For this issue of the magazine, I was asked by Matt, our editor in chief if I could do a more in depth interview for the #IamBeeston project.
“Who was going to be the subject?” I enquired. “Sandie Deacon of the Boathouse Café at Beeston Marina. She’s retiring after spending twenty five years in catering”.
Beeston Marina is always a great place to visit, with the narrow boats, the water and the scenery. There were quite a few people in the Café drinking tea and eating cake when I arrived to chat to Sandie. She was busy in the kitchen. So I drank a cup of hot chocolate whilst I waited.
To begin the interview I asked Sandie where she was born, and how she came to the Rylands. “I was born in Hurley, Berkshire. It was similar to the Rylands as there was one road in and out and close to the river. When I left school, I went to catering college in Slough. I got into cooking through my aunty. She was the catering manager at Handley Page, the aircraft manufacturer. I sometimes went to see her and she let me do some cooking. She used to cook for big events like Ascot and the Farnborough Air Show. I got my City & Guilds 706/1 and 706/2, which meant that I was allowed to wear the big white chef’s hat.”
Moving through the years a bit, Sandie met her partner Tony when they were both doing a sports course at the Lilleshall National Sports Centre in Shropshire. But Tony, a qualified PT instructor, lived in Birmingham, whilst Sandie was nearly a three hour journey away in Wokingham. So Sandie moved to this area, so she wouldn’t have so far to travel to be with Tony. “I saw a vacancy at a place in Stapleford, but was turned down, as I was over qualified. But Tony and I saw a job going at the bar next door to here. So I started there in October 2006. Then a few weeks later this café came up for sale. So we took it over, and have been here ever since. We also do outside catering for weddings, parties etc. We live in a mobile home around the corner. Which is good, as we are often here from five thirty in the morning.”
“Tony works four to five days a week. My daughter Sarah is the manager now that I’ve retired. Although I do help out when needed, as we sometimes get very, very busy. Take this morning, when we had a lot of fishermen in wanting a breakfast.” I asked Sandie how she would be spending her time, now that she’s put down her mixing bowl. “I like photography. Especially birds. I’m always at the nature reserve, seeing what’s flown in. I do like kingfishers. I see them a lot, but they are difficult to photograph. I got a new Nikon camera for my birthday. I’m just saving up now for a better lens. I also like walking and reading.”
I asked Sandie about the history of the café. “It’s been here about twenty five to thirty years. Tony is into local history, and is a member of the Bramcote History Group.” Sandie highlighted a number of wooden plaques that were fixed to one of the doors. “These are of local people and customers that had sadly died. Here’s Owen’s.” Sandi touches the carved rugby ball with affection, and remembers Owen Jenkins, who unfortunately drowned this summer in the nearby weir whilst saving two girls that had fallen in the water. “It was so sad when Owen went. I knew him and his family. The way in which the people of Beeston responded was amazing. We did the catering at the funeral. No charge. It was the least we could have done.”
“We received four thousand votes on the Canal & River Trust’s recent ‘Best Riverside Café’ competition. We had a mystery diner in here.”
I noticed a photo of the late Mikk Skinner, who I had photographed for the #IamBeeston project a few weeks before he died. “He lived in one of the mobile homes too. Lovely bloke. The photo was given to us by one of his friends. Beeston is such a friendly place and the people are lovely. So laid back. I love it here. I sometimes think I’m at the seaside when I look out the window. There’s always something different to see throughout the year. There’s always something to do in Beeston, but I do wish events etc would be advertised more. There always seems to be a lack of advertising for events, even down here. I don’t know whose fault it is, but it should be improved.”
I also noticed some certificates and press cuttings about the café. “We are best known for our breakfasts and have received many comments in the Post newspaper. We received four thousand votes on the Canal & River Trust’s recent ‘Best Riverside Café’ competition. We had a mystery diner in here. The final is in Loughborough next week.”
Congratulations are now in order; as the Boathouse did indeed win in the East Midlands Waterside Hospitality Awards, and now have a certificate to prove it. I saw a photo on the back end of a Nottingham City Transport bus of the cafe. “I took that photo of the café. One of our customers spotted it on Mansfield Road and managed to get a shot of it.” The number of the bus is 908. So if you see it on your travels around Nottingham, give it a wave. “Buses around here are a bit hit an miss. I think there should be better transport in the Rylands, as people have missed hospital appointments, as their bus hasn’t turned up. I think the tram is good, and I will drive into Beeston and take it into town. You can park all day for two pounds.”
On the subject of transport, I’m sure many people will have seen the old World War II landing craft moored near the café. “That’s been in quite a few films now. The latest one starred George Clooney and Matt Damon (The Monuments Men) and we were hoping that they would have paid us a visit. But alas they didn’t. Suggs from Madness filmed here for an episode of a TV series called ‘WW2 Treasure Hunters’, which is shown on the History channel.”
The late afternoon sun was starting to set as we went outside, so I could take Sandie’s photo of her holding the now famous I Am Beeston sign. The last of the customers were leaving, and Sarah was collecting cups and plates from the tables as I said goodbye. And yes, I can see Sandie’s point about being at the seaside, with the water, the seagulls flying by and the pirate staring out from his crow’s nest.