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Finding Her Way In the Welsh Wind (with Gin!), Ellen Wakelam
Episode 815th June 2022 • The Second Chapter • Slackline Productions
00:00:00 00:52:04

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Let the episode be gin!

This week, I'm speaking with Ellen Wakelam. Ellen was a teacher, but after becoming disillusioned with the role -- and reeeeeally long walk -- she and her partner started In the Welsh Wind, a distillery firmly based in her native Wales. I love this episode, almost as much as I love In the Welsh Wind's (seriously)tasty gin. Ellen was so great to chat with - tune in and you'll even learn a few things about distilling and Wales!

Ellen and her team have kindly offered an exclusive discount for TSC listeners on their fantastic gins and spirits - listen for details!

For more on In the Welsh Wind (including some gorgeous pics): www.inthewelshwind.co.uk

On social media @inthewelshwind across the channels:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inthewelshwind/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/inthewelshwind/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/inthewelshwind

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/14019156/

Ellen Wakelam has her own LinkedIn profile too: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ellen-wakelam-4b7396228/

~~~

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  • Twitter: @slacklineprodu2,
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#womenover35 #wearebadass

On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!

Of course we’d love to hear what you think- and if you love the show, please leave us a 5-star rating and review on podchaser or Apple podcasts.

Transcripts

Speaker:

Hello and welcomed the second chapter podcast.

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I'm your host, Christine Duffy bringing amazing stories of women.

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Who've changed their lives in their careers.

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After the age of 35, as my regular listeners will know, I am on a mission

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to shout to the world that wouldn't be not visible, but have stories to tell

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at every age and to remind you that it's never too late to start your next chapter.

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So before I bring on this week's guests, I have a few requests

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to help you to help me on my.

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First of all, please subscribe and tell a friend to subscribe to the podcast.

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Let's start a movement.

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Secondly, I'm publishing a new newsletter, same vibe as the second chapter podcast,

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positive stories of female power.

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The second chapter news and a quote or two to get you thinking.

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I won't spam.

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You expected every couple of weeks and I'm sending out the second chapter

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stickers to the first 100 subscribers.

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Sign up at the second chapter podcast dot.

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I'll have one more favor to ask later in the episode, but for now,

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here's this week's show this week, I'm speaking with Ellen Wakelam Ellen

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was a teacher, but after becoming disillusioned with the role and a

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really long walk, she and her partner started in the Welsh wind, a distillery

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firmly based in her native Wales.

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I love this episode almost as much as I love in the Welsh wind.

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Seriously tasty.

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Based on personal experience.

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I can say if you're making a martini with it, I recommend a lemon twist, not olive

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and a Welsh cake on the side as per.

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Ellen and her team have also kindly offered a 10% discount, especially

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for listeners of the second chapter.

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Just enter second chapter in the discount code box.

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If you are within the UK, shipping is free over 40 pounds.

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Otherwise you'll need to chat with the distillery to find out how you

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can get the amazing products from in the Welsh wind shipped to you.

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Enjoy the episode I struggled on sometimes because just in the

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reasoning that they think I can't do, it just makes them crops.

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And then that fuels me into doing it and doing it better and doing

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it more and doing it harder.

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It needs to be bigger and Baptists so that they, they have to

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turn around and go, oh, whoops.

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Whoops.

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I should have recognized that you could do that in the first place.

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Hi Ellen.

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Thanks for joining me today.

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How are you?

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I'm really well.

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Fuck.

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I'm really excited to talk to you because you are involved with one of my

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favorite things, which is alcohol, but it seems to be a trend just to be honest.

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Yeah.

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Uh, you didn't start in alcohol.

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You're talking about you're on the second chapter.

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So, you know, we're going to talk about change originally.

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You were a teacher.

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What led to teaching to begin with?

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I, I love Johnny.

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I love people and plaids and environment and living where I grew

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up in west Wales here, that was such a huge part of my life hair.

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And I went off to university and did like environmental sciences and geography.

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And I just desperately wanted to still be a part of that world and share

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that kind of knowledge with people.

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So I went into secondary school teaching, so I taught from ages 11 to 18, you

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know, I absolutely love teaching.

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It turns out I don't love being a teacher in a formal setting.

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So that's where my second career came from is that whole,

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this is what I wanted to do.

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I worked at a sham.

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I live with geography and people in place and work with young people.

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When I was doing it, it turns out that wasn't the way that

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I was meant to be doing.

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I, I know a few people that have studied geography and I have to say, I don't

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know many of them that are actually working in geography related fields,

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but it seemed, that was the only place that the only channel to be able to use.

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Yeah, pretty much.

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I didn't really want to do, I wasn't that keen on doing a master's or going

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further in like higher education.

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I wanted to actually do something, several teachers in my family.

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So it seemed like the natural kind of pathway to go down, to be

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able to share what I loved about geography and get to work with

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young people and be a part of that.

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Education and growth and learning.

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It seems like you weren't doing it for particularly long.

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You're at the younger age of my second chapter of requirements, but you got

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disillusioned pretty early, I guess.

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Yeah.

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I taught for nearly six years.

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I taught.

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I left.

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I left my home in west Wales to go and teach in the west

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Midlands in Wolverhampton.

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And if that was a big change for me from very rural west Wales to go to

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live in like the Midland conurbation.

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And it was the first few years, I absolutely loved it.

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You're in the classroom all the time of teaching you're with people, you

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get to share all of this cool stuff, and you're really enthusiastic.

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As a young teacher, you've got.

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Time and you make all these fantastic resources and lessons and stuff like that.

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And then it, I felt then the more you're in teaching, there's

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just this constant drive for continuous professional development.

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And you're moving up the chain and where do you want to be next year?

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And what is it you're going to achieve?

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And how are you going to be a head of department?

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And that our deputy had a head of humanities, whatever

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it was I was going to do.

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And the more you do that, the last act or teaching time, I'm the less

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of the bit that I loved, I was doing.

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I worked in quite, quite a tough secondary school.

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I absolutely adored the kids that I was working with.

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They came, they had real personality and they were very challenging at

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times, but I liked that was, I liked that ability to have conversations

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with people, but yeah, it just, it felt like the thing that I wanted to do.

