Tag Archives: WCF

Proper jobbies

Now if only I had a quid for every time I heard the phrase ‘proper job’ last week.

20150604_082849As regular readers will know I have been in Wadebridge for the Royal Cornwall Show.  This is one of my biggest events of the year, and is a challenge mentally, physically and – as it turns out – linguistically.  Now I’m from the West Country.  OK, some may question Wiltshire’s qualifications for being west enough, but it’s generally accepted that it qualifies.  So I thought I was pretty well accustomed to all forms of dialects from down this way.  That’s until about 4pm on the final day 20150606_070723of the show when, after a weekend of hearing t’s softened to d’s (bread and budder puddin’, anyone?) and seemingly billions of the aforementioned proper jobs, I was confronted with a customer who I simply could not bloody understand.  He was talking English, that much I could ascertain, but it was pure frontier gibberish of the highest order.  All I could do was nod and smile, agree occasionally and hope to God that he hadn’t just told me that chillies gave him cancer of the rectum or that his Mum’s just been nibbled to death by an okapi.  He didn’t leap across the table and wallop me, so I think I 20150604_163058just about got away with it.

The show was it’s usual windy self, with much gaffer taping and buffeting of King Gazebo – not quite as bad as last year, but a little gusty nonetheless.  There were apperances by the RAF parachute team, a singing robot, Plymouth Argyle’s mascot and many, many schoolchildren intent on tasting the hottest thing on the stall.  This time round it was Septenary, and many an innocent mouth was left a little bit the worse for chilli.  Proper job.

One consequence of trying to keep my costs down for the show was that I stayed on the festival campsite.  Now I realise that there are compromises to be made when sleeping in a tent, such as pervading dampness, and loo breaks having to be carefully planned due to the bogs being 300 yards away (those two things aren’t connected, by the way).  I can cope with most things, but for the love of all things that are sacred, what possesses the idiot youth of Cornwall to race around a campsite in a souped-up Vauxhall Corsa with it’s La Cucuracha horn blowing?  Every…bloody…night… I’m not one usually prone to thoughts of homicide, justifiable or not, but if I’d had access to an AK47 and a clear line of sight you’d have been reading about me in the tabloids by now.  At least The Fast and the Feckless went home on the Saturday, so I had the much more pleasant experience of waking up on Sunday morning to the sound of beautiful birdsong, cows mooing in the field next door, and the echoes of the guy in the tent next door snoring like a buzzsaw.

Whilst I was being blown about on the peninsula (that’s not a euphemism), the other guys made it to such exotic locations as Bromley, Swindon and Accrington.  Now I never said that this was a sexy job, with fast cars and loose women at every destination – I wish – but Accrington, as in ‘Accrington Stanley – who are they?’ fame…I ask you.  I’m led to believe that inoculations weren’t required prior to entry though, and as it turns out they really loved our stuff and the Bearded Blunder sold it up a storm.

bag-end-master-2It’s a time of much change at Hobbit Central, as I’ve just sold my house.  Obviously there’s all that tedious and nerve-wracking bull-plop to go through prior to exchanging contracts, but fingers crossed I’ll be homeless soon.  It’s an odd thing to wish for, but it’s a natural consequence of myself and the Pink Chilli Hobbit going our separate ways, and the family home was too big for just the one halfling anyway, however many cats there were in residence.  So shortly I shall be looking for a new hole to call my own, or at least to rent and pretend it’s mine.  If there are any billionaire brewery heiresses out there looking for someone to share their mansion (and anything else), feel free to get in touch.  Low standards and a good sense of humour essential.  Oh, and a fondness for elderly cats.

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Answers on a postcard please

So what’s on the cards this weekend?  Well, Simon’s at the Three Counties Show in Malvern, Bond’s at the food festival in Chinnor, and Swindon will see someone show up on Sunday…I’m never quite sure who it’s likely to be.  I’ll be at another big event, the South of England Show at Ardingly, from Thursday through to Saturday.  This is the first time the Farm has been to this one, so it’s a bit of an experiment to see how it goes.  After four nights in a tent last week I’m quite looking forward to proper hotel accommodation, with it’s attendant proximity to food that doesn’t get cooked in a van and a much reduced risk of athlete’s foot.

I’ll be rushing back on Saturday evening to be ready for my granddaughters’ Christening on Sunday, so be prepared for photos in the next post of your friendly neighborhood hobbit looking very uncomfortable in a suit and tie.  That’s assuming I don’t spontaneously combust in attempting to cross the threshold of the church, of course.

Right, I’m done for this week.  Off to clean the sheets in preparation for visitors.  I’m a domestic god, you know.


 What duck?

 

 

 

Kill the Bublé

Well ladies and gentlemen, here we are again.  Christmas is over, your friendly neighbourhood hobbit has ended his period of solitary in Salisbury, and a little bit of what passes for sanity has descended upon this small part of the world.

A lot has happened since my last post, pretty much all of it spent at Salisbury Christmas Market.  This is how it went.

Day minus 1

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Anti-grav is accidentally set to ‘on’ at the Farm

Arrive at WCF and stare at the pile of crates that need to be loaded into the van.  Stare at it again.  And again.  Think of the phrase ‘quart into a pint pot’ and just get on with it.  Amazingly it all fits, as well as the tools and shelves that we’ll need.

The van handles somewhat sluggishly once fully loaded.  Braking distances now measured in miles, not feet.  Driving style amended accordingly.  Bends avoided where possible

Day 0 – set-up day

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A 4ft teaspoon. Teacup not pictured.

Get to Salisbury early to survey the market, find my chalet OK and attend the traders briefing in the Guildhall.   Meet up with Jamie and form a plan of attack for kitting out the chalet; shelves are not an issue, the display table is – Jamie’s preferred option is to construct a table across the front of the chalet and for me to crawl out/in as necessary.  I remind him that I am an old git and refuse.  Quick trip to B&Q ensues, material bought to construct a counter that can be placed on the veranda and brought in each night.  Bond arrives to lend his extensive DIY knowledge, and half a millisecond later is told to shut up.  Complete setup of the chalet early evening.  Hopes are high.

Day 1 – first day of trading

Arrive early in order to complete the set up and test things out properly.  Realise that the counter we built yesterday is not going to be stable enough, so extra bracing is swiftly attached and it seems much better.  Even so, it’s not the free-standing triumph I have in my head so I pull it back to rest against the door frame.  Seems to be stable enough.

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Set up display and start trading, good enough for day 1.  Late day today as it’s the lantern parade, don’t finish till 8:30pm.  Hopes are high.

Day 2

Decide that the counter is still too wobbly as I have fears my fatness will knock the whole thing over at some point. Further bracing is the only option so  construct a very simple yet effective way of doing so – basically a length of wood screwed to counter at one end and door frame at the other.  Much more secure.

Trading is good, slightly lower than day 1 but shorter trading hours so still better than anticipated.

Day 3 – first Saturday

20141128_172721The setup is now pretty much defined, and I’m ready to trade bang on 10am when the market starts.  Unfortunately customers start milling around at 9:30 as it’s Saturday, but I cope.  Trading is epic, never sold as much in one day.

Go home tired but exultant after my best single trading day ever.  Beginning to plan for early retirement.

Day 4

Steady today, but after the epicness of Saturday I can cope with this.  Get to chat more with my chalet neighbours Heidi, Mo, Camille, Debs, Rachael and Terry and form a support group of bewildered traders.

ellaMusic being played in the market is Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney by Ella Fitzgerald.  Filthy lyrics.  Go on, google ’em.  You’ll understand what I mean.

For a ‘short’ days trading takings are awesome, and I get home to my microwave meal happy in the knowledge that I’ve picked a good market.

Day 5

Monday.  Urgh, it’s Monday.  Things seem really quiet, but after the bedlam that was the weekend I’m happy with that.  Gives me a chance to unwind a little.

Chat more with Camille, Rachael and Terry.  They all seem to lead much more interesting lives than me, but then I think about my ex-IBM friends who look jealously at what I do now and remember that it’s all relative.  I could have been an astronaut you know, I just chose not to.

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Godolphin Prep School giving it large, carol stylee

Have time to listen to the music being piped over the speakers today.  Realise that Michael Bublé is on repeat.  I hate Michael Bublé.

Trading is slow by Christmas standards, but still better than a regular market so very happy.

Day 6

Charter market day.  Billions of cheeky cock-er-knees selling watch batteries, dodgy DVDs and dubious pork products in the Market Place.  This means a different kind of clientele is around today, lots of single units sold and less box sets.  Still, decent numbers so who’s complaining?

