On March 30th, The Forge officially opened its doors for business and what had been our dream for over 10 years finally became a reality. You’d think that preparing for such a momentous occasion would be a time of sheer unbridled joy. Errr. Not quite. As we limped over the line somewhere in the wee hours of the 29th March, broken, exhausted and barely able to speak, we questioned whether this was the dream we had signed up for.
|All dressed up and ready to go... we, on the other hand, don't look quite so tidy anymore!|
After all, hadn’t we “left behind our stressful commuter lives” (according to our glossy marketing literature) when we moved here? I can honestly say, hand on heart, that the past couple of months have been way more stressful than any project go live I went through in my consulting days. 2am finishes? Check. 4.30am starts? Check. Heart palpitations? Check. Insomnia? Check. Immune system shot to shit? Check. Not to mention not seeing the kids for days on end, never sitting down to eat and constantly scanning pages and pages of To Do lists, all dog-eared and wrinkled being dropped over and over in the snow and the mud.
Nor did I expect my hard-earned life savings from the past 20 years to be frittered away in the space of a month, swiftly turned into about a million Amazon Prime boxes and eye-wateringly enormous invoices from the builders’ merchants.
|"This time next year, Rodney, we will be millionaires". Perhaps not.|
Less still did I realise I was signing up to become a chambermaid-slash-toilet cleaner. As I tucked in the last sheets and duvet covers on the 17th bed at around 5am one morning, in the dark, barely able to feel my fingers in a -5c hard frost, I have to confess to questioning my life choices. Even more so when the 17 guests departed, and I was left with the unenviable task of cleaning the composting toilets, obviously without running water (“the blissful off-grid retreat”, so says the website. Hmm).
|Mine all mine. Err, not anymore...|
And it was only as we watched the first guests tottering through the foot-deep mud in their shiny white trainers with their sparkly pink wheelie suitcases that it suddenly dawned on us that we are now going to have to actually share our place and all of our hard work with complete strangers. And not only share it but be at their beck and call at all hours of the day and night, ensuring they have everything they need, popping out for soya milk, fetching more firelighters, finding spare poo bags for their dog, the list goes on. In fact, it has been so cold in our opening week that I keep waking up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, fretting that our guests are not warm enough and that I should take them more blankets. Will our lives ever be our own again??? – no weekends, no evenings, no summer holidays. Suddenly the corporate 9-5 doesn’t seem so bad…
|A misnomer. Will our lives ever be free again?!|
But then we got our first guest review….
And nothing in this world can compare to the euphoria of hearing that someone has described their experience as “absolutely faultless” and that all your hard work and visioning and late-night conversations have actually translated into something that people LOVE. People actually get it! Our concept works and we now have several 5 star (and only 5 star – c’mon people, we’ve just opened a business, this is no time for humility!) to prove it. Some relief I can tell you, although it also heaps on the pressure to keep them that way!
|"Absolutely faultless", apparently :-)|
Not to mention the buzz we are getting from meeting so many new people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds. Just when we were in grave danger of becoming reclusive hermits, we suddenly have lots of lovely new human interaction and it feels wonderful! Not only does it assure us that we are not completely off our heads to embark on a project like this (people have been incredibly passionate and enthusiastic about our plans) but we now find ourselves with a replenished bank of new stories and witty anecdotes from our interactions with our guests. We now actually have lots to talk about (and apologies to any friends out there reading this a) for being as dull as ditch water for the past three years and b) for now droning on incessantly about all our new guest experiences).
Best of all though has to be the fact that we get to see the place afresh again with every new person that comes up the drive. Yes, it is a lovely view (how did I forget that?). Yes, it is so green and fresh (guess I just take that for granted now). And yes, you do feel like you are miles away from anywhere (yup, ‘tis true). Seeing the impact that the place has on people and the difference between how they feel when they arrive and when they leave is something I don’t think I will ever tire of. Sure, there will be guests that don’t love it and there will be days when the cleaning and changing sheets gets a bit tedious but this is our business. We get to make all the decisions and set the direction. We are answerable to no one but ourselves and the buck will always stop with us. It is both terrifying and thrilling in equal measure. And do you know what? I think I could get used to it…
|Nice to be reminded that the view is not too shabby...|