Andy retires after nearly 20 years at Laughing Fish

Andy and Linda Brooks both now retired after nearly 20 years at The Laughing Fish, at Isfield.

Andy Brooks landlord of the Laughing Fish at Isfield for nearly 20 years is joining his wife in retirement.

The 62-year-old is looking forward to a break, before finding another job – top priority is being able to switch off at the end of the day – perhaps consultancy work, or maybe a voluntary role.

Andy is also looking forward to spending more time in the garden, and writing a book – working title ‘Tales from the Fish’.

He says it could be something along the lines of ‘Maximum Diner: Making it Big in Uckfield’ written by Christopher Nye about his dream of running a restaurant.

Dream

Andy and Linda left nothing to chance when following their own dream.

Andy was ready for a change following a 20-year career with Marks and Spencer and the couple wanted to do something for themselves.

They considered many options, including taking over a shop, before settling on running a pub.

Linda had previously worked in pubs and Andy’s family had always appreciated a traditional pub so it was natural to gravitate that way.

The pair spent a good 12 to 18 months conducting research. They went on a course about how to run a pub and then visited as many pubs as they could. “It was tough,” they joked.

They drew up a long list of notes about what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they thought were good ideas that could be incorporated into their own business.

Andy and Linda Brooks with the team at The Laughing Fish.

Breweries

Eventually they knew they wanted to run a rural rather than urban pub, and set out to speak to breweries.

Their only restriction was wanting to stay within reach of Tunbridge Wells where their, now grown-up, children went to school.

A Greene King tenancy came up at the Laughing Fish and so began a life they relished.

They wanted to run a traditional pub with good home-made food and they have achieved that.

The pub has been popular with locals and their reputation, for running a “no-nonsense pub”, has attracted people from much further afield.

On Andy’s last day, Wednesday, the day before lockdown, the Laughing Fish was buzzing, every socially-distanced table taken.

Involved

The couple have become so involved in village life that they plan to stay in Isfield. They are renting a cottage there, while still owning their family home in Crowborough.

Andy’s only hope is that the next landlord of the Laughing Fish won’t mind him calling in for a pint.

Some of the things they look back on with particularly fond memories are helping to start an annual village fete, being members of Isfield Community Enterprise, which owns a field behind the pub, and maintaining the tradition of the Tommy Trott Beer Race.

The Tommy Trott Beer Race is walked each Easter from the Laughing Fish. Those taking part must complete the race without spilling any beer from a glass they carry.

The race was first walked in 1956 and now a variety of events have grown up around it, including a race for children carrying lemonade.

Thousands of pounds have been raised for charity through many and varied village events the couple have been involved with and Andy is most proud that the fete raised funds for a new Isfield village sign.

Established

Linda has already established the pattern of her life during retirement. She gave up her involvement in the pub about 18 months ago, having worked alongside her husband since 2001.

And Andy had a taste of what was in store for him when the pub was closed during the first Coronavirus lockdown earlier this year.

Afterwards Greene King needed more time to find a new tenant for the Laughing Fish and Andy didn’t want to see the pub closed in the meantime so he returned to action.

Now it looks as if new owners will soon be in place. A couple talking to Greene King already run pubs and want to add the Laughing Fish to their portfolio. They are hoping to make Isfield their home.

Settle in

Andy added: “They are lovely people and because they are experienced, already with systems and procedures in place, it should be comparatively easy for them to settle in here.”

For Andy and Linda they are happily adapting to life beyond the full-on 24 hour a day, seven day a week, 365 days a year job they are leaving behind them.

This year a long Christmas holiday beckons and then … time filled with their own hobbies and interests, but still an active village life.

See also:

Nose2Tail Family Butchers open second shop

Luxford Field car park: News of works and enforcement

Maresfield council’s shock over planning decision

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