In a sector where temptation is everywhere, the Ark is an organisation that makes a difference, says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock The risk of becoming a slave to drugs and alcohol is known to be particularly high within our industry, as Phil Howard so eloquently explained when speaking on behalf of the Ark Foundation at the Master Innholders conference last month.
This is hardly surprising when you consider the pressures many people work under while surrounded by temptation. As in showbusiness, the need to put one's daily "performance" ahead of all other priorities can lead those of an addictive nature to let things slip in their personal lives, sometimes with terrible consequences.
It was, therefore, with a cautious air that I joined a small group in France for a couple of days recently as guests of a famous producer of Fine Champagne Cognac. The trip was highly educational and I marvelled at the care taken to create a consistently superb spirit that is finding new fans in all parts of the world.
Our interesting mixed party included representatives of hotel groups, award-winning restaurants and London's trendiest bars and I was struck, not only by their insatiable appetites for knowledge concerning alcoholic beverages, but also by their equally enthusiastic thirst for the products themselves. This extended beyond the generously provided wines and Cognac and included eager tasting of the raw Eau de Vie that emerges from the still at 70% abv.
Things came to a head on the morning of our departure when I was detailed to fetch one member of the group who had failed to appear when the bus came to take us to the airport. After knocking on his bedroom door many times I was finally confronted by the sight of a naked hotelier, his eyes betraying the haunted look of one whose rest has been less than satisfactory, barking a staccato series of expletives while hunting urgently for suitable clothes to don.
The scene reminded me of a chef with whom I worked about 30 years ago. He habitually treated his insomnia with large slurps of "Night Nurse" just as dawn approached and was, therefore, often quite unable to wake for breakfast service, leaving yours truly to handle the bacon and eggs. Once on his feet he worked diligently until the last plate left his kitchen, before retiring nightly to the bar in a futile attempt to drown his sorrows.
Had the Ark existed then, I believe it might have saved him.