What do you do after the jungles of French Guiana and Chicago? Jed Novick finds out
I’m outside the newly revamped Eddy, enjoying an afternoon drink and chat with Mark and Hatt, the new guardians of this particular galaxy. A car comes down the road and stops outside the pub. I don’t even notce, but Mark’s up and over there. Hatt turns, looks, smiles, carries on. Seconds later, a young lad, all muscles and tatts and with a face like a kid who’s been told to clear up his dinner plates, is walking over to the recycling bins carrying a lone bottle. He drops the bottle in the bin and throws us a half-hearted sneer, but Mark’s already back with us and the story is done. “He was just going to leave the bottle on the pavement” says Mark. “This is our community. We live here. We all live here. Have a bit of respect”.
Hatt – Harriet Eaton – and Mark – Mark Reed – took over The Eddy in January and from there till now, it hasn’t been a straight line. But one look at Hatt and Mark and somehow you know they’re familiar with picaresque journeys. They’ve got stories.
She’s all bangles, tattoos and rings. An artist. Originally from West Sussex, the road to West Hill hasn’t been a straight one. Went to Paris when she was 18, worked in fashion, married a doctor. “He wanted to specialise in the tropical diseases. So we went and lived in South America for three years in French Guiana in a place called Maripasoula, right in the middle of the jungle. It’s like a tiny plane or three days on a boat to get out. So that was interesting. Mostly”.
As you do when you find yourself in the middle of the jungle days away from anywhere, Hatt set up a textile business “because that’s what I’d done in Paris and that went really well – beach towels and robes” but then life intervened – kids, parents, school, the usual – and the path led back to Brighton working behind the bar in a pub not far from where we’re sitting now.
Originally from Hastings, Mark also took a few detours before getting the keys to The Eddy. “I had a few pubs and clubs in Hastings, pubs and clubs in Brighton”. Anything I’d know? “Yeah. The old Club Savannah, which is where Club Revenge is now above Harry Ramsden”. How far are we going back here? “This is back in the early to mid-Eighties. Then I moved to America and I worked in the music industry in America, going on tour with bands for a number of years, lived out hotel rooms for about five. I worked for EMI and then I was a writer for a while and then my… Then the music industry career got parlayed into partnerships in nightclubs and bars and restaurants in Chicago, um, over, uh, over a long period of time. And then alongside that, I also got into the car industry and worked for a major US Volkswagen dealership”. But then Mark’s life intervened…
So Mark came back after 25 years away, and Hatt taught herself how pubs worked and when the landlord of the pub where Hatt worked moved on… Well, opportunity knocks.
Opportunity knocks and then opportunity pulls the rug away. In January they got the keys. A couple of months later… the world stopped. Words like “global pandemic” and “lockdown” probably weren’t in the original business plan. What was the conversation like on March 19th, the night before the lights went out? “We’ve got a lovely little film of the last night before we shut and there was great atmosphere and everybody was wow, this is our last night for a while.
“I think people just thought it was going to be about a month or a couple of weeks, and then we’d be back open again. And I think that we were sort of ignorant of how long it was going to be. But, you know, things happen and it’s just a question of how you look at it. For us, lockdown was fantastic. We just completely embraced it and changed the pub to who we are. Re-painted everything, cleaned everything, changed everything. The cellars, the toilets, everything. It’s like being in my front room really, you know, we really, really have made it our own.
One sweet thing that came out of lockdown was that the idea of community really kicked in. “When we closed down, John at The Yeoman created a WhatsApp group for the four pubs on the block. We called ourselves The Manor and there’s definitely a sense of care between us, but yeah, it’s very sad that some of these pubs are too small to open. John’s been there for 15 years and his whole business plan has had to change. And it’s really tough”.
What do you want from all this? “The last owner was more…, um, he didn’t really understand the concept of the community, but that’s what we love. We live here. We live above the pub. It’s our home”.