20141202_092917A sad day.  Today is the funeral of a cricketing friend, and as I cannot be there I put my bat out a la Philip Hughes in his honour.  I have to take a moment at the back of the chalet a couple of times during the day.

Am left in the dark – literally – as some of the light bulbs in my chalet decide they’ve had enough and go to sleep.  Luckily it wasn’t all of them, so have enough to see what I’m doing for the remainder of the day.

Day 7

Light bulbs procured via the ever-resourceful Mo from Tumi across the way, I can now see what I’m doing.  And that is a steady day’s trade.  Last 6pm finish today until Sunday.  Treat myself to a takeaway in place of a microwave meal.

More Michael Bublé.  Kill the Bublé.

Cats rebel against expensive food and decide that Asda own brand is all they will eat, which is a problem as there is no Asda within easy reach of my regular commute.

Day 8

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Back to the long trading days, and I’m beginning to feel a little tired.  Still, trade is brisk and in fact better than the first Thursday.  The war with Winchester is hotting up – am now in a daily contest with Bond to see who sells more.

Day 9

tmcEspresso happens.  It’s not something I do much of, as excess caffeine can make me a bit twitchy, but I feel the need.  And it works – it wakes me up enough early doors to engage with customers cheerily and get into the swing of things.

Chris Rea is Driving Home For Christmas for the ninth day in a row.  Never buy a used sat nav from Chris Rea, it’ll be bloody useless.

Another good day, I am ready for whatever Saturday can throw at me.

Day 10

So many customers…coming at me…coming in from the sun…no time to breathe…you weren’t there, man…

Another busy, busy day, not quite the same as the previous Saturday but excellent nonetheless.

Go home happy but exhausted.

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Day 11

A pattern emerges.  Sunday’s not quite as good as Saturday, but is still a decent day.  Realise with some horror that this market is not even half way through, yet already I could sleep for a week.  Start looking at ways to ease the pain by maybe spending a night in Salisbury.  Then decide that I’m a skinflint and hotel prices are too expensive.

This is Debs, Rachael and Terry’s last day in the market as they’re only doing the first half.  Sad to see them go as they’re been terrific fun.

Day 12

New neighbour Nick moves in.  Camille and myself take an instant dislike to him simply for not being Rachael and Debs.

20141219_100342Announce the formation of the Anti-Bublé League.

Quietest day of the market so far.  After the chaos of the weekend it feels dead, but numbers at close of play show a decent return.

Half way through.  It’s all downhill from here.

Day 13

Another steady day, fuelled almost entirely by espressos and chocolate.  Really am beginning to feel the strain now, both physically and mentally.  Not just the trading but also the stock collections, the commute and of course the extra trips to Asda to get bloody cat food.

We decide that we’re just going to deal with Nick by taking the p*ss out of him.  He responds in kind and is accepted into the support group with open arms.

Day 14

A soggy day in Salisbury.  This keeps the customers away, which makes it almost impossible to stay wake.  More espresso.  More chocolate.  Nick starts to show tendencies to leave his stall for a 9-minute wander every 10 minutes.

Plenty of time to do jigsaws

Plenty of time to do jigsaws

First sub-par result of the market, but given the weather that’s to be expected.

Day 15

20141211_161609The weather’s still not helping us, and keeps the casual punter away.  Late trading brings a few more people in and drags figures up to a decent level.

Being exhausted is the default setting now.  Am thinking of digging an escape tunnel.

An owl called Bella comes to visit.  I don’t think I’m hallucinating, but there is that possibility.

 

Day 16

20141219_100159Decide against the escape tunnel as I have no energy to dig one.

No sign of the owl.

Steady trading today.  After a brief hiatus, Bublé is back.  Tensions rise in the hobbit community.

Camille the Dogsnatcher is captured in action.

Day 17

The busy day of the week, and the first signs of panic present-buying behaviour start to emerge.  Am introduced to the acronym ‘DLM’ by Heidi – the Desperate Lone Male – often seen at this time of the year.  In our case it’s more of a DLS (Desperate Lone Shopper) thing – men are often the quick purchasers, the conversation going like this:

Customer: What’s the hottest thing you have?

Me: Is it for someone who says that nothing’s ever hot enough?

