After many weeks of talking, meeting and head scratching, we finally decided it was time to get out there and find a place to set up our operation. We had been itching for this moment to arrive, we would finally be able to get our hands dirty! After online-shopping for a unit, many unanswered phonecalls and ghost emails, me and Andrew decided to send it out into the streets. It was roughly one and a half months before the whole Covid storm roared through Europe and we were as unprepared as anyone else for what was to come.
We had a few appointments scheduled for a couple promising lots. We visited a really nice unit close to Royston that was too expensive for us. As we drove into the white walled, clean, gated business park we were nervous but happy to be on the move. The letting agent who was showing us the unit arrived late and as we were entering the building he turned around and said -Daaah I forgot the keys!- as he scratched his head. We laughed it off, not giving it importance as he told us we could see a neighbouring one that still had a tennent. It was awesome! It was very spacious, good lighting, heating and plenty of sockets. We talked for a bit, took some measurements, wrote down all the details and shook hands. As we were leaving I could not have been more excited, it was all taking shape.
We decided to visit a few more without much luck… Some were too cold or didn’t have reliable water supply and some were an outright disaster. One morning we pulled into this shady grey compound littered with broken down cars, rubbish all over the street and not too many welcoming faces. The guy meeting us was already there waiting; as he opened the door and we walked in a strong and pungent smell crept into our nostrils. This place was an absolute riot. Andrew and I both looked at each other and knew exactly what each of us thinking. We had a look around, the place was an old butcher, white walls on the bottom floor, and a half-finished office on the top floor. There was stuff everywhere papers, magazines, construction materials, wood, acrylic panels, it was a mess… We left that place as quick as we came in.
Time was ticking and we were getting impatient as it was proving hard to find what we were looking for. And then one cold, cloudy and wet morning we decided to visit a very dubious-looking set of units in the south side. We only had an address and no one to show us as we rang the letting agency endlessly without an answer. We drove to the units and parked on the street outside. The unit was low roofed with thick stone and ancient-looking arches, that supported the incessant shaking of train tracks above. As we couldn’t get into the one we would potentially set up in, we decided to walk into an occupied one. We were surprised by the humid and dense air in that place, the cold feeling penetrated my skin, it was definitely not the warm cosy unit we expected. We chatted with the guy who had his workshop set up there and he told us that the water supply was horrible. We stepped out and began walking towards the van with our heads down. In the distance I noticed a tall, blue fence that led to a red brick courtyard, a few cars seemed to be parked up and there was a strange aura surrounding the place. Its almost like I saw a clear patch in a dark forest, we had to get closer and check it out.
We rang the buzzer and Ian from Itz printing opened the door for us, we walked into the courtyard and asked if there were any spare units available. Turns out a guy had just moved out of Unit 1! We couldn’t believe our luck as he pointed towards the blue steel fence behind us. We gazed inside and it seemed like a good place, plenty of space, low ceiling and ventilation was set up. We couldn’t see much of the inside as it was dark, but Ian told us that Dave who was the owner of Ride brew, which was just across the courtyard had been in it previously. We thanked him and knocked on Daves door. As he opened his door a feeling of happiness took over my body, the smell of hops and the warmth emanating from his unit was so comforting. He explained so much about Unit 1, the water, the sockets, the lighting, how warm it was due to the train track switchboards being above, and we were immediately convinced. It had to be ours.
Next thing we know we had contacted Network Rail, thanks to Dave giving us a number, and we couldn’t wait to see the unit! The excitement and anticipation made me forget my measuring tape and my level. When we stepped inside my mind started racing, I was imagining all the CAD files being drawn, the placement of the systems, the tent or what we would do for water and ventilation. Next thing I know is we were shaking hands with the Network Rail’s representative. In a few weeks, we would be laying out our battle plan and beginning to build!