Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scotto and Jeff's Excellent UK Adventure

As the US Distributor for Avon riverboats, we visit the UK factory every year, where the finest rafts in the industry are built.
Here's our week in the UK: Arrive in London at 10am local time Check in to the hotel and try to stay awake for another 12 hours, utilizing the patented Clavey method of walking from pub to pub (beats jet-lag every time). Unable to stay awake any longer, we crash had no later than 9pm and expect to sleep through the night. Wake up around 3am and mumble obscenities until coffee is finally available.

Around 11 am on our second day Mark Hart, our Avon rep, picks us up. We then drive for four hours to the Welsh city by the sea, Llanelli, stopping only once for bad coffee and stale pasties. By late afternoon we arrive at the Stradey Park Hotel, which both Jeff and I can can give the big two thumbs up. After taking a brief stroll about the town we meet back at the Stradey for dinner with Mark and Huw Griffiths, the managing director of Avon Inflatables. Huw will inevitably ask the waitress the same question he asks before each dinner we've ever had with him, "What kind of meat pies do you have?" Having then stayed awake until ten, we expect a complete and full nights sleep.

Day three. Wake up at 4am. Mumble obscenities. Wait for breakfast. Regret trying the off-colored sausage. Drink about 18 cups of coffee waiting for Jeff to wake up (bastard). Then, late morning, we head over to the Avon factory for some negotiations based on the exchange rates of the dollar , the British pound and the Euro. When you're talking money with the Welsh, sometimes temperatures can start to rise and words can start to get a little loud. When this happens Jeff and I fall back on our tried and true fail safe strategy - badmouth the French. This always brings the Avon guys back to the table with a new affinity toward us regardless of pricing.

Once we get the meetings out of the way, we take our annual tour of the Avon factory to see all of our boats that are being built as well as all the cool boats being built for the Ministry of Defence. There's not a lot they can't build right there at the factory. The place is clean, organized and efficient. And even though there's a fair amount of solvents and glue used in assembling inflatables, not a whiff of fumes anywhere in the building. I'm not real good at judging the size of things, but by my best guess, the Avon factory is probably about a million square feet. Maybe more. After our tear-filled goodbyes and promises to write, we get back in the car for the four hour drive back to Londontown, Once back at the hotel, we throw our bags back into our rooms and head out for a Clavey Pub, Curry, and Crawl. Sleep through the night (finally). 

Day Four is filled with free museums and expensive gifts for the family. It doesn't really matter what you buy, when the value of the dollar is half the value of the pound, all gifts are expensive. After the culture and the cavalcade of gifts, we head back to the pubs for a healthy meal and a beer. Maybe two. Three beers at the most, I swear (ask Scotto about the cider too). Mmmm...sleep.

Five in-flight movies and ten hours later we're back in California...totally unable to sleep.

Here's some fun facts about the Avon factory in Wales:
  • Avon is on of the largest employers in the town of Llanelli (which God only knows how, is pronounced Klen-etyl-ee).
  • Avon builds whitewater rafts alongside all the boats they build for the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Special Forces.
  • All negotiations and meetings come to a screeching halt at 10:30 sharp for morning tea time.
  • The local beer is Double Dragon "The National Ale of Wales" and is the best way to wash down a Welsh meat pie.
  • Avon has the single best ventilation system of any boat factory in the world.
  • The average Avon employee has been with the factory for 22 years.
  • The sun only comes out twice a year, turning Avon employees' pasty white skin to an uncomfortable burn in the time it takes them to run from their cares to the protection of the factory.
  • Sticking with the bacon and avoiding the sausage is the best move at the Hotel's breakfast bar.

To see more photos of the Avon factory, visit www.clavey.com/PhotoGallery.php


Anonymous said...

Next weeks advertisement:

Buy 1 Avon, get 1 free meat pie!

Jim Offel said...

Sounds like an epic trip....thanks for the tip about bad-mouthing the French as a surefire way to bring the Welsh back to the bargaining table. I don't negotiate with many Welsh, but I'll tuck that one away for future reference!

Hope you guys have a good holiday (and sell some boats!)