Customer: Yes – I want to see him cry.

One bottle of Slayer later, job done.

Excellent business again, on days like today you get to speak to no-one other than customers, with traders emerging like badgers from their setts in late afternoon to compare notes.

Day 18

opossum-faking-deathEnergy levels have plummeted overnight.  Am now actively considering faking my own death to avoid the last few days.

Disgruntlement is high, there have been words exchanged between traders and stewards.  Tempers are fraying, especially in those of us who are doing every single day.  No sign of Stockholm Syndrome here.

Slow, slow day.  Batteries fail to recharge.  Bublé is on repeat.  Not helping.  The prospect of four days of 6pm finishes is very welcome though.

20141202_083518 20141202_083553How do you get stock to the chalet when there’s a charter market on and you can’t get the van on site?  Simple – employ the Hobbit All-Purpose Stock Transport Solution (patent applied for).  What d you mean, it looks like a suitcase?  This is a highly specialised piece of equipment you know, not just any old piece of kit dragged out of the loft…

Day 19

Energy levels still not high…until lunchtime when I get the news that I have become a Granddad again!  Instant happy hobbit syndrome, photos shared with chalet holders and customers alike, can’t get the grin off my face for the rest of the day 🙂

Trading?  Who cares?  I’m a granddad again!

Day 20

Chee20141216_195601ky Cockney day.  Alarming pig products in evidence.  Really, really don’t need them yelling 3 fer a paaaaaahnd all day.

Just push through it hobbit, not long to go now.

Finish the day off with a visit to see my new granddaughter.  Lifts up my spirits no end 🙂

Day 21

Starting to wonder if this will ever end.  What did I do in a previous life to deserve this?  Did I volunteer for this?  Goddammit, I paid for this!  Pull yourself together whinger, just get on with it…

Am now beginning to run low on stock.  Starting to shuffle the display round to promote stuff I have most of.  Doesn’t work, a very slow day, but it is Wednesday so not surprising really.

3 days to go.  Am buoyed by Jamie saying he’d be down on Saturday to help break down.

Day 22

20141218_105933Today I bonked.

And not in a fun, biological, squelching proximity of body parts way either.  This is the cycling version of bonking, akin to marathon runners hitting the wall.  It’s what happens when you completely run out of energy, and is not the same as being tired.  I’ve never really experienced it before, even when running (sort of) the 3 half marathons I’ve done in the past, which were about the most knackering thing I’ve done.  I just hit a wall at about 6pm, and couldn’t think, speak or do anything other than just stand up.  Camille in the chalet opposite told me that I’d visibly turned into Zombie Hobbit, though I think that’s doing a bit of a disservice to zombies as I think they probably have more energy than I did right then.

A swift ingestion of calories – in the healthy form of Twix bars – helped rectify the situation, though I was still running on fumes for the rest of the day.

Day 23

Penultimate day of the market.  Stock is looking patchy, but I’ll have enough to get me to the end.  Decent numbers sold, hopeful of reaching my revised target figure for the whole market.

anokaaA decent day and we finish up with a support group night out at Anokaa, which is a fantastic Indian restaurant in Fisherton Street.  Top, top food – not your normal curry-house fare.  Vegetarian Heidi is so baffled by the excellent veggie offerings she asks me – a ravenous carnivore – for help.  To be fair, some of the veggie options do look nice.  Not nice enough to stop me choosing a fabulous rack of lamb dish, though.  We all have great food, great conversation and I get home very, very late, but content.

Day 24 – last day of the market

20141218_120428Get to the market early, as always, though that’s not easy after the late night yesterday.  Set up early, ready for the rush, and sure enough for the last Saturday before Christmas there are lots of people about.

More espresso, more chocolate and yes – more Bublé.  I thank every deity known to humanity, and quite a few I’ve made up myself just to fill out my own personal pantheon, that I don’t have to listen to him again after today.

I bonk again, shortly after Jamie tells me that he won’t be down to help me break down the chalet.  This news drains any scrap of energy I have left.  Official close of the market is 7pm, but we’re all ‘tidying’ behind the scenes from about 5 o’clock.

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Heidi in her spot

7pm comes and we all get handy with drills, screwdrivers and hammers in dismantling our chalets.  Not much stock to pack away, but I have to get a bit primeval on some of the screws as they’re embedded in knots in the wood and simply won’t come out, even with the heavy-duty borrowed drill from Nick next door.  Hammer comes to the rescue.