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The teaching was becoming less and less.

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It's further and further up the larger end you end up doing sort of more

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and more paperwork and more and more.

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There's just more and more pressure to just constantly be

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moving forward and achieving.

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And for me, I cared about the students that I was working with and there's

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this massive drive in teaching to just constantly be pushing them.

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A stars and AA students and those CD borderline students.

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And if you were anything under a D that was an absolute fail for some of my

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children, they take, this is the English is, might be their third language.

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They might've moved from a very long way away into very low social

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economic briefing now in the country.

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And for them getting a D or an E and geography.

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And massive achievement.

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And I was incredibly proud of that, but for the rest of the world and the

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government and the school ratings, they were failure to me that just

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didn't sit right with how I looked at learning and education in a wider sense.

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So yeah, I did become disillusioned quite quickly.

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And that was a massive thing to me because that's what I wanted to do.

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I wanted to work with young people.

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I thought being a teacher was going to be my thing.

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And then it suddenly wasn't and that was a huge shift for how I needed to,

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we work what I was going to do next.

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It's funny to me, because I think about, I come from a creative background, I

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guess you could say I was a designer.

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My partner is a prop maker.

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Now he came from, he was a maker always, but both of us have talked about the fact

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that so often in creative careers that happens like the minute you, if you're any

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good at it, or if you work really hard at it, or however you want to phrase that.

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They want to start promoting you or making you different than why you came

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to this career in the first place.

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And of course, a lot of people I've talked to you for the

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podcast have had the same thing.

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It's like I went into it for this reason and I didn't get

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to do what I wanted to do.

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Artists that I speak to that are like the amount of admin and

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marketing and selling yourself.

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And I didn't think about it so much with teaching, but it's such

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a shame that someone who comes in.

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Really young and vibrant and ready to teach.

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And I love these kids, but it's become so quickly, not about loving

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the kids or teaching the kids.

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It becomes about something entirely different.

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Exactly.

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And that tension is there's such a clear career path that you're your teacher.

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You become a head of you or a head of a department.

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You become a head of faculty, you become a deputy head, you become a headmaster,

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whatever it is, that is the path.

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I could just see the next 30, 40 years pumping out on this search defining

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path where yes, there was opportunity to make, move sideways in different

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levels, but actually that's what it was.

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And you were geared to that and you've set for three years, a teacher, then you'd

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be a head of department for a couple of years and you'd look for a job and all

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right, you could move school and there might be different challenges in different

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schools, but actually it was going to be.

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Not the same every day, but it was just this, it was the same.

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You could, you, weren't going to get off that path.

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There was no real opportunity unless you absolutely left

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education to move anywhere.

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And that felt a bit not trapped maybe, but just, it just, I hadn't really read rugs.

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That's how it was going to be.

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And maybe that was just me being incredibly naive, but yeah, I just

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hadn't thought, oh God, been 30th time.

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I don't really still want to be doing just this.

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I'd quite like to brunch down into.

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And so that kind of led into why I ended up leaving is that I just wanted.

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And sorry, I have to do this, but you took not that path.

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You took very literally different path.

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Yes.

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If my numbers are right, 1047 miles of walking too, I don't know.

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Dare I say, discover yourself or figure out what was next.

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Like I said, teaching.

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Going into teaching.

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Thank you.

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Right?

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This is what I'm going to do.

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I'm going to be brilliant at it.

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I'm going to love every minute of it and I'm, this is where

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I'm going to be in this year's.

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It's great.

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And then when it all, when I realized this absolutely isn't what I want

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to be doing, but I, now, when I can look back on that period of time,

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everything just felt very beige.

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Everything was beige.

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I don't want to live in a beach world.

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I want to live in a rainbow world.

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I want to live where there's vibrancy and, and things going on.

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And I'd absolutely give them.

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So much of myself to teach him.

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I think if you're a good motivate your teacher, you do

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give so much of yourself to it.

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But actually when I left and took a step back, I'd forgotten who I was.

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I'd forgotten who Ellen was, of what Ellen wanted.

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And I needed to do, you know, I came, I moved back from the Midlands.

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We came back home to us Wales where my partner, Alex, he was working.

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And a local bar restaurant.

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I just, for the first time in my life really struggled, I got very anxious.

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I sort of struggled to get out bed because I didn't have a clam and

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that's not, that's very unlike me.

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And I was just bumbling along and I just couldn't find my rhythm again.

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And yeah, Alex was planning to run around Wales and be one of the first people to

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absolutely run the world's coast path.

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And he turned to me, where does.

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I don't mind not running yet, but why don't you walk it with me?

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Why don't we do this walk together?

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And I was really hesitant about it to start with, because it's a thousand

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miles or you came doxing walk.

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This is coming from somebody who could barely go to the shop

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on their own at the moment.

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And what are you talking about?

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I'm just going to say you couldn't even, you were like, I

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didn't want to get out of bed.

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I don't really want to look at them.

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Luckily.

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Yeah, it was just, I think, because it was just so out.

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But it actually was absolutely the right thing to do.

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And yeah, we also gave me something to do.

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Like I could plumb it.

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Like I could look at how many miles was between this place and that place

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and how far we were going to walk.

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And then what did we need in rucksacks of where were we going to get water, food?

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How are we going to do it?

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So for me, then that gave me purpose in my day while we were

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figuring out figuring things out.

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And then, yeah, we quite literally.

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Lock the front door of the house that we're renting, push the key through the

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letter box and set off for three months.

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And yeah, we walked all the way around the, uh, coast of Wales and that apple has

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died, which separates Wells in England.

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And so we, yeah, we absolutely circumnavigated.

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Wow.

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Three months is surprising to me.

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That is a lot of walking per day.

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How much on average it's not, it's actually not like we were slowly.

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People do it much quicker than we did, but we stopped in places.

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It was not because we, I eat obviously left teaching and have

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a little bit of savings from that.

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And Alec spots a little bit saving.

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So we.

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Corn beef bagels.

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Most of the time I list still can't eat bagel PTSD from it.

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But we, we, when we first started the plan promise, oh yeah, we'll be able to just

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smash up 15 to 30 miles a day, you know, Barbara, and then you get on the west

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coast path and it is incredibly beautiful, but it is not an easy pass to walk.

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Some of it is much easier, but a lot of clips that.

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Um, yeah, I think the first day we walked seven miles.

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I think I slept for about 15 hours that light, like it was brief good.

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And the next day, very quickly, then you can pick it up.

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Then I think it was probably 10 or 12 days into the walk and it was really hot.

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Like it's one of the hottest summers I can remember.

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And we were walking and then I finally heard that little voice

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that you get in your head that says, Nicole, and you can do this.

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You've got this, this is your right now.

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You could put one foot in front of the other.

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Yeah.

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You absolutely can do this.

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And it's the first time that I'd really had that in a voice that had got my

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back basically for such a long time.

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And it was a real, I remember it now because I, it was such

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a big thing from that point on, then the whole thing shifted.

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Then we were in it.

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I was properly in it together.

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It was not, oh God, how much longer have we got to go today?

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And this is really hard.

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And I don't think I like this.

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And if I don't like this and I didn't like teaching, what am I going to do?

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And then suddenly it wasn't.

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No, you can do.

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You can watch that you can do 10 miles tomorrow.

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When we'd go round, Hey, on why we weren't.

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We dropped our rucksacks off of the counselor and we'd caught a

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bus that we could go over the brick and beacons into high and wide.

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And we started running, I I'd run downhill.

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I ran my first ever mile.

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And it was like, again, this and that, the light bulb moment went off.

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And then the whole thing shifted.

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So for the second of half of the walk, we'd leave our rucksacks.

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We'd run part of the coax lines.

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This is somebody who hadn't really done anything to suddenly was running and.

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Which was at which I said he was probably the biggest shock of everything.

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I actually jump you'd run bang, but yeah, it was all of these little things on

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the walk that then just cemented that.

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All right.

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Teaching wasn't for me, but I was going to be okay.

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I was going to find something else and that I was a strong

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enough person to make that happen.

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If you told me in teaching that this is where I would be now, I would, this

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is just so far removed from that, but I wouldn't even have been able to imagine

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that this is a thing that I could.

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I definitely want to backtrack a little bit for people that are listening to

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that don't know that much about whales, because I wasn't particularly familiar

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with whales till they moved to the UK.

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And I have to say what you're saying about the coastline.

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I'm a track athlete.

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So I like to think that, you know, I've cycled the Brecon beacons.

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I know that this is not flat country.

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It is however, incredibly beautiful country.

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So I can imagine that these walks as they're getting easier and as

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they're turning into some running and you really are just having,

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I don't know, I'm going to call

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it an awakening, but I just, I spent three days after separating from my

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ex-husband walking in the Midlands.

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Yeah.

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And even those three days, just, it definitely was, there were moments that

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I have told people before that, like my walk of sadness became this walk of hope

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and the countryside was so beautiful.

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So I'm just putting it out there for people that don't have

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a good picture that this is.

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Definitely a place that you can be in some hierarchical and it's tough.

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Yeah.

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It's not easy.

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I know don't hold me to this, but I think the Penn Russia national coast path

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that goes wrong, the national park here, uh, I think if you walk the entirety of

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it, you do more elevation than Everest over the course of, but 180 miles.

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So it's tough.

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It's not an easy thing to do.

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I, I can't imagine anywhere.

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If you get west Wales curriculum Pembroke share on a good day, there is no worth.

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That is absolutely your there's.

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There's no people restarts.

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It's beautiful coastline, crystal clear Walters.

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You are out in the elements.

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So you can walk for eight or nine miles on the coast path and never see

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a building or a chauffeur or anything.

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So that kind of escapism.

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Was absolutely I think what I needed to come back to myself and I'm not a

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big, I don't read lots of self-help books or any of those things, but I've

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been, I think just genuinely being outside sometimes is such a massive

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resource for finding what you need.

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I don't know.

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It probably doesn't make any sense at all, but it absolutely does as the person.

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I don't know when I, when I look at my values or what's important

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to me, one of the things that always comes up is walking.

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I just, and it's, it has nothing to do with actual, it has something

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to do with putting one foot in front of the other, but really

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it is exactly what you just said.

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That there's something about being out, not around as many people.

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Yeah.

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Rugged coastline, whatever that is in, in a wooded area.

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I absolutely fine.

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Something because, cause it's quiet.

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There's just quiet and yeah.

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I mean, it's just you, it's just you and it's just your thoughts

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and there's nothing to strike.

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Do you?

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I don't, I still don't know.

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We'll still go for walk.

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I don't take my phone with me.

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I don't, I don't take pictures of what I'm doing.

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I don't have to think about all of the other things and it's just me.

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There's some thing it's beautiful enough to nave one for, for it to be at that

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you don't have to think about that your body will just naturally do that.

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Therefore you've got time to process and access to things that are going on in your

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brain and your thoughts and your emotions.

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And I think, yeah, just, I still do it now, if I'm, if there's something

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stressful going on, if I've had an email that I need to really think

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about Lago and walk out and I'll just, you know, we'll walk fields here.

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I gave myself that little bit of time before I have to respond to

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some thing, because it just gives me that little moment of clarity.

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I think you weren't doing anything hospitality related, but your partner had

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been working restaurant bar kind of thing.

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Was there any, what was the moment that you saw something along the

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trail or that you made a decision?

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What kind of inspired in the Welsh wind?

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Yeah.

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So while we were doing this walk, it absolutely cemented that we

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wanted to do something to get.

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So when we came home, we, that was the goal.

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Let's do something together because when I was teaching, Alex

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had gone back to study and work.

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And when you're teaching, it's very much a closed door.

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He couldn't come in and see me be a teacher.

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He couldn't be a part of my working life.

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So it was really important for him that we were working together, that

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we were part of each other's lives.

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If we were away from each other for eight hours of the day, let's be

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together for eight hours per day.

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And we came back and there was.

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I think probably a year, two years or something like that in between the

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walk and I'm setting up in the world.

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Schwind so we did a few things.

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We, we tried to start a food business together.

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We helped with his parents holiday accommodation and that kind of thing.

