Friday, 7 February 2014

Harp Lane, and the Perils of Beard Ownership (unedited) - The South Shropshire Journal 7/2/14

Last week was a good one: we bought a shop. A higgledy-piggledy old shop that faces out, as she has done for hundreds of years, over Ludlow’s Castle Square. She sits proud and fast like a little ship in between Church Street and Harp Lane. We have called her Harp Lane, after Harp Lane. Now Harp Lane (the lane, not the shop), is narrow and forgotten and years ago I imagine it would have flown freely with Medieval filth. Robert the greengrocer who has a shop next to Harp Lane (the shop, not the lane), parks his van there by day, by night drunken couples kiss down the lane, and I suspect the odd ghost or two lurk, and that’s about it. It’s such a tiny little lane that it doesn’t even have a sign, so we felt sorry for it, and thus our shop was named.

Our shop until last week was the Deli on the Square, and thirteen years before that the Ludlow Larder, and in a few months time Harp Lane will be a delicatessen again, but our delicatessen. We hope to have a few tables upstairs too for lunching, and one or two out the front for watching the world go by. I can’t tell you how excited I am about becoming a shopkeeper, a shop owner indeed, in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful town in the whole of England. But I’m nervous too, because in Ludlow if you run a business that does food, people are watching you like hawks. And rightly so: I’ve got to make Harp Lane the best little deli that ever there was.

In this county there are so many wonderful little shops selling food and drink, so it’s tough competition, in a tough marketplace. My two favourite delis in Shropshire (apart from my own one that doesn’t really exist yet anyway) are Appleyards in Shrewsbury and Van Doesburg’s in Church Stretton. If the proprietors of either of these places spot me snooping around any time soon, they’d be well advised to boot me out. I will be nicking their ideas, shamelessly. 

So far so good though and the reaction from my fellow townsfolk has been overwhelmingly positive for the new boy. Quite a relief, and I’m truly thankful. So now I shall stop harping on about Harp Lane, because you probably don’t need to read much more about an empty shop.

As well as buying a shop, I’ve grown a beard, but I don’t think it’ll stay. Have you ever grown a beard and drunk a cappuccino, especially one with chocolate sprinkles on top? Utter carnage. Sausage rolls too. Flaky pastry sticks to a beard like the proverbial to a blanket. My column is nothing if not a mine of useless information. 

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