Finally…

Well the last few weeks have been interesting. I won’t tell you the analogy a friend used this week but lets just say the transition from building site to functioning business is a fraught process and one which, at times, feels quite insurmountable!

I know of pools similar to mine. I know of pools on farms which are hired. I know of swim teachers who have built their own pools and run lessons. What I have done, or rather am trying to do, is both and that is a tricky business. In fairness I always knew it would be and was duly warned it would be. I had hoped the build would stay on budget and finish on time (rolls… on… floor….. laughing!!!!) but that wasn’t to be so I have enormous amounts of pressure from every direction to get this pool up and running to prove itself. The original plan that the poor suffering other half would help get the business off the ground has not come to fruition as he’s been outsourced to generate some much needed income but that does leave quite a lot to do!

The problem is, everything takes time and as I have started saying, with great inflection of late, ‘there’s only one me!!’ and the ‘one me’ has to do everything from recruitment to uniforms, forms, procedures, cleaning, booking, emails, invoices….  In light of this, last week I took steps to employ someone to help before a complete breakdown ensued! Phew. It all seems slightly more manageable now, thankfully.

I have spent the last couple of weeks testing the pool and swimming lessons. I have had all sorts of meetings with all sorts of people. It is exhausting and exciting in almost equal measure. Very kindly a number of willing friends allowed me to use their children for lessons after school which meant I could really test the parking and building to see how everything works. With the best will in the world it doesn’t really matter how much you plan on paper, the true test can only happen once you have the building and there will ALWAYS be things you haven’t thought of.

Children’s swimming lessons will start after half-term. I am finishing off paperwork and tweaking the set-up slightly in light of feedback from the last couple of weeks. I really can not stress how crucially important it is to me that The Parlour Pool retains its identity as a small, friendly, quiet place to be. It really is absolutely the core of the entire project and why I so wanted to build a pool in the first place. The idea was born from frustration that there wasn’t a venue which suited my son. He hated the noise, the chaos, the cold… all of it and I can’t say I was terribly keen on any of it either! The Parlour Pool has always aimed to be more like stopping off at a friends house for a cup of tea on the way home with a nice relaxed atmosphere.

Adult lessons have started please contact Liz Robin directly if you are interested.

Right that will do for now, I’m off to work so I’ll leave you to look at a picture of the pool…

finished pool

Radio Silence…

I’ve been away for a few days with the troops (apologies to those waiting for email replies, I’m on it…) and as it’s not the done thing to publish ones movements on the world wide web we left the A-team to it and just went! I have spent the last 5 days *enjoying* (with the whole of the rest of South Gloucestershire who all benefited from having the wrong school holiday 😉 ), the delights of that place with a sub-tropical paradise and rapids and now inflatable rides! Well, goodness, I think ‘holiday’ would be a stretch… it was more of a test of endurance especially with a certain young lady, we’ll call her Miss W, who insisted on doing the rapids ten times in a row. I highly rate the new cyclone ride though, that’s a great way to induce an acute stress response!

It was good to have a change of scenery and a timely reminder of how cold pools are utterly miserable and changing rooms can break a person!! I would like to say I have come home refreshed and ready for the final push of the build but I’m actually having a serious sense of humour failure over the weather…. and it didn’t help when I looked back at the build this time last year and all the photographs are sunny!

Rain, snow, hail, Beast of the East no 432, whatever…. the build goes on and the pool will be finished very soon. Deadlines approach, not least of which the grant inspection, so it’s all hands on deck to get everything finished and then finally the pool can start doing what it’s been designed for.

Build-wise things have moved forwards in my absence. The car park now has drains, a dished curb and a cobbled edge so just needs a final surface. The pool has lights, drains, jets, the handrail and the pool cover is on site ready to install next week.  And really excitingly, we finally have a ceiling!! You may remember we had some issues with the roof back before Christmas which resulted in a drastic overhaul of the ceiling design. The new design means the ceiling is fitted last and this is why all we have been able to see is insulation until now. Now the new ceiling is in place and it looks great. The beams look even better and the feature wall really stands out.

Next plan.. water…

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Inclement Weather

Says it all really! To be fair, at the point snowmageddon hit we had the tilers on site and they were stoic throughout. Frankly they were amazing, even turning up and tiling on *that* snowy Friday, the day the rest of the South West gave up and stayed at home… wisely! The result being we didn’t suffer too much delay due to the weather but we haven’t been able to work on the car park and that’s proving a bit of a pain.

Positively though the pool is fully tiled, the floors are almost fully tiled. They can’t tile the end bit until the pool cover arrives so that section has been left but everything else is done. The changing room floors are tiled which means we can start panelling the walls. This caused a lot of angst with the tilers who said walls are always done first… hey ho. Cant say I’m surprised to be doing things differently to everyone else! Story of my life there.

The HVAC control system is in place. That was a fun day… (hear sarcasm there) as a small alteration to the doorway was, predictably, required. The HVAC is the heart of the system. When you go swimming and see condensation on the windows, walls, ceiling it means the HVAC system is wrong. Air handling in pools is one of the most critical components in pool management yet one of the most overlooked. It actually drives me slightly batty. Many pools are obsessed with the water temperature but do not pay enough attention to the air.