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And then after quite busy summer of serving food to the guests

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that came and stayed there.

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We took our son that we'd had at that point, he was just over one,

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up to Scotland in the camp of honor.

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And we did all of the north coast 500, which is 500 miles all the way around

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the north, north coast of Scotland.

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And we were on holiday.

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We stopped in every distillery you find, because why wouldn't you stop

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and drink gin and whiskey and take some balls and have a fantastic time.

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And we found, Alex went into this tiny little shop in the middle of

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nowhere and found this bottle of Jenn and he took it to the counter.

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I think.

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It was quite shocked at the price of it because it was a 40 plus pound bottle

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of gin, which we were big gin drinkers.

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It wasn't, it was like, wow, a lot more than a bottle of cheap vodka.

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Wait for the night we got into the van and we were reading the

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back of it and we tasted it.

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I was like, wow, this is really tastes like.

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I think this part of Scotland feels like, and we found that the

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company on social media and we sit on it, can we come and visit you?

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Because we love to Jen, please come buy some more bottles

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for the rest of our journey.

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And they were like, yeah, we don't really have a shot, but yeah,

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you're welcome to come and see us.

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So we, we went and found them and they have this tiny little shed

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with a little still in there and they just make him some bottles.

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And we were asking him questions like, how did you do this?

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Why did you do this?

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All these kinds of things.

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We must've both been thinking the same thing because about three days later and

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we've just turned to each other and the bottle of wine, I think we could do that.

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Why can't we do that was then the kind of inspiration for the Welsh wind.

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The name actually came from with the big Walker when we were walking, instead of

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having to ring and phone every member of the family every night, so that they

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knew that we were still alive and safe.

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We wrote a blog that was called in the world twins, and it comes from if you're a

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spy at you and you disappear, you go into.

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You're lost in the wind.

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And then obviously we were then walking in the wind.

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I was a bit lost.

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We found ourselves in the Welsh wind.

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It always made sense that, and we lived it so much that we always knew

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that when we found the thing that we were going to do, it was always

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going to be in the wild Schwinn.

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So when we thought, right, why not make Jen let's consider, let's just do

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a little mixed Jen, sell it locally.

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It will be enough to keep me and Alex and Austin TV.

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I'll be fine.

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We'll be happy with.

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And that was on the birth of, in the Welsh when.

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It's interesting.

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You say that it came from the walk and the name and everything, because when I heard

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it, I just assumed what you were saying about Scotland tasting this gin that

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you, you could taste where it was made.

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And I know one of, one of my favorite gins, I cannot

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tell you the name of it now.

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And I shouldn't anyway, cause I don't want to advertise for somebody else.

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It's an Irish gin that tastes.

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And I envisioned in the Welsh wind, the taste of whales, if you will windy.

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And like I said, from the parts of rugged and things like that, so it goes along

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so well with what you're actually doing.

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Let's see.

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Yeah.

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And when we first set at the business, the goal and the beautiful laity of

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our first business plan, um, cashflow forecast on I every now and again,

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I'd dig it out to look at the fact that I thought we could genuinely

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spend the a hundred pounds a month on marketing and we would be brilliant

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just like the Butte or so beautiful.

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I live there.

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It makes me very happy to live cadet.

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Yeah.

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That's why you started a business.

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Cause you had no idea what you were doing.

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We wanted to make 3000 bottles of gin a year.

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We were approached by a friend of ours where the bar said, oh, if you're making

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jet and can you meet me 50 meters and I can sell it as our house, Jen off the bar.

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And we're like, yeah, you want to give us a lump sum of money and then you have

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to take it away and do all of the work so that we fell into custom spirits.

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So we made.

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To date.

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Now we probably made about 50 different gens, right?

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30 different companies.

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And in all of that time, we never really developed their own gen cause we were

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so busy making jam for the people.

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And then we finally decided that enough is enough.

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We're 18 months old.

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We have to have our own gen on the market now.

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So in the washroom signature style is an expression of this part of Coke's line.

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So we were.

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I have week.

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I don't have time to go out and forage for lots of things.

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So we've looked at different ways of showing what this

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part of the Cokes were in it.

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So a lot of the botanicals, the ingredients, the flavors that you

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find in that gen products that would have been brought in along

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the coastline at the port there.

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So there's a little pull up the coastline hand, new key.

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That's got, still got the landing boards.

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So things that would come in on the boats and the prices of them.

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So nearly every botanical that we use is on those landing boards.

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So.

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Oranges team currents, baking spices then becomes synonymous with

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Welsh beat king and things like bought a breech and Welsh cakes.

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So we may not grow the botanicals here, but they are,

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or they've been adopted as well.

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Shatara calls and that kind of authenticity.

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Feeling of community and place.

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There's what we try and run through everything that we do have.

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I'm just looking it's 1227 in the afternoon here.

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So it's probably a little early for me to pour it.

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It's like, as you're describing it, my mouth is literally.

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But I was like, oh, orange and T and Jen, and then I wanted a Welsh cake

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as well, so perfect to company rent.

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So obviously you planned on starting or only had aspirations to stay very small.

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That hasn't happened other than, okay.

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We're 18 months in.

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We have to make our own gin.

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What kind of changes who's come along.

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That's made you want to grow made you want to change?

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Yeah, we were in a tiny, it was a used to be the old cow shed.

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Alex's parents.

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Farm dairy farm for the area.

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And it's all converted us.

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There's no animals, so it's not farm anymore, but we'd come converted

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it and had the, uh, still in there.

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And, um, we needed to meet Jen and Alex and I had booked holiday

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for flight first, a broad holiday.

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We went to Finland, see some snow with us.

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So we are about to take on an employee so that we could go because

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we needed somebody to make the gen.

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So we took on an employee.

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And then that very quickly grew to another two employees.

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So we had one person helping us to still one person helping us do

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website and social media and things.

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And then one person who would help us do all the bottling and leave lake.

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So for a long time, for a year, it was only the five of us in that year.

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We had absolutely outgrown the space that we were at.

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So our first or really big challenges business.

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Well, what are we going to do?

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Where are we going to go?

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Because we're already too big for the space that we

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thought we'd never grew out of.

