A festive fixer
PUBLISHED: 12:48 29 November 2016
Jo Charles and Dave Harrison's cottage is full of seasonal atmosphere and charm. Words and images: Tony Hall
There are certain people who have an ability to make things happen. They are highly valued, particularly in the American film industry, where they are known as ‘fixers’. They sort everything a location crew needs, but primarily, they have a contacts book to die for. One person who really fits the bill is Jo Charles.
Jo and husband Dave Harrison, a primary school teacher at Snape, bought a Grade II listed cottage built in 1485, a pub that closed its doors in 1932, in a north Suffolk market town.
“In 2004,” recalls Jo, “I had had enough of London, and having frequent trips up here to see friends in Theberton, I decided to start looking. When I first saw the particulars, I only glanced at them as it had been photographed from the back. It was only on closer inspection I saw the Georgian front and inside the smoke stained beams, the witches’ marks the wiggly floors, the old tap room and the large fireplaces. They sold the property to me.”
Jo was born in Oxford and was there for two years before moving to East Hanney, Oxfordshire. After school in Abingdon, and university at Bristol, where she studied German and Spanish, she went to gain work experience in Vienna as a nanny, and then at the Hotel Post in Zermatt, run by the legendary Karl Ivarsson. As a result her knowledge of languages is excellent – she speaks French, Italian, German and Spanish.
“I was 21,” she says. “Zermatt really was a fun place to go, though my parents said the inevitable, ‘when are you going to get a proper job?’ Well I did, sort of, as a trolley dolly with Air 2000.”
Since then, Jo has worked as a recruiter for a London agency, then as a management consultant, before coming to Suffolk in 2003. She now concentrates her considerable skills on public relations, marketing and events. She has organised weddings at Butley Priory, corporate events and sponsorship at Snape for Aldeburgh Music, works at Latitude, for Cirque du Soleil around Europe, BBC 2 Proms in Hyde Park and music festivals in Oxfordshire and Nottinghamshire, plus yearly trips to Zermatt to manage a chalet.
Jo and Dave married in 2007. Originally from Ulverston, Cumbria, Dave was working in the Midlands, before joining Jo in Suffolk.
To someone of Jo’s talents, organising a family Christmas is a doddle.
“I love the whole thing,” she says. “I start at the beginning of December, with the tree going up. Then it’s Christmas music straight on, decorations up, followed by a bottle of fizz by the lit fire.
I make wreaths, not just for the front door, but for neighbours too. I like to go to every Christmas market and the carol services in local churches, followed by mulled wine. I judge each service on its minced pies and wine! One of my favourites is Spexhall Church, by candlelight.
“On Christmas Eve it’s down to the farm for the Brussels sprouts, before the 3.30pm Christingle service at the local church with all the locals, and back here for drinks and a candle lit meal at 8pm, with canapés and fish pie. This year my parents are coming – fantastic. Christmas morning it’s mulled wine at Hugh and David’s Beach-hut on Southwold prom, with sausage rolls and mince pies, while watching the swimmers.
“Back here, we have Christmas lunch of roast beef in the tap room. In the evening it’s around the fire, maybe some TV, board games and drinks with snacks. Boxing Day after a morning walk it’s a buffet lunch, and on the 28th it’s Dad’s birthday. In the lead-up for New Years Eve, I help out at a friend’s private party in Walberswick. Then soon into the New Year, it’s off to Zermatt as usual, for a mix of hard work and skiing, to get fit after the indulgences of Christmas.”
Jo’s favourite room – and not just at Christmas – is the main sitting room, with its magical fireplace and smoky beams, although she says the tap room next door, used as a dining room, is equally great, especially for singing carols around the piano.
“My favourite waste of time, is just sitting looking at glossy magazines by the fire in winter and walking by the sea at Southwold in summer. A favourite walk is from Southwold to Walberswick, calling in to my favourite shop, Tinkers on the green, run by Sarah, who has a great eye.
“Two favourite pubs are the Bell at Walberswick (very cosy) and The Anchor, also in Walberswick, which has the very best hand-cut chips. A long walk I do when I have time, is on the back road to Wissett and back across the fields. It takes about two hours, then I flop on the sofa in front of a roaring fire. Total bliss!
“I love the community of this town, everything to hand – butcher, baker, greengrocer, library, banks, and so on. We even have an art centre, run by volunteers, for film, plays, live music and exhibitions.
“In the summer I love an early morning cuppa in my garden, gardening being a hobby. I am so fortunate to get involved with exciting projects here and away. If anyone requires a fixer, wants something to happen, I love a challenge!”
With special thanks from Tony Hall to Jo and Dave for all their hard work preparing for photo-shoot. Much appreciated!
Jo Charles is on 07876 566757
At a glance
Owners: Jo Charles and Dave Harrison
Property: Grade II listed former inn
Built: 1485, with additions, including the Georgian front
Location: North Suffolk market town.
Favourite room: The main sitting room, with its magical fireplace and smoky beams, and the tap room
Favourite item: Eric, the cat.
Favourite interiors shop: Tinkers on the green at Walberswick
Favourite part of the county: The beach and village at Walberswick
Favourite day out: Snape Maltings and Aldeburgh Music
Favourite waste of time: Sitting looking at glossy magazines by the fire in winter, by the sea at Southwold in summer.
Favourite walk: The back road to Wissett, and back across the fields – about two hours.
Favourite pub: The Bell, and The Anchor, both at Walberswick