According to Wikipedia ‘A pandemic is an epidemic occurring on a scale that crosses international boundaries, usually affecting people on a worldwide scale’
That sums up our current situation pretty well I’d say.
Apparently the leaders of the world knew about such risks and had made provision. I, on the other hand, had not.
Maybe it’s just me, but I was too busy spinning all the various plates life had given me to make ‘provision’ for a worldwide pandemic. Starting a new coffee truck business had taken up my whole focus. And of course on top of that were all my family responsibilities. I was aware of the term of course. And knew it was being talked about in the press, but it really wasn’t until the week before lockdown that I started to see it as something that could actually affect me, my business and local community so acutely.
Things were going great for me. I’d launched Sussex Coffee Trucks and had built quite a local following. I’d finally got my license through for the National Trust car park on top of Ditching Beacon and had really started to build momentum.
The car park was getting busier every day. More and more people were hearing about this great new coffee truck serving delicious drinks and cake right on the South Downs Way. Things were getting very busy actually with me selling out of most things every day and even running out of water and milk on occasion. I remember one day in particular that despite running out of everything I still had a queue just for black coffee and tea from what little water remained in the coffee machine boiler! It was crazy and I couldn’t have been happier.
The weekend before lockdown I did event support for the Moyleman off road marathon. Providing coffee and cake for all the 300 runners at the start. And then there was a kind of finish area party at Harvey’s Brewery in Lewes. There must have been 1000 people there all dancing and chatting in the sunshine. It was awesome and was my busiest day ever!
Absolutely unthinkable to imagine at the time that it would be the last large scale gathering I’d witness for many, many months.
The call came on the afternoon of 23rd March. It was my contact at National Trust. I was busier than ever but I’d been dreading this moment. She told me she had some bad news. That they had decided to close all their car parks to help enforce the social distancing policy the government was recommending. She said that I could expect an announcement from the Prime Minister later that day and that a lockdown was imminent.
It was a huge shock and I struggled to comprehend what I was facing.
My business had been killed. Shot dead just as it was starting to flourish. Schools were closing. Travel was limited. Total lockdown. Impossible.
And so it all began. Our kids (6 years old and 2 years old) no longer had to be dropped off at school and nursery. They were to remain home and be looked after by their parents.
My wife is a physiotherapist so her hours remained intact, so I found myself the main carer overnight. We started home schooling as best as we could and had our daily routine of exercise, school work, play and a walk around the block.
My wife would do some running. I’d do some cycling. We hung out in the garden and compared notes with all our friends and family on the impossible nature of our lives, all the time thankful for our health whilst listening to the news reports in horror of the increasing daily death toll this disease was having on our country.
After a couple of weeks of this I was getting very restless. It dawned on me that I was in possession of the perfect vehicle to help raise moral at my local hospital. Who wouldn’t be cheered up and encouraged by a free coffee? The idea was born but I wasn’t clear how I could pursue it. Who should I contact to ask permission? And would they see it as a help or a hinderance? I fired off lots of emails and used local Facebook groups to ask questions and track down names and numbers, and finally got a meeting set up with the boss. I drove down in the coffee truck and met with the crew. I explained my situation and how I simply wanted to help the NHS at this difficult time. They were extremely thankful and a plan was put into place. My friend Kris from Lindfield Coffee Works supplies me with coffee and I reached out to him with the idea and he was super excited by it. “It sure beats standing outside clapping” he said, and he was right. Kris very kindly offered to help out with coffee supply and even said he could do a few shifts too.
So all of a sudden the plan was ready to roll out. I ordered up all the bits I needed. Cups, lids, bags, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, flavoured syrups etc and started to try and figure out a plan for milk. This was the biggest problem really as supply was limited. The only way I could get enough was to drive around from shop to shop, garage to garage, collecting as much as possible. With everything in place I gave the truck a nice clean and was ready for the first shift.
The first shift was a Saturday. I arrived in plenty of time and started setting up. Word had gotten round about this free coffee offering and in no time a few people started approaching to see what was going on. I explained that it would take me around 25 minutes to set up and get the boiler up to temperature and people happily waited in anticipation.
By the time I was ready for service I already had a queue! A respectful, socially distanced one as you’d expect.
The first customer was served at 10:30am and I had a solid queue until 16:20 when I finally ran out of milk and even coffee! I’d been incredibly busy and served over 350 drinks on the first shift! Everyone was delighted and morale had been visibly boosted. Such a great feeling and I felt incredibly proud to have made it happen, with a little help from my friends.
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