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So we were just driving along the main road, main coax road here in west Wales.

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And we passed what is quite a landmark pub Alma coach road, hair.

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And it's normally described as the beautifully ugly building.

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So it is an ugly building.

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It's not a beautiful building to look up, but in its ugliness, it is absolutely.

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So we'd always look to an Alex.

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I remember Alex saying that would make a brilliant distillery.

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And I was like, Alex, and you, and say, we've been going less than a year.

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We've got no money.

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How are we ever going to end up with enough money to be in a place like that?

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And Alex being Alex, he, the only way I w he is steps one, two, and 10, and I have

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all of the steps in between, between us.

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We're the perfect combination.

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And he just went and spoke to the owners and said, if you're ever wanting to sell.

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Please will you let us know?

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And they said, watch these put on the market for years.

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And we haven't really had any interest.

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So Alex came up with this brilliant, let's give us a year.

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We've gotten there, we've got their money.

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And we didn't tell them what we say, but give us a year, let us, let us move in.

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Let us do what we want to do there.

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And if any, yet we haven't raised the money to buy it.

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Then we leave.

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So it was a massive risk.

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And I was like, how am I here?

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I hope you're enjoying the episode.

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I promised one more thing you could do to help the second chapter's mission.

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Would you buy me a coffee?

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Yes.

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I love coffee, but this one's virtual.

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If you like what?

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You're listening to head over to coffee.com.

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That's K O dash F i.com and support the podcast by buying

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me a coffee or lots of them.

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There's also a button you can click@thesecondchapterpodcast.com.

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If that's easier.

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Thank you.

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Thank you as always so much for your.

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Here we go.

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This is kind of, yeah, this is tough.

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I'm going to slung along for the ride.

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Now let's just go.

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We absolutely jumped in.

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And so we took it over in March, 2019.

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So we had a year to then enact the option to buy the premises.

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So we gutted it and read it all the front.

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So at no point, was there any possibility that we weren't going

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to raise the money for this?

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Cause we absolutely committed to this place.

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And we worked with the development bank of Wales and they, they gave us part of

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the loan and we raised some money for the other part of the loan and that we

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signed for this on March 18th, 2020.

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So if you know your dates three days before the first locked out

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in the UK, I was like, this story is going very much toward lockdown.

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Yeah, you, yeah.

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You knew it.

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Yeah, it was.

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Yeah, who doesn't take on a massive, great big building three days before the whole

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world waits ugly shuts down for two years.

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So that was a huge, so just getting the building was a massive challenge

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and then keeping the building has been the second sort of biggest

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challenge we've grown from.

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So there were the five bursts.

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And unfortunately we took on a business manager in January towards 20.

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So we were like, okay, let's do this.

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We've got this new building with boss.

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We're going to buy it.

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Let's plot events.

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Let's do things.

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That's push, let's have her and Jen, or do all this amazing stuff.

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And then March cane.

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And we had to furlough the three staff that we'd had with us, burst

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Joe, when home to work from home.

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And then there's just me at Alex and our son was three at the time.

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Left in this great big building that we w you know, what were we

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going to do soon as this building your home, as well as the December?

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Yeah, so we was staying here at the time, just in like between moving from

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one house to another, but we ended up being here for nearly 18 months then,

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because we couldn't move because of restrictions and things like that.

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So we were living above that working.

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So it was just like 24, 7, 7 days a week.

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Just fun as the only word I'm gonna use to describe it.

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But yeah, we were just alone in this great big building and yeah, it was,

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it's been a really interesting couple of years, you know, COVID has thrown up

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so many challenges for so many people.

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But then we've also had some fantastic successes in those two years as well.

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So it's not all been bad.

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We survived.

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We're coming out.

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The other end of it.

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Now, hopefully we, this kind of biggest thing that I'm the most proud of during

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the last two years is making hands on it.

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So then we were trying to find an early part of March.

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We were trying to buy handsome ties and it, you just couldn't buy it anywhere.

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And Alex was like, how do we even make him sanitize it?

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Is it something that we could do?

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And it turns out that the world health organization recommended hundred

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formulation is basically four ingredients of which we had all of in the distillery.

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So we made like a bucket of hand sanitizer and put it into the

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bottles for our staff to use.

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And we put one photograph on Instagram.

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Oh, the bottle of hand sanitizer and the quote underneath, it was

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something like to do something very different in the distillery today,

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helping to keep our staff safe.

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And from that one bottle on social media, we've ended up doing about

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44,000 liters of hand sanitizer.

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I mean, it was a time that everybody, I know that the struggle I was having

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to go and buy hand sanitizer, and it was like, you had to have it.

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You couldn't just, and every pharmacy, every chem, everybody around me was

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like, no, we haven't had it for weeks or.

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I don't know, probably my own slow to react type thing, but I'm not surprised,

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but it is interesting to be able to turn it around from ingredients that

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you already had in, then the struggle.

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Right.

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Well, cause then we had people were ringing us.

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They were phone is cut to turn the answer, phone message up on the phone.

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Because every time I took a phone call, there were three more

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answer phone messages that we had.

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People queuing down the driveway to the distillery.

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They were bringing empty, washing up liquid bottles, milk

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bottles, buckets, anything that they could get handsome plays.

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Right.

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And for the first sort of two, three weeks, we were

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just literally giving it away.

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If you could come, if you had something to put it in.

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Take it away, please be safe.

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Keep yourself safe.

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We had doctors, police officers, social services that are an ally.

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You name it?

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I have donated given gifted any number of amounts of hand

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sanitizer, and then Joe from home.

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Working with bigger companies and trying to get us some contracts and things.

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So we ended up making handsome size of four of the weld councils.

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We at one point every post person for Royal mail in the south and west

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had a bottle of our hands on as well.

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Because we'd worked with our local post office to do that.

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And then they told their head office and they told that, and we suddenly,

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we were doing all of this stuff that we had a three-year-old and there's

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me and Alex, and we're doing thousands of these little 50 mil bottles.

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And my son learned to count by counting bottles of hand sanitizer, because you

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could fit five hand sanitizers in a row.

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And you could get five rows of five before you needed to do a layer and then you get

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another layer and then you can credit it.

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So you could count to five, like nobody's business after that garner by confused.

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But when to fight, we're brilliant out by the end.

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That's one of those things that's like, tell me it's 2020

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without saying it's 20 funny.

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My son learned to count by counting bottles of heads at a time.

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So other than the obvious COVID challenges, you're in an industry

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that does tend to be, as far as I know, fairly male dominated.

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Have there been challenges, even though you have this business with your

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husband, is it something that you've seen people being resistant to talk

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to you as an equal, because you're a woman or, you know, just surprise

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that you're heading up this big.

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I think it's stranger.

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Sometimes people are really receptive and they have no issue with the fact

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that I'm a woman running a business.

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And then other times you get people come to the door and I'd go and greet them.

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And I'm like, oh, hi, I'm Alan.

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You know?

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And they instantly are looking for the.

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Then instantly looking for that male figure who was running the show.

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And obviously, Alex, I work very closely together.

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Alex is very much the kind of creative, his palette is incredible, but creating

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the gyms and the big picture business part of the business, but I'm very

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much the paperwork, the recording, then making sure things are happening, the

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keeping on top of everything and that Joe opposites on the Jesuits with this.

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The mice combination of both of those things.

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And then we've got Sally who does all of my PR HR, everything.

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If she didn't, again, the four of us balanced each other out as well.

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But yeah, it is, it's difficult because people sometimes just don't

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think that you can do what it is that you're saying that you can do.

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And I do.

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I struggle sometimes because it just annoys me.

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It just annoys me that they think that I can't do it.

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It just makes me cross.

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And then that fuels me.

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And to doing it and doing it better and doing it more and doing it harder or

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whatever it is that I'm doing needs to be bigger and better so that they, they

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have to turn around and go, oh, what.

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Whoops.

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I should have recognized that you could do that in the first place.

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Yeah.

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It annoys me that I even have to ask that question, but I was

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looking at it going, you know what?

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You don't see a woman heading up a distillery very often.

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And you know, whether it's with a partner, whether it's, and yeah.

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It's the FA any kind of business.

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There is still that tendency.

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I've had somebody come round here.

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Once somebody that I had called as like a trades person and said to Google, where

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can I talk to the Mister or something?

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And I was like, I own this flat.

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I called you.

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This is 2022.

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I get, can I speak to the boss?

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Speaking it's me.

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I'm here.

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We talked a lot about gin, but you're not just speaking gin.

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And I was really excited to read about whiskey because I love

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whiskey and that you're growing grains for whiskey and yeah.

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And I know that distilling, but they're very different as far as I can understand.

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So tell me a bit about this newer whiskey project.

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Yeah.

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So when I versus star in the business of Alex, it was just Jen.

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And I think Alex always had this kind of inkling, this kind of secret.

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I'm not going to tell anyone about this thing yet, because it's going to throw

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her, but I'll just wait a little while to let this come through and yeah, whiskey.

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So whiskey is a really special liquid.

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It's off the land.

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And for us here in this community where we're farming community,

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that's what everything farming and fishing and the ports were about.

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So whiskey was in the head of natural progression where we wanted to go

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heavily influenced by Alex, wanted to make whiskey cause he loves whiskey.

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But for us, then we looked at how can we make this whiskey?

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As authentic as possible, as well as get a degree on the county that we're

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in, as we can possibly make care.

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And for us, then it was an absolute, no brainer that we wanted to grow our own.

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Barley.

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I know that barley grows here.

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It's mainly grown here because it's used for cattle feed, but

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wouldn't it be an incredible thing.

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If we could grow barley and make money from it that you know, that

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we can genuinely boost the Welsh economy and so many different ways.

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If we could prove that we could grow and make something incredible from Bali.

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So we dug up the front field at the distillery here and

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we put down our first Bali.

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And the really sad part of that was is that it happened two

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weeks after the first lockdown.

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So there was no one here to see it.

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And it was this incredibly big moment for us and yeah.

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FaceTime Joe, so that Joe would see it.

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Cause I was, he couldn't be here and it was just this, it was just

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like beautifully, happy, sad moment.

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But yeah, we grew up as finally entered to 20, so it was ready to be

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harnessed and tried to try to one.

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Yeah, we grow our own body hair, Sean, our farmer from the local farm

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comes and he ha he grows it with us.

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Harvest set, takes them out to the farm to dry it, and then he

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delivers it to us and like wouldn't.

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Box on they've arrived this morning on the back of a trailer.

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You know, this is very rural and easygoing yet.

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We then Molter in-house so we don't send it away to be killed and dried.

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If we wanted to send it away to be killed and dried, which kind of is

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the standard practice for whiskey.

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It would have to go all the way over to sung Leah.

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Dried in this really hot over and using a huge amount of

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electricity and energy and then be transported all the way back to us.

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And that for us just didn't sit, right?

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So we looked at alternative ways of doing it.

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So we green malt here.

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So we take the body, we put it into a steep tank.

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So basically we wet and dry it over the course of about three days.

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And then we lay out on the floor.

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We've got malting floor in house.

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Sounds very polished.

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It's just floor bottom in with a bit of wood and we rake

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it out and we turn it over.

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But yeah, we do all that on the floor here.

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So it sits there for sort of four or five days on it.

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And essentially what we're trying to do is make that green think that

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it's underground and wants to grow because what I want it to do is I want

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it to use a bit of carbohydrate it's energy and convert into sugar to grow.

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And then the.

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It's what I access to meet the, the whiskey, the alcohol from.

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So yeah, we do.

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And like return, turn it.

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Then we sort of mint sets not palletizers, but it just minced up barley then.

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And we put that straight into our style.

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So we then distill all the grain.

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Uh, the distilleries will take the liquid off that and use the

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liquid and distill the liquid.

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Whereas we're still using that Bali in the, still to give us more flavor

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or the moment we have to use it.

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I use that we'll buy in, but we are working with our local university

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and Abbott Australia to create an.

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Yeast.

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So in the next couple of years we'll have that.

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So again, that's just in the element of whales and kind of dig

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beyond that we'll have in there.

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And then yeah, we just sit it on the green.

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So it sits informants for a few days and then we distill it.

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And then what we get out at the other end is the new mix spirit.

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So we've been producing that for properly, fully, not in our experimentation,

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pays for a couple of minutes now, you know, and it, it tastes amazing.

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The first part of whiskey is that new make spirit, that first

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bit of liquid that comes off the stead and the slaver there is the.

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And the use that you've used to give you that fermentation and we

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get these beautiful hints of melon, golden sitar nose, fresh cut grass.

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It's special.

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If I think about all the people that have been involved in making it, all of my

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staff that I've got here now, and I've got 15 full-time staff now all live within

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We all live within like 20 minutes of the distillery.

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They're all young, enthusiastic staff, the whiskey.

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Brulee speaks of this part of Wales.

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It's all the land.

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It's all of the people we work with the community and it's, for

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me, it's something really special.

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It's something that no matter what else happens with the business and what else we

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do, if we can get one ball at three years in a day, that could be called Welch.

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Whiskey dies is a hundred percent.

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Welsh whiskey with grain grown within 10 miles of the distillery with water

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from the bore hole that we've got out of the bucket that's been made with local

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people in the community and in line.

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Then for me, that is the kind of pinnacle legacy, everything that we

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will ever have wanted to achieve here.

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So I've got a little bit of time to wait 20, 24, 25 for it to be in a bottle.

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So I've got to keep going for another few years to get to that point, but

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it's able to create something like.

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It's beyond what I ever would dream that we would achieve here.

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It's interesting hearing you talk about the young people that

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are working with you as well.

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You very specifically said at the beginning, like I want to teach people

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and I want to help people, young people.

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And obviously you've had so much to learn because this isn't something

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that you've always been doing.

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I mean, what you're talking about these grains and I'm just.

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Wow.

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And then you had to figure out how green rain and what is

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that and how does that look?

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But then the fact that you're passing it on and that you're getting other

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people excited about this, that how that affects their life and the

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local communities is really exciting.

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Again, it comes back to this whole, I love teaching.

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I don't love being a teacher, but I do so much teaching in my everyday.

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Light and my working life now, you know, we've been incredibly lucky

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under the by-product of COVID.

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Is that when all of these students finished at university, there

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was no jobs for them to go into.

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There was no career for them, a lot of, so they came here.

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Uh, life Mohnish to snap them up.

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And I got them and I, for the time that I've got them, I want them to be

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as brilliant as I know that they are.

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I said, we heavily invest in training.

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Everybody who comes does this four or five courses that every single

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person in the distillery has done.

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And then they get put on different courses for leadership women in business training,

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all of these different elements of things.

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So.

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They're in their twenties, their early twenties.

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I know they're not going to be with me.

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I hope that they're with me forever.

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They're probably not going to be with me forever.

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I don't want, they should be off doing other things and exploring things

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and going places and stuff like that.

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But when they do, I want their next employer to not be able to turn them

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down because they are so heavily squirt, skilled and qualified.

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Did they, well, nobody's going to say no to them.

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And that for me is my goal.

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And we are, we're a strong female team here.

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I employ more females than men, which is a bit of a skew for the

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decelerating world, but the women I've got working with me here.

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That's so talented.

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Yeah.

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That keen they're young, they're motivated.

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They want to do well.

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They can see what we're doing here and why it's important and

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where the business is going.

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And they keen to just push forward all the time.

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So even when I'm like, oh my God, I'm so tired.

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The alarms all went off at three o'clock in the morning.

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Last night, I've had to come to the distillery and haven't slept.

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I've had four hours sleep and they're there and they're like, no, no, no, right.

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Let's go here.

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Let's do this.

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This is what we're doing in August.

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Let's do that.

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Yes.

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Yes.

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Just, yes, you're brilliant.

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And it's just, it's exciting to be a part of that.

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And in any way, shape or form thing.

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By me owning a business and leading a business that they can see that

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it's a possibility that you can do that, that you can change career

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and do something entirely different that you have absolutely no

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qualifications, but be successful.

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And I think that's a really nice thing to be you don't role model is a bit strong,

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that person, where they might see as.

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Well, I'm going to call it a role model.

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That's amazing.

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I also was joking with you.

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I wasn't even joking, but before we got on the call, I was saying

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that the podcast is so bad for me.

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Cause I'm always so inspired by what people are doing that I'm like, oh, but

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looking at the photos on your website.

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Please.

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I'm not a 20 something, but I'm very enthusiastic.

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Would you take American coming out to Wales from London?

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Seriously?

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It just looks like not seriously of tire me, but seriously, it looks like

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such an amazing, beautiful place.

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And hearing you speak about it is so inspirational.

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I think it's, it is a special place.

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We're a long way away from anywhere.

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If you come from Linden, it's four hours from London, you've got

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to really want to be in Canada.

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To be here, but you can get to promotion quicker.

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It's closer to the M four, but for here we are an hour and 20

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minutes from the end of the M four.

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And that it's all little tiny back roads.

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It's not easy to get here, but once you comes candidate young,

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I think it gets into your blood.

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There's something about this place that.

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Special or we get a lot of people who come on holiday here every year,

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who then retire here or move here.

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And there is this, there is a real community here and it's

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a strong wealth community.

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There is a lot of well-spoken here.

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They're very welcoming to people coming in or speaking English and.

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It's a really special place to be.

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And for me, it doesn't matter what we do with the business and where

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we go or how successful it is.

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It's always going to have a base hair.

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I don't, I personally don't want to live anywhere else.

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You, if Alex wants to jet off somewhere, that's fine, but the best for me.

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If there is, it's just, I use the word special about a hundred

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times, but that's the only word I can think of to describe it here.

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And I think if you can get to candidate, y'all have the opportunity to see the

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coastline and the people and the places and think, I think that's the, it would

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be a good thing for a lot of people.

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Like I said, at the beginning, I knew so little about Wales before

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moving to the UK, but it's definitely a place I fallen in love with.

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I get there as I go as often as I can, because it's just.

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Special.

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I'm going to use your word.

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I'm going on holiday tomorrow.

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I'm going all the way down to the mumbles, which is an hour and a half

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away, our closing, my low birth.

