In a world where there has been much to make us sad lately, in a little corner of the sleepy county of Dorset, an event has occurred that has left many locals bewildered and disheartened.
Don’t get me wrong. In no way does it compare to the recent terrorist atrocities. Or even hopeless situations such as war, disease and famine. But the more these situations occur, the more we ‘ordinary’ folk, who in the main are pretty lucky, hold dear the little comforts of life. Many of these comforts rely on stability and yesterday saw the end of one of life’s stable comforts.
For 30 years or more, Neil Gatehouse has run the Colliton Club. He was always someone you could rely on being there pretty much all the time. Always grumbling about something or other but always willing to chat and introduce you to his latest beer (of which there were many!). The amount of times we heard about his ‘amazing chip on to the 15th green’ was tedious but it was part of the charm of the whole Colliton experience.
A long time ago, he took a couple of years out to run a pub in Exmouth. I always regard those years as a dark time in the history of the Club. It just wasn’t the same. Now it looks like it will never be the same again.
He seemed to have an uncanny knack of employing an endless succession of sparkling barmaids who themselves became part of the Club which made it ‘OK’ for many people (including myself) to turn up alone because, well, you never were alone. I was going to list names, but I’m bound to miss somebody out but the 5 ‘originals’ mainly signed as they turned 18 were Chloe, Kim, Ange, Michelle and Jess. Remembered very fondly by all long term regulars. 3 of them are now in their 40s and the other 2 aren’t far behind (sorry girls).
The post of Colliton Club Manager has always been accountable to the Committee which for many years recognised that Neil was a major asset to the Club. A point that seems to be lost with the current Committee. I don’t know the details but it seems likely that they have done some sort of half-assed business analysis and come up with a plan that had no place for the position that Neil held. They will argue that they have tried to put a plan into place, that is best for the long term interests of the Club.
On paper, fair enough, maybe their plan looks sensible. But the loss of Neil, who basically IS The Colliton Club will greatly displease all the regulars and they will be less likely to turn up. And surely that is what any business is about. Bums on seats, elbows on bars. The financial aspect of the staff structure may look sound but what are they going to do if nobody turns up?
I understand that the Muckspreaders, the skittles team that both myself and Neil play for, have signed up to play there again next season. That’s OK but I can’t see myself going there for any other reason. A bonus for other local watering holes I suppose as they receive my pension.
There have always been rumours about the possible demise of the Club, so much so that we became nonplussed about any new rumours but this one seems to have crept up and finally knocked the Club for 6. IMHO any restructure of the Colliton Club should start with its most valuable asset. It should not start with the post of Colliton Club Manager, It should start with Neil and then sort the rest of it out.
The Committee has shown classic dumbassery. It’s not for me to suggest that there was anything personal involved between the Committee and Neil but I’ll just leave that there.
The Committee has alienated itself even further from the regular punters, it has shot itself in the foot, it has cut off it’s nose to spite it’s face, it has shown immense ineptitude and I hope they get a jolly good roasting at the AGM in a couple of weeks time. They will doubtless keep repeating that they are sorry to lose Neil but it’s in the best interests of the Club. They will say that if we wanted a say in proceedings, we should have got involved in the Committee. But the fact is, Committee, you have made a major major error here and I’m pretty convinced you are not going to come out of it smelling very pleasant.
Will the Club survive? Not sure. Doubt it. Don’t really care any more.
Will Neil be OK? Sure. He’ll be sad about losing the Club but he’ll be OK. He’s still got the Muckspreaders after all. We’ll always be around, even if we move somewhere else.
Will Neil have a leaving do? Several I expect.
I suspect that I am just one among a huge number of people who wish Neil well in his next venture, whatever that may be. Just hope he shuts up about his magnificent chip on to the 15th green.
To the Committee – you suck.