It’s been a year

A year since what, I hear you ask?

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Well, it was early in July 2013 when I took my last salary from the corporate world.  After a 26 year career in IT I took the plunge into – well, initially – jobseeking.  It didn’t take me long to realise that the decision I’d taken some years earlier – to take a step away from the deeply technical side of IT and into management – had DSCF7972made things tricky.  There has been a trend amongst the big corporates to promote technical consultants into management roles and expect them to carry on their technical roles, whilst doing the management bit as well.  Now I could sit and pontificate about the rights and wrongs of that ethos for hours, but that’s just the way it is (bet you just sang that in your head).  And so, in a tactical error of the size not seen since King Herod launched his creche business, I’d become practically unemployable – at least if I wanted to earn anything like the sort of money I’d been on.

So I thought – if I’m not going to earn the same money – I may as well do something I enjoy.  And that, dear readers, leads me – via a rather tortuous and confused route – to where I am now.  Standing in fields, sunburnt/windswept/soaked/cold (delete where applicable), imploring people to buy chilli products.

And you know what?  I’ve never had more fun in a professional capacity.  I say to everyone that asks that it just doesn’t feel like a real job.  It’s hard work, tiring, unpredictable, irritating, all-consuming, confusing and badly paid…but what other career gives you the ability to tell grown men that they’re a wuss and to ask them to check their Man Licence, to inflict pain on people with Ghost 3.2, to hand out sweeties to small children and not get a visit from Operation Yew Tree, to advertise for single ladies in a brazen display of desperation, and above all to have a bloody good laugh and say that it’s imperative to the job?

DSCF7961So do I regret leaving the corporate world?  Well, it was better paid and less time-consuming, but I am immeasurably happier, and measurably healthier, doing what I do now.  And what I’ve been doing over the last week is more of the same, but in the best location ever.  I was lucky enough to wangle a spot at the Corfe Castle Food Festival in Dorset.  I say lucky because it was an event ostensibly for local businesses, but I am always on the lookout for new locations and would love to find some customers in Daaaarzet, as it should be pronounced.  Why?  Well, it’s where my Mum & Dad come from, and I spent many, many happy days in the county as a child, it feels like a second home.  My Uncle still lives there, and was happy enough to put me up for the weekend in his lovely thatched cottage with it’s rescued clay-mining paraphernalia in the garden..

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So the relentlessly cheerful Zoe at the National Trust  let me in, and I’m glad she did – what a spectacular setting for a festival.  Apologies for making this post look a bit like a photo album, but you don’t get market locations like this every weekend!

The Lollipop of Shame.  Hab Gold did this.  Wuss.

The Lollipop of Shame

But did Dorset like it’s chillies?  Well, yes it did – but this is where it gets a little confusing, as it often does.  Because you see, dear reader, I try to predict what the audience will want, and stock up accordingly.  So for for somewhere genteel and polite like Corfe I took loads and loads of jams, which I thought would fly off the table (and not just because of the inevitable breeziness that the location brings).  But no, Corfe is not a jam town.  The chutney stall next to me concurred – they didn’t do a roaring trade.  Luckily for me I have the Chipotle Chilli Salt solution to all meal questions, and quite a few of them shifted, so it was a decent weekend overall.

DSCF7978The only fly in the ointment was my second encounter with petty larceny.  I left my gazebo up overnight, sidewalls zipped shut, taking all my stock with me ‘just in case’.  What I didn’t take with me this time were my samples, which I left on the table in the gazebo.  Well, someone obviously came careening out of The Greyhound pub that night and desperately needed some Sweet Chilli Sauce for his post-binge chips, ‘cos there was no sign of it on Sunday morning.  I have checked repeatedly in all my crates to make sure it’s not me being a doofus, but no – someone’s swiped it.  Not the end of the world of course, but it’s amazing how that affected the psychology of customers…I had no sample on Sunday, so no-one bought any – whereas it had been one of my best sellers on Saturday.

Overall though, a lovely, lovely event – can’t wait to do it again next year.

King Gazebo amongst the ruins

King Gazebo amongst the ruins

A ruin within King Gazebo

A ruin amongst King Gazebo

On the flip side, I tried out Temple Quay in Bristol on Thursday and I just can’t seem to get it to work.  Now I’m not a believer in astrology – I don’t believe it matters if you were born a Libra, Scorpio, Humpback Whale, Great A’Tuin or under the sign of the Prancing Pony – but as Taurean I am of course a stereotypically stubborn cove who will plod along trying to extract a result out of a lost cause.  So I’ve been trying Temple Quay fortnightly, and whilst it’s good fun going to say hello to my former colleagues in the office, it’s not lucrative.  So I’ve made the decision to keep plodding away bullishly, but only once a month from now on – the first Thursday of the month.  So I’ll still be there, just less often…and I’m already looking at alternatives for the third Thursday of the month!

Tidworth was steady on Friday, unspectacular but it’s building slowly.  I’m not sure where everyone was on Saturday, but they weren’t in Devizes – the Pink Chilli Hobbit had a quiet morning there, though it was better in Marlborough on Sunday.

No reports back from Sheffield or the North East, will be interesting how many Ghost 3.2-powered cyclists were on the roads of Yorkshire for the Tour de France’s Grande Départ 🙂

pTerryOn  totally non-chilli note, it’s sad to hear that Sir Terry Pratchett isn’t able to attend the Discworld Convention this year.  It seems that his Alzheimer’s condition is taking its toll and that he’s not up to the task any more.  Hopefully he has a few more books in him yet, but it’s tragic to see such a brilliantly inventive mind struggle with the things that come so easily to most of us.  I’ve seen the effect that Alzheimer’s has, not just on the individual but on the family as well, and it’s heartbreaking.  You expect your loved ones to age and for body parts to fail, seize up or drop off, but the mind is the most precious organ and to see it get mired in the impenetrable pea-souper of incoherence that is Alzheimer’s is just horrible.  When it gets to the point that parents no longer recognise their children, no words can convey the empty feeling that engenders.  If you are dealing with the disease in any way shape or form, you have my utmost sympathy.

20140706_111724So shall we be a bit more cheerful for a minute?  Why, let’s do that.  Some  comments from the weekend:

  • ‘That tastes like fire’ (inspired by Ghost 3.2)
  • ‘Ooh that’s hot’ (inspired by Smoked Chipotle Sauce.  Much abuse followed)
  • ‘Eeeeeeeuw’ (inspired by Fruity Chilli Sauce, tasted by an 8-year-old.  No free lollipop for her)
  • ‘I know where you shop!’ (yours truly, spotting a customer wearing an identical shirt.  We’re not disclosing which top designer outlet we bought them from)

Looking ahead, I have an outbreak of chilli festivals coming up (if two can be called an outbreak).  I’m off to West Sussex this weekend for the Shoreham-by-Sea Chilli Festival.  I’m praying for decent weather as I’m camping it up for the weekend, just round the corner from Brighton & Hove (Actually) Albion’s Amex Stadium, which coincidentally I’m going to visit later this year for a Christmas Market.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit is at the Chippenham Food Festival on Sunday, this should be a good event so please pop along.  We’re also at Bristol’s Foodies Festival, Cardiff International Food Festival, Leicester Global Market and our usual haunts in Swindon, Bath and Oxford.

Lots going on in the background as well, looking at gift packs and clothing – I’ll keep you posted.

And on that it’s time to get back to the World Cup…don’t worry, it’ll be over soon.  At least another test series starts tomorrow, and we have another two-and-a-bit weeks of rouleurs, puncheurs, domestiques and soigneurs to talk about.  Say what now?

Your word for today is ‘apoop’  Use it wisely.

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