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And then in August, we're going to Anglesea, which is a whole two hours away.

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That's the thing with whales is there's so many different law.

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It's not a big country.

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You can drive the whole thing in like less than four hours, but it

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takes three months to walk around it.

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It does exactly that.

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And it's just, there's so many different, amazing places here.

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It's just this one.

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I agree.

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I did call you inspirational, but I asked you to bring a quote as well.

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That might inspire you.

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Did you bring a quote for me?

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I really struggled with this and I looked, I thought, okay.

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I looked a line.

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I was like, inspirational quotes.

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What one sits in, in the bass.

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Like I don't, I just, I remember reading one.

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That was something it was, you should ask for forgiveness, not permission.

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And I'm not sure that it's my favorite one, but a lot of the time, the phrase

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that we use all the time with the decider is what's the worst that could have.

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Which kind of sits with that.

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What's the worst that could happen.

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It's about calculated risks.

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Everything in business is about calculated risk is how much are we going to spend?

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How much are we going to make?

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Can we do this or will this work and other sorts of things, but

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what is the worst that can happen?

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The worst that can happen?

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Isn't it doesn't work.

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It doesn't succeed.

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You fail, but failure.

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Isn't the opposite of success.

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Failure is a learning.

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It's a curve.

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It's a.

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All right.

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It didn't work.

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Why didn't it work?

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Let's learn something from that.

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And we have made big mistakes, little mistakes, mistakes that

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have cost us a lot of money and mistakes that are easily solved.

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But from all of those, you learn something.

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So that phrase what's the worst that could happen.

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It probably gets used far too often.

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It is that genuinely.

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What are the outcomes of this work?

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It's not death than less.

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Let's have a go.

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Let's just do it.

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Let's try it at least.

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And let's see how it works and if it doesn't work alright fine.

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We'll try something else.

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And I think that is that, you know, adds into the kind of flexibility

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of what we do and how we feel here.

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I have to say when you're like, oh, I was like looking online,

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inspirational quotes to me.

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That's the ideal version of inspirational quotes.

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It's something that every day you use, it applies to you.

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That's what I'm looking for.

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So even if it's something like, well, what's the risk.

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I mean, I imagine when you were early days, especially all the

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custom gins and stuff, it was like, well, let's try a handful of this.

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What's the worst that can happen.

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Cause that's how you make recipe to begin with.

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You.

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Don't start with perfect recipe for example.

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So that's what I'm looking for.

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So thank you for that quote, because I'm sure today alone, I'll

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have to say that about 10 times.

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I think people overlook.

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I think people genuinely, I am absolutely guilty of this is that I overthink so

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many things and I think about things and they roll around in my head and it was,

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Alex will think thing, make a decision.

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He's 15 steps on the line.

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And I am still trying to get from step one to step two, because I can't wrap my head

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around how we're going to do all of it.

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And then I do have to stop myself and think what is the worst that can happen.

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All right.

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We go down this path.

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It doesn't work well.

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Okay.

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Let's go down a different path.

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I think for me in managing my mental health and making sure that I'm okay.

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And that we're, even though we're doing all this amazing stuff in the

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business, that me and Alexa civil, right.

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It is stop overthinking it.

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Just have a go try.

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What's the worst that could happen.

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Okay, great.

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It worked fantastic.

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Let's move on.

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It is those sorts of things.

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I think it's not just the business thing for me though.

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It's like personal, like mantra as well.

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I have to just constantly remind myself what is the worst that can happen.

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It's not that bad then.

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Is it like.

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There's been a million different things that have been completely new for you.

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You've had to say that so many times, but what's next?

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Is there something that's not secret that you that's on the radar?

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That's the next big, what's the worst.

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So we've got, we've been, we've worked hard.

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We've got planning permission of the distillery.

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Now have to extend the building and build two big cask warehouses.

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So we can properly lay down lots of whiskey and have lots

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of liquid and stuff like that.

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But we've also got planning committee.

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Well pre-planning application for a education and resource center.

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So at the moment in Wales, you basically can't train in

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distilling or spirits or whiskey.

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I think you can do some small courses in brewing, but

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nothing that's internationally accredited qualification or.

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So when we first started, I'm excited.

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Like one of us has got to go do a course.

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We've got to learn how to do this properly.

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And it was either go to London for five days, which we couldn't afford that.

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And we had three year old, so it wasn't going to be easy for me and

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all him and all, you had to go to the very, very north of Scotland.

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Neither of those places were easy for somebody in west Wales to get to.

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And then when we take on staff, I'd love it.

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If my sellers could go to Sheffield for five days, but.

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Hey, I can't afford to lose them from the distillery because

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I need them here doing stuff.

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And shepherds have weighed in all the way away from my six or seven hours dry.

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And then can the business at that time afford to pay accommodation for seven

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nights, because if anyone's going away for seven nights, I'd rather do it with me.

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And.

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It was that kind of thing.

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So for me building this education resource center so that we can host

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courses, have people come in and do things, how people from all over

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Wales and England nearby come and learn with it and use the distillery

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and have this as a resource center.

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That for me, I'm very excited about.

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It's like your path has gone in this.

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I keep coming up with these really annoying.

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Oh, it's like an analogy.

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If you walked around Wales, you've walked back into this kind of teaching thing.

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Like it's in your blood, but you're doing it your way, which is so cool.

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Yeah.

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I think I'd say it is that.

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Yeah.

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It's like a live TV.

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I love it.

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I love sharing what I know with other people.

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I love learning from other people as a student.

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I loved reading and that kind of full learning, but actually now,

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especially after the last two years of not seeing anyone, I like being

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with people and learning and seeing and doing and those, those things.

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And if I can share that with other people, Then that for me is the

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thing that probably makes me the most white professionally happy.

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I'm personally happy as far as congratulations on finding it.

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First of all, it's not always an easy thing to do and the success so far.

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And just to remind everybody it's Ellen from in the Welsh wind.

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Thank you for being with me today.

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I've really loved hearing your story.

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Thanks for listening.

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If you enjoyed the episode, tell a friend, follow us on Instagram and sign

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up for the second chapter newsletter.

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