The upstairs WC is in and working. The kitchenette is almost done, just need a fridge. The feature wall is tiled…. still trying to decide if i made the right choice there but it’s done now! Today we put up some of the privacy frosting on the french doors. I am really, really pleased with it. I was struggling to find a solution for the windows which would allow in light, stop glare and provide privacy but also work in a pool environment. I considered blinds but felt they would be a nightmare on so many levels then realised many pools use frosting. I was worried how it would look but am really pleased with the finish. Personally I like a sense of privacy when swimming and the only reason the pool has french doors is because the building is listed and that’s what was required so adding the frosting provides a nice middle balance. It feels light and open but private which I think is really important for people who feel nervous or anxious around swimming pools.

So everything is going in the right direction. At some point in April I would hope we have warm water in the pool and can begin testing it out! Goodness that’s really not far away now is it. After a long year it seems hard to even imagine to be honest….

march

Dinner Parties, Parties and Swimming….. bare with me

In this world I believe there are ‘Dinner Party People’ and ‘Party People’. There are those, the former, who prefer small groups and those, the latter,  who prefer large groups. The former seeks perhaps a more personal relationship with their cohort while the later prefer something busier and perhaps more superficial.

Both groups are quite complimentary if you ask me and a lot of people may find they move between either group depending on circumstance. Today’s life, with constant social media (she writes while posting on Facebook!), is especially high pressure on us all. Parents face a barrage of photos of children eating home-cooked organic meals and winning every award to date while children see their peers having perfect lives. The result, I feel, is the ever-anxious society we live in today with more and more children struggling, and their parents not far behind.

I will confess now I sit quite firmly in the ‘Dinner Party’ category, always have done and always will do. I love people and could happily chat for England. The long suffering husband is constantly perplexed as to why the school run takes me 1.5hrs and him 20mins….. I like to think of it as important social networking! I just love small groups of people, where I feel I really know a person and have a valued relationship with them rather than being friends with everyone but actually no one, if that makes sense.

In this light I have designed a ‘Dinner Party’ pool and this identity is absolutely essential to me, my sanity, and the business model. Equally, as a mother of three, offering value and being fair is also a priority and I need to find the right balance between the two. I feel there are a lot of swimming pools out there which operate using the ‘party’ model; that is large class sizes and minimal lesson cost. I think all the pools operating using this model do so very effectively and efficiently, and I have no desire to compete or replicate their model. I am a smaller, private pool designed for dinner parties 😉.

I recently had a meeting with the bank manager (he is luckily suitably impressed with the build and keeping the faith) and he asked about pricing. We had a long discussion about it and we agreed it was very hard to get it right. Now of course to get this far I have always had figures, forecasts and projections so I have a rough idea. I know what the pool has to do to keep me afloat (sorry, couldn’t resist) but I need the car park finished to see the size and scope for parking and actually I need the building nearer completion, so I can test the space for parents and siblings. I have to allow for the fact a child coming to a lesson may bring a sibling or two, plus a parent or two and even the grandparents.

The swimming pool is a very good size for lessons. Children absolutely excel in smaller pools and ASA stages base most of their outcomes on only 10m because being technically correct over a smaller distance is a crucial building block after-all practice makes permanent…! The Parlour Pool is 12.5m long and to put this in perspective, it offers more space than a 25m lane which is routinely used to teach 12 children. At the Parlour Pool I am planning just 4 children at the dinner party!

I am excited about offering something different to parents and children; a dinner party pool which feels like stopping off at a friend’s house for a swimming lesson and of course lets not forget swimming lessons only make up a quarter of the timetable. The majority of the timetable is allocated to private hire where local groups of 2-6 people can hire the  pool for 30mins sessions and enjoy their own private swim. It’s like having your own indoor pool without having to build or run one…. trust me this is an excellent option!

Progress on the build is going well (touch wood)! The pool is fully tiled and almost all grouted but access for photos is tricky as the deck has been prepared for tiling too. Deck tiles going on next week. The Heatstar, which is the heart of the air circulation, is finally in place. The less said about that trauma the better! I asked the pool guys what it weighed, and they said 250kgs, ¼ of a tonne I said…. Or the same as a pony. That made them laugh and suggest moving the pony might be easier, doubt it I said!!

tile pics

Sockets, switches and lights

Exciting day at the farm! The electrician and his mate have been on site all day doing second fix work. We have various sockets and lights. The pendant light looks great and fits well with the theme of ‘agricultural parlour’. They are, of course, grey…. I really didn’t think through the whole grey theme did I?

I love the exposed stonework. It was really important to me that the building kept its identity as much as possible and the stonework helps with that.

Upstairs the floor has been laid and in the WC there’s even a sink on the wall. This will eventually be a really useful space where parents and siblings can wait during lessons and watch the pool via a CCTV link.

The pool is fully tanked and the tilers are coming on Monday! Epic

All sorts is going on in the plant room but there’s such a potent smell of glue in there that I haven’t been spending much time watching. There are lots of pipes, that’s all I know at the moment.

I had some very exciting visitors to site today. Fellow farming pool owners who were most definitely instrumental in helping get my project off the ground. I have always felt confident the business model works and there’s demand for lessons, from both adults and children, at small private pools but there’s still a huge mountain to climb to get started with this sort of project. One of my biggest hurdles was getting financial backing. There wasn’t any hope of me raising the necessary loan on my own so I needed the somewhat reluctant resident farmer on side and he would only be convinced by fellow farmers who had already demonstrated such a project would work.

It was refreshing and reassuring to talk to people who had faced the same challenges and one thing we can easily agree on is that the world of pool construction is fraught and requires constant compromise!

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