Monday, 20 March 2017


I've been sent a letter from the Office for National Statistics asking me to complete the UK Innovation Survey on behalf of my business, covering 2014-16.
It's a pretty official letter which says I'm "required to complete" the survey online by 7th April. It does say it's voluntary but adds that my response would be "of great value to government."

I'm no rebel so I've just spent 25 minutes answering questions about innovations IN A TEAROOM.
I feel like a charlatan.
We expanded our range of gluten and dairy free goods but is that innovation?
We added gifts and cards to our shelves and sold them. Is that what they want to know?
We started making milkshakes (and stopped again). Does that count?
Well, it's innovation for us so I filled out the survey with that sort of thing in my mind.
I skipped quickly through the bit that asked if we'd used patents or exclusivity agreements when we introduced our "innovations" and the part which asked how much we export...
Obviously the survey would yield better results from a different business. ANY other business, really. Still, I did as I was told.
And I hope my answers prove of great value to governments everywhere.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Down those country lanes

Two weeks until the start of the season.
I have palpitations writing those words but I'm actually a lot calmer than usual.
I know I have time to do the Spring Clean, the Portable Appliance Testing is being carried out this weekend, the diary is filling up with bookings and we have a couple of weeks of the season before Easter hits.
My gap-year son is going to repaint the ageing finger-post for me. This will, with luck, send people the right way up to the church and prevent confusion.
In. My. Dreams.

Which reminds me - last night I dreamt Ed Sheeran gave me a lift home. There were two other people in the car but I didn't know them.
I know, fascinating.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Little things

Less than 8 weeks until we reopen. I am thoroughly enjoying my time off but adding every day to the to-do list. I have to buy a new large fridge and sort out the hand-driers in the loos (which are rubbish). I'm putting together a small Children's Menu and taking bookings for group visits and baby showers.

I used to love going to the supermarket; now it's a bit of a chore but my brief visit today was made better by a quick-witted lady at the check-out.
It was Sainsburys. About 3.30. The local schools had just ended their day.
As I paid for my shopping the lady asked me if I wanted any "Active Kids" vouchers?
"No thanks," I said, then added, "Give them to the.." I was about to say she should give them to the next person who was collecting them but she finished my sentence for me...
"active kids?" she said, gesturing to the primary school pupils who were running up and down the aisles.
She rolled her eyes.
I laughed.

Saturday, 10 December 2016


During the season we sell lots of Ruby's fudge.
Ruby is superwoman when it comes to fudge. She makes it, packs it, delivers or posts it and it's always delicious. She also makes loads of different flavours. Ever tried Christmas Pudding fudge?
Naturally this time of year is particularly busy so, when the tearooms close, I offer be an extra pair of hands whenever needed.
I'm sure she is concerned I would eat my body weight in the stuff and seriously dent any profits but this year she has finally taken me up on it.
Last week I stood for three hours in the deli of a local garden centre wearing an apron.
I offered tasters of various flavours to visitors who were scanning shelves for Christmas goodies and gifts.
And I learned a lot.
I learned that most people (like me) really love fudge but there are a few who don't carry the gene.
"I prefer cheese" said at least two who didn't even want to try it.
One man told me his dad had been in dental research and hadn't given his kids anything with sugar in until they were five years old. Result: no sweet tooth. Lucky man.
Then there are those who stood chatting and hoovering up the samples - three different flavours.
And my favourite of all, those who commented: "it's very sweet, isn't it?"
It's full of sugar. There's no getting away with it. Besides, I'd be VERY disappointed if it weren't sweet.
We sold out of Christmas Pudding flavour,  Brandy and Cranberry & Lemon Meringue.
I didn't eat too much.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Tour de Force

Season Seven all wrapped up.
Yesterday, our last of 2016, was busy which came as a surprise and meant we didn't have quite the level of leftover food we had secretly hoped for.

Two cyclists arrived, a man and a woman.
I've said before how much I love and envy cyclists because they rarely say no to cake but this man has been on a semi-regular basis this year and will order two or three slices for himself.
So is obviously VERY welcome.
He also brings other cyclists who often follow his example.
Because they can.

As he left with a female cyclist she introduced herself - Jan Birkmyre (see last Saturday's Telegraph). Her parents live close by and are very involved with the church and local events.
I have heard of Jan because of her amazing cycling achievements in recent years and I told her that we love seeing her companion because of his ability to put away a good deal of the sweet stuff.
She introduced me to him.
He's the cycling columnist for The Guardian.
William Fotheringham.
Lots of books too.
Quite a lot of Twitter followers:
when the cafe owner refers to you as the bloke who's been coming in all summer and eating all the cakes you know you're in trouble...

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Cheerful and Cheap.

We have had a series of fairly quiet days with some cracking customers.
Alf was first in yesterday. He ordered an americano and sat in the main tearoom which gave me the opportunity to chat to him. He told me that he's 85 and his wife is in a care home with dementia. He had cared for her at home until he had to go into hospital for a prostate op.
He goes to see her every other day and holds her hand. He can't understand what she's saying any more so he just chats to her and nods when she speaks to him. He grows tomatoes in his greenhouse and has had to learn to cook since his wife became ill. He makes sure he has something to do every day, however small. He came to us for coffee because he and his wife used to come once in a while and have a drink in the garden.
He is smashing.  One of those people with an ever-present smile.
I couldn't bring myself to charge him for the coffee.

Compare that with the last arrival one day last week.
Three people came at the end of the day and sat in the garden. One of them came in and ordered a pot of tea. Just for one, she said.
When we took it out to her she asked for an extra cup.
Now our policy is one teacup per pot. We are generous with milk and extra hot water but we draw the line at two people sharing a £2 pot of tea (since they have been known to then ask for even more milk and hot water top-up) so we said we would have to charge for a second pot.
"I'm not paying £2 for a teabag," she said, "We'll both use the same cup."
She didn't appear to lack funds and was what my mum would have called well-spoken.
A few minutes later she brought back the tray and handed it to one of us, smiling and clearly pleased with herself.
"I used the sugar bowl," she said.
The sugar bowl was hot.
Presumably she'd emptied the sugar out onto the saucer, drank from the bowl then put the sugar back in it.
We threw the contents away.
And wondered at how well-spoken doesn't always mean well-bred.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

When all else fails.

I have far too many unsolicited calls. Usually about electricity and gas supply.
They take up a lot of time so to be honest when I answer the phone and hear: "may I speak to the manager please?" I tell them the manager isn't in and won't be back for hours.
This is the quickest.
If I say that I don't take sales calls they insist it ISN'T a sales call and then ask for all sorts of information about bills and suppliers and it is so OBVIOUSLY a sales call that I have to be firm.
Today has thrown up a new tactic.
We took a call from a woman who claimed to be investigating a complaint.
The word "complaint" certainly grabs the attention.
She went on to say she was helping to sort it out with my utility supplier and when I asked where she was from she put me on to her manager who repeated that he was trying to sort out a complaint about my gas and electricity supplier.
I asked him to tell me who my supplier is?
He guessed.
He guessed again.
He said he could help get my bills down.
"You must think I'm stupid" I eventually told him, frustrated that I couldn't get him off the 'phone.
"I'm not stupid, YOU are." he replied.
I reassured him that I hadn't called him stupid (why was I still on the phone?) and he called me a pretty lady and twice referred to me as "love".
Yes. That's definitely going to work...