The last few weeks of any season are filled with conversations with regulars who come to bid us a happy and relaxing winter.
Almost all of them ask if I am going away on holiday.
The answer, sadly, is always no.
I tell them that I do have lots of lovely things planned with friends and a pile of books I’m itching to get through.
The first day of the closed season and I am already living the high life.
The septic tank and grease trap have been emptied.
Our last day of the season dawns.
It’s going to be sunny but, I fear, not sunny enough to sell all the leftover ice cream. We have a larger freezer this year and it carries a lot of stock.
We have a full staff so we’ll be putting things into hibernation for the winter as we finish using them.
Tony has returned from university to work for the weekend.
He’s very wise.
He knows that he’ll be going back to university with leftovers which would keep a normal person going for a few days. It might last Tony until Tuesday if he doesn’t eat it all on the way back.
I am looking forward to a few months free of washing and ironing aprons.
Yesterday I served a dad with a few children in tow. He ordered hot drinks and took some cold ones out to their table outside.
Seconds later a woman came in carrying one of the cold cans. She headed towards the drinks fridge.
“Do you mind if I change this?” she asked, sighing, “After twenty years of marriage my husband still doesn’t know that I don’t drink lemonade.”
Yesterday morning we took a call.
“What time are you open?” a gentleman asked, “and are you still selling your egg mayonnaise sandwiches?”
We told him times and that yes the sandwich remains on the menu.
We were slightly taken aback that an egg sandwich could create such fervour.
He said he would see us later.
Towards the end of lunchtime a man ordered a few lunch items including an egg mayonnaise sandwich.
“Are you the gentleman who called earlier?” I ventured.
He looked quizzical. It definitely wasn’t him. He was not the egg man.
Today Ollie (18) was teaching Mary (70ish) a few words to add to her vocabulary.
When she went home she was going to tell her husband that she had made bare scones this morning and was bare tired.
Rosie did her first day with us. We had £5 each in tips. We told her that this is far from normal and that often we share less than £5 between us. We certainly don’t want to raise her hopes.
The bulk of the money had come from a lovely group of friends who had booked High Tea for thirteen people, two of whom were diabetic. This was a first for us and a challenge.
Naomi made a low sugar chocolate cake and among Mary’s bare scones were a few sugar-free ones. We also made a sort of jam from apple, pear, strawberries and raspberries (no sugar at all) to serve with the scones.
We were all pleased with the results.
So, thankfully, were the thirteen.
Two panini conversations took place yesterday.
The first was with a man who had brought an international group on a history/heritage tour.
“Your panini,” he began, “what are they like because I don’t really get on with them. I’ve had a few on my travels and they’re always hard and crispy. Are yours? Or are they unctuous?”
I should have suggested that if he hadn’t got on with them in the past then perhaps panini weren’t his thing but he decided he would order one with a filling of our home-cooked ham and cheddar.
I went through to the conservatory where the group was finishing lunch.
I asked what he thought?
His face told the whole story.
“Perhaps,” I ventured, “it’s time to give up on panini. It’s an affair that’s never going to work. Leave it and move on.”
He looked saddened.
A cream tea put the smile back on his face.
Then, a short while later:
“Can I be awkward?” she asked.
It was a fairly quiet, rainy Sunday, so I wasn’t phased.
“Instead of bacon, brie and cranberry on my panini please may I have bacon, brie and pesto?”
I told her she wasn’t at all awkward and we’d give it a go. I also told her that if she thought it was a winner then it may just end up on our menu...
She returned to the counter to tell me that it was delicious and should really be a regular.
The Tearooms main room at the counter. An Australian man and his British wife have just placed their order of coffee and cake with a fifty-something woman called Gill. It is a warm, sunny day and fairly hot inside.
Australian man: Cor, it’s very hot in here? Don’t you think it’s hot?
Gill: Try being a woman of a certain age.
British wife: (smiling and nodding knowingly) I feel your pain.
Australian man: Try being married to a woman of a certain age.
It’s been a mixed week and very hard to judge.Should we cook another ham? How many jacket potatoes will be ordered? How many staff will we need? How many scones should we bake?All impossible questions to answer with any certainty. Monday was relatively steady and posed no problems. Tuesday a little busier but easily managed.On Wednesday, when I was away taking my younger son to start university, everyone else in the world decided to have lunch at the tearooms.Yesterday we were prepared for busy. Then the phone rang. It was one of the staff at Witley Court telling us that a coach of thirty people had turned up. There’d be a quick tour of the Court and then they’d be coming to us.We went into overdrive on preparation. A few lunch orders came in, a few coffee orders.A few take-away orders.One lady mentioned that she didn’t have time for lunch as they had to get back...The coach party didn’t really materialise, just a handful of them made their way to us.Fortunately we were pleasantly busy with non-coach visitors so our adrenaline wasn’t wasted.
An odd day.
Due to a one-day staff shortage I was in the kitchen preparing lunches.
The weather was so wet and miserable that only a few hardy souls ventured out and I only had to tackle four lunch orders.
We had begun all the clearing away for the day when a lady came in, ordered cakes and a couple of hot drinks and told us that we were about to be inundated. She was part of a group of thirty trainee teachers who were on a team-building day and they were all heading our way.
She was absolutely right.
We went from having two people sitting quietly in the main tearoom to a room full of cake and scone eaters.
I gave them all A*.
This weekend we hosted a special tea for Gill and Brian and their family.
Gill and Brian were celebrating 63 years of marriage.
As they were preparing to leave after sandwiches and tea and cakes and scones, Gill told me that she met Brian at school when she was 14. She was 19 when she married him in 1956.
Their daughter showed me their wedding photo: