Christmas Day

December 24, 2020

I have previously spoken of the hard work and foundations laid by my family at the Burlingham Hotel in Blackpool and now here at the Appleby Inn, integral to everything that is good within the family businesses has been my Dad, John.

My Dad has to be the hardest working man I have ever met. As I was growing up the amount of desire and passion he poured into his work were behind the continued growth of the Appleby Inn. I have seen my dad dig trenches, unblock toilets, wallpaper ceilings, act as MC for wedding receptions, serve 100+ dinners as if he was making a simple packed lunch and run late bars at the back end of an 18 hour day just as fresh as if he had just woke up.

Whilst my dad has changed his role in the business over the years one thing that has always been a constant is his running of Christmas Day. This year would have been his 50th Christmas Day in a row which he has worked. Although I know my Dad is deeply disappointed that tier 3 restrictions mean we remain closed and the milestone of a 50th Christmas Day will sadly pass my Dad by it makes his run no less extraordinary in my eyes.

John started his Christmas streak at 13 years old (it was the 70’s before anyone judges us!) working in his parents seafront hotel in Blackpool. A far cry from our single 1pm sitting at the Appleby they hosted residents for a full board service. Breakfast followed up by Christmas Dinner, evening tea and finally supper, all being re-set and prepared in-between. I am not sure I could eat all the food let alone prepare, cook and serve it all! Although people reading this might not think that is much of a Christmas Day, it was done as a family, all working together as a unit. He continued this each year until the move to the midlands in 1986 when he arrived at the Appleby Inn. The first couple of years the Appleby was open for drinks only, as the venue built a reputation our five course Christmas Day menu was introduced, a true Christmas feast fully booked each year with a wait list as long as the reservations list.

Growing up my elder sister and I were fully aware my dad would be a little in and out over Christmas Day. We would see him first thing in the morning before he went to open up, open our presents from him before saying our temporary goodbyes whilst he went to host the Christmas Day service before returning later in the day to spend the rest of the day with us.

When I was older and working within the business I have had the pleasure of working with my Dad on Christmas Day. Working with my Dad showed me up close more of what I already knew. He is an absolute perfectionist, even more so on a day like Christmas Day. He always told me there were big pressure days in hospitality where there isn’t any room for mistakes or oversights, these were Weddings, Funerals and Christmas Day.
Whilst he exuded a “nothing less than perfect” aura he still manages to alleviate the pressure of working such an important day coupling it with his welcoming, approachable and firm but fair management style. We have never struggled for staff on Christmas Day, in fact it has been quite the opposite, which I think is quite a testament to John and his business.

The main part of my Dad’s Christmas Day duties is his role as Santa! I’m not sure how pleased he will be about this being put into a blog as he is a very private person, I might not make it to Christmas! Every year at the Appleby we have a visit from Santa. When the desserts have left the kitchen my Dad will disappear to don his trusty Santa suit! We advertise a present for everyone and Santa comes in to interact with all the customers and deliver their gift to them. It is my favourite part of the day. My Dad for quite a reserved person works the room beautifully, taking time to make a fuss over the children in the room, adding some Christmas magic to their day with a gift from Santa (hopefully none of them are reading the blog and we ruin the magic) and cracking jokes with the adults, it is the cherry on top of our Christmas service. My younger sisters have all helped out acting as Elves carrying the presents around with Dad.

This year the Santa suit will sadly remain in the loft. Dad said it would have been his last year working Christmas Day, bowing out on his half century. I know kind words in a blog won’t completely erase the disappointment of his milestone being cut short, even in circumstances beyond his control, but I think everyone will be in agreement that one less year still doesn’t detract from what a massive accomplishment 49 in a row is and how grand all of his achievements are as a whole during his working career. If he does call it a day for working Christmas Day I hope he adapts to putting his feet up and enjoying them at home with the family, god knows he has earned it, it will certainly be weird working that first one without him.

An inspiration and a true gentleman and to me and my family, he’s our hero.

Michael x

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