarious  – the tombola, the hounds, the ponies, the tug-of-war, the terrier racing, the dog show, the fiercely-fought floral competitions and cake contests. And if you’re at our fête, there’s a brilliant bar and a live band, run by another charitable group, the Christmas Tree Society, which raises funds for local people through a medium most enjoy – alcohol!

It is more Vicar of Dibley than All Saints, far more Farmer Wants a Wife than Footballers’ Wives – and I personally much prefer it that way – and so, I would proffer, does the village.

But more importantly, it is also the result of a lot of hard work from a lot of very well-meaning and kind people, who care very much about raising money for the village, and for the people who live in it. And what, I want to know, is so very wrong with that?

They may be stuck in their ways, and those ways might in some cases be fairly eccentric, but that is the most unkind thing I can bring myself to say, because as anyone who is involved in a local event such as this knows, it is an awful lot of hard work.

It takes a lot of planning, a lot of equipment, a lot of funds, a lot of goodwill, and a lot of people’s time, which they willingly give for free. To them I say thank you, on behalf of the whole village, because these events simply couldn’t run without these people, and for that I happen to think they are brilliant.

Balcombe Fete 2016

As an aside…
What is it that makes people be mean? BTW this is not me crying into my pillow and cursing the world in the manner of a surly teen who has just realised that life isn’t always that fair …but it is me having encountered a few mean people in a short space of time, and you really have got to wonder what motivates them.

Obviously it goes without saying that I am also mean sometimes, although in my case it’s more thoughtless actually. I can be very thoughtless, and plough into a conversation/situation without thinking and then regret what I have said or done.
That happens.

But we all are a little mean sometimes …all except my very good friend Melanie, in fact. I have known her nearly all my life and I have never once known her to be mean …not once. She’s like an angel walking among us. Always smiling, always kind. I often think I should take a leaf out of her book and be nicer to everyone, but alas I am not an angel and I get cross and grumpy and irrational, just like everyone else that isn’t Melanie. At least I have her in close proximity to me so that I have something to aspire to. I won’t ever be like her, but I am happy to continue to try …up to a point.

(That’s her right there, pictured below. She doesn’t go around dressed as an angel btw, that was her wedding day …it’s a happy coincidence that her outfit matches my blog. Although if I asked her to dress as an angel for my blog she probably would …because that’s just how nice she is.)

Melanie 2