We have all had to learn to adapt. This pandemic has meant getting used to a new ‘normal’. Everyone has been affected in some way. Some people have lost their jobs, some have still not been able to return to work, some are still shielding even as lockdown rules ease a little. Protecting each other has always been the priority. We have lost so many lives worldwide but I believe we will come out of all this as better people, with a greater appreciation of our ability to adapt.
After recovering from the virus earlier in the year I was a bit lost. I had just started baking for a local cafe which then closed and work dried up. I’m very fortunate that I don’t have to rely on the business to pay my bills but I still worried that people would forget me. And the thought of facing months on end with nothing to do was really scary! Initially I signed up for a free Open University course in creative writing. It gave me something to focus on and I hoped it might help me finish my novel. Then, in late April, my niece Christie asked me if I could do an afternoon tea for my sister-in-laws birthday. I agreed and set about planning a complex menu. I went all out, making fresh cream eclairs and luscious lemon drizzle cake, light fluffy scones and dainty finger sandwiches. I also loaned them some of my china to serve it on. My sister in law absolutely loved it, my niece took lots of photos and shared them on her social media pages. A little seed was planted in my mind.
I am a member of a local Facebook group which is really useful for recommendations of good places to eat, reliable tradesmen, basically anything you might need to know in our area. On the first of every month you can advertise your business in the group, which has a large following. I had been using it as a platform for Teacups and Sugar Lumps, so on the 1st of May at about 10am, whilst I was drinking tea in my pyjamas, I posted a few pictures of my tea boxes on the group. The response was immediate and totally unexpected. Within the first hour I was inundated with messages via my website, Facebook and Instagram. I watched in amazement as over 200 emails came in, all enquiring about afternoon tea. After a while I began to panic as I physically couldn’t answer all the messages. I phoned my daughter who is an admin on my website and she began answering Facebook messages as I tackled the emails coming through the website. By the evening I had a notebook full of bookings all scribbled down in no particular order and I felt totally overwhelmed. I woke up the next morning and more enquiries had come in overnight so I knew I had to get myself organised or I would drown.
I bought a proper diary with a whole page for each day and copied all the bookings into it from my rough notes. Once this was done I felt so much better because I could see exactly what I had booked in. By the end of the day I had caught up with all the outstanding messages and planned a menu. I made things harder for myself by deciding to offer a choice of sandwich fillings and cakes but I wanted these teas to be memorable. Many customers were ordering them for birthdays and special occasions so I was determined that they would be luxurious. At the start I had some problems getting all the ingredients I needed and managing deliveries of packaging etc. Grocery supplies were inconsistent and even my trusty Amazon could not always supply what I needed at short notice.
For three months now I have been delivering afternoon teas to the people of Reading. I have met some wonderful people, from a safe distance always, and played some part in their special occasions, from birthdays to Zoom baby showers to cancelled weddings, I have supplied lovely food when going out to celebrate was not possible and it has been an honour. I’m exhausted, it has been a steep learning curve, but I’m proud that I managed to keep my business going and even grow it a little. I took the decision to hire a graphic designer to make me a proper logo and she did an amazing job. Now, as lockdown eases and people can go out to eat the orders are slowing down but luckily the Farm cafe has reopened and I am in discussions about supplying cakes for them again so I’m sure my hiatus will not last long. For now I am enjoying being able to look after my grandson again while his mum gets back to work!
I have lots more news to tell you but it wouldn’t fit into one post so I will write more another time.
Thanks for reading. xx