Sunday 2 August 2020

Electronics is the Solution

Beer is a solution. It is an aqueous solution of various carbohydrates, ethanol, alpha acids and volatile aroma compounds. Beer remains a very enjoyable drink for me but as far as being a solution to my financial needs on balance it has failed to be so. I still enjoy beer tremendously, but must accept it cannot be a career for me any longer.

Time has moved on significantly since we closed the Hardknott brewing experiment. I failed to find a way that I could satisfactorily make money and be able to stand by my aspirations. Therefore, by the end of 2018 it became imperative for me to find a way to make a living. There is a bit of a tale here and I think for the future of my writings I must bring his blog up to date. It is a bitter-sweet story of success and further failure. The future is where it is and I want to leave a positive legacy. I have learnt a lot through the pain of Hardknott, lost a lot of money, but gained significant experience and moved on to a new world. It will take several instalments to bring this blog to the present day.

Around the time we were winding up Hardknott we met a new friend, called Fran, who shared some interests. Fran has become an integrated part of my household and the story really cannot continue without introducing her. She was foolish enough at an early stage to agree to supporting my life-long goal of climbing Mont Blanc, and so it was in the Summer of 2018 that Fran, Ann and I spent 3 weeks in Chamonix training, acclimatising and eventually reaching the summit (4,808 m - 15,774 ft) of the highest mountain in Western Europe.

In the same year it became obvious to everyone inside Hardknott that we couldn't carry on, Scott left to join Fell Brewery1 and we made the final decision to move on.

I was unsure what the next step would be. Ann had the unenviable job of trying to liquidise our assets whilst trying to minimise our liabilities. In reality the costs of putting the industrial unit back to a point of being able to hand over to the landlord, the ongoing costs of renting the space and all the other overheads was barely, if at all covered by the sale value of the assets. We should really have declared bankruptcy, but due to an ongoing and debilitating sense of altruism that has plagued my business and because I wished for a solid credit rating, we decided to wind up the business cleanly and by paying what we believed we owed.

Meanwhile I set-to resurrecting my engineering career. I set up an electronics lab in the brewery, brushed up my skills with a bit of self-training and updated my CV. It was perhaps at the time a bit of a long-shot. My experience had been significant but my overall skill-set was perhaps a little bit out-of-date.

I applied for several jobs, updated my CV several times until eventually I was successful in an interview and landed a job as an Electronics Design Engineer. It was exactly what I was doing before I was silly enough to buy a pub. In all honesty the only reason I ever parked that career was because I failed to see how I could advance it without moving out of Cumbria. A combination of family ties and my love of the Lake District conspired to instigate a change of direction into the beer and pub industry.

If I can leave one lesson for other people to takeaway it is that although beer and pubs are great, it is hard work and you really need to invest a large amount of money, have a vision that is acceptable to a target audience that is large and accessible enough. Most importantly you must have a ruthless attitude to business to succeed. I may come back to this topic in some distant future time.

I started my new role in December 2018. Between then and COVID lockdown I learnt a lot, made some good progress re-floating my 14 years dead electronics career and was well on the way to being an awesome electronics design engineer. I was back. I was doing something I enjoyed. I had hope for the future and it was looking likely I could succeed in buying a house and saving for retirement. A massive turnaround from the low-point of my previous post.

(Back row, left to right) Fran, Ann and Alfie
(front) Sarah
In the spring of 2019 Ann, Fran and my "kids" Alfie and Sarah went back to the Chamonix valley for a skiing trip. It was largely great fun but among other disasters Fran snapped her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) very probably due to my poor instructing skills. This wiped out any mountaineering activities for the rest of 2019 while she had it repaired and then started the lengthy job of recuperation. We were really looking forward to getting back to the alps this summer.

Late winter, early 2020 I started to see the exponential growth of COVID in the UK. Seemingly I could see this before my bosses and seemingly even before the UK government. Lockdown was inevitable and was the start of a troubled time for everyone on the face of the planet.

However, for me, during lock-down a further dramatic series of events have left me with serious difficulties and some interesting opportunities. I find myself in a situation that I realise is poorly understood by people who are not in this position and I wish to share these experiences to try and help others who may find themselves in similar situations.

Shortly after the start of lockdown I became ill, at first I thought it was COVID2, and that may have also been at play, but it seemed something else was going on, so I contacted the doctor, and things moved on very fast indeed.

To be continued.........


1We remain good friends with Scott, who's brewing talent continues to go from strength to strength. Fell Brewery beers are extremely good and very much to my liking. I hope Hardknott has helped him to be where he is today.

2We all had symptoms and later Fran tested positive for the antibodies, so COVID did play a part.

1 comment:

Sheffield Hatter said...

No! How can you leave it there?!

Still to come: "a further dramatic series of events", "serious difficulties", "some interesting opportunities". How can you leave us in suspense like this?

Seriously, though, the fact that you're writing about this suggests that you've at least got a bit of time to look back, tyake stock and think about things, which I suppose is good. Hope things are ok and I look forward (with some trepidation) to the next episode of Life after Beer.