Fyne Folk – MALCOLM BLACKWELL, DRAYMAN?
Welcome to this week’s Fyne Folk, our blog introducing Fyne Ales team members and talking to them about their experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to introduce you to the folk who make our brewery what it is, and share their stories from lockdown, how they’ve been coping with the new normal and what their hopes are for a post-pandemic brewery and world.
This week we’re talking to Malcolm Blackwell, who was previously one of our draymen, but has more recently been fulfilling a Malc-Of-All-Trades role for the brewery. Malc’s ability to turn his hand to almost anything makes him one of the most useful people around the brewery, so find out how he found his time away from Fyne Ales and how he’s doing now he’s back at the brewery by reading below.
Let’s start, as we usually do, at the beginning of lockdown – like almost everyone else, you spend some time at home while we waited to find out what was going on, how was your time away from the brewery?
For the first three weeks, I tried to keep busy – potted around the house and started work transforming the garden. I spent a lot of time in the garden – out the front of the house, and it was weird because there were a lot of people who live in my village who I’d never seen before but they’d all stop and say hello on their daily walks.
I’ve lived in the village for 11 years and it’s not a big village, maybe 1200 people, but there was people living there, some as long as me and we’d never met, so it was nice to get to meet a few more of the locals and chat about the garden and everything going on. Yeah, it was nice – and the garden looks a lot better now too.
And how did you find coming back to the brewery?
Well at first, all the recycling services stopped in Argyll, and the brewery needed cardboard to pack up online shop orders, so I became a bit of a volunteer recycling collector – I’d go around and pick up cardboard from shops and supermarkets and anywhere really, and drop it off at the brewery. It was just once or twice a week, but it was good to be useful and it was amazing how much cardboard there was – how much would just be thrown away. Mountains of the stuff.
A bit later I was brought back in full-time, mostly helping pack up the boxes for online orders, shredding all the cardboard I’d collected the previous weeks. We were so busy – I was amazed at how many orders there were before the pubs reopened and it really helped us through the worst time. There were just the four of us, so we had to work very efficiently to keep the beer going out.
It was a bit weird being here when no one else was – no customers, empty shelves in the shop, most of the team were away. We’re normally open every day except Christmas and New Year’s Day, so even if the weathers bad there’s usually people popping in to have a quick pint or stock up on beer and obviously no one could so it was definitely a bit strange.
I’d imagine getting all the Mini-Cask Club beers out was a bit of a challenge for the packing team?
The first one definitely was – we sent out the beers at the start of July and that was before the pubs reopened so the online shop was still really busy, as well as it being the first time we’d done it. I don’t think there were many issues, and it’s definitely worth the extra work because it’s such a good thing for the brewery and a good deal for customers.
Hopefully we’ll see Mini-Cask Club growing more and more – we’re three months in now and we’re definitely seeing the numbers go up, so hopefully that’ll continue.
Can we talk about your role at the brewery a little bit and why it changed, because you’ve had a very unique experience during this pandemic?
Yeah, due to health reasons I wasn’t able to do deliveries for a while – I wasn’t able to lift anything heavy, so I started doing lots of jobs around the brewery, lots of projects – helping out in the tap, labelling beer bottles, mending things. I was happy to give anything a go really.
I had been waiting for an operation for the best part nineteen months, and then just a few weeks ago I was finally brought in to get it done – that was another weird experience. I had to have a Covid test before they’d admit me, which really wasn’t a pleasant experience, and then I was in the hospital for the operation – no visitors, not that many staff, and they were all in protective gear – and then had to do another test before they let me come out again. It was all very weird, but I’m so happy it’s finally done.
I’m in recovery now, and all’s going well, but I’m hoping that soon I’ll be able to start driving again – maybe just a couple of days a week at first, with the other days helping out at the brewery as I have been doing, but it’ll be good to get out on the road again after so long.
How are you feeling about where we are now, with pubs open, but curfews being announced and local restrictions?
It’s going to be difficult, for us and for pubs, for a good while longer, I’d expect. I know it’s all for the best, but with things like the rule of six, it’s just getting harder and harder for pubs to operate and make enough money to stay open.
It’s a shame, because I’ve been back to my local a few times, and been out to a couple of places to eat, and it feels safe, it feels like they’re doing everything right with the social distancing, screens, staff following the rules – it just feels like there’s probably a few places out there who aren’t doing it properly and now everyone has to pay for it.
We’ve got to follow the advice, we’ve got to stay safe and we can hopefully get through this in half-decent shape, both the brewery and folk in general.