Say emotional goodbyes to Heidi, Camille, Mo and Nick – it’s been a blast and we all promise to be there next year and reform the support group.

And the music playing when I leave is…thankfully not Bublé.  That would have been a bit much.

Day 25 – market day + 1

20141221_104544Prize pillock that I am, I’ve agreed to be at Swindon Designer Outlet today.  I have bugger all stock and it’s chucking it down.  I’m so tired that I completely misjudge things and have a bollard v. van incident.  Bollard wins, van loses.  Dammit.

Ghost my way through the day and sell a decent number, especially given the weather.  Every last box set that I have has sold, I end up with a crate of stock that goes back to the Farm to keep Bath going for the last few days up till Christmas.

 

And that, folks, is why I wasn’t terribly communicative over December.  I have worked out that with travel I was working 90-hour weeks for the duration of the market, and I know that there were times when I unravelled ever so slightly.  I did learn a few things though:

– Trading for 25 days in a row is bloody exhausting

– Salisbury likes it’s chilli sauce

– Chris Rea may not yet be home for Christmas

– There is a special place in hell for Michael Bublé

– Salisbury has some cute PCSOs

– It is possible to live for a month on microwave meals and Tesco bargain bin sarnies

– 5pm is Wispa time

And will I do it again?  I certainly plan to – I met some lovely people, sold lots of stuff and made it to Christmas more or less sane.

And now…it’s all over – the Festive season, and New Year to boot.  That means it must be time for the WCF Christmas Party.  Stocks of aspirin have been replenished in preparation.

Normal service will be resumed in the very near future.  Whatever normal is.


 Welcome to the Year of The Spinning Mouse

The meaning of bogies

20141105_1448092014 is barrelling towards its Christmassy conclusion, and that means there won’t be a whole lot of communication from yours truly, at least blog-wise, for the remainder of the year.  The reason is quite simple – once I’m installed in my lovely chalet at Salisbury Christmas Market I’ll pretty much have no spare time till the Festive blowout is in full flow.  I’ll try to get a few bits and pieces online, but I’m more likely to keep Facebook and Twitter updated than this here blog.  As you will be aware I’m never one to use one word when thirty will do – brevity ain’t my thing – and I’m unlikely to have the willpower to do much bloggy stuff after a day’s trading, especially as some of the days are late night shopping.

20141115_091438We’ve actually started our Christmas markets already – Simon has been in Cardiff for the last few days.  Bond is setting up in Winchester as I type (OK, Jamie will be doing the heavy lifting whilst Bond fetches tea and biccies).  I set up next Wednesday (I refer the honorable reader to the previous comment regarding Jamie doing the thinking whilst I hold a spirit level or something) and from that point on, till December 20th, I’ll be peering out at daylight from the inside of the Chilli Hobbit Chalet.  I still have a couple of farmers markets after that, so as you can imagine I’m rather looking forward to a bit of a lie down after that…as we all are.

20141116_114031This is my first full year in retail, and I’m beginning to understand why traders both love and hate the Festive season.  Sales go up, sure, but by ‘eck it’s stressful.  How much stock to make?  Which events to cover?  How do I pay for it all up front?  How much sleep will I get?  How do I get stock when I’m trading every day?  How do I keep the Pink Chilli Hobbit supplied for her events?  Will the cats forgive me for being out of the house for 26 days in a row? How many Pot Noodles will I eat during the market?  Can I squeeze in a haircut before I start trading?  When will I do the washing?  Vitally important questions all of them, but for the sake of my customers I suspect the last is the most important.

So in preparation, stock has piled up and is already disappearing fast.  A couple of cooking days are planned before Jamie gets to fly solo in the kitchen, but in reality we’re done on big batches.  If we run out, we run out.  The good news is that we have all our box sets in now – Voodoo Habanero, Fatalii, and 2-grinder and 2-bottle boxes.  Damned fine they look too, and proving very popular.

20141115_092202Last weekend saw me in a very unusual setting – a football stadium.  OK, seeing me in a football ground is not that unusual, but running a market stall in one most definitely is.  This was at Brighton’s Amex Stadium, where I was at a Christmas Fair.  Very well run, well attended and – more importantly – indoors.  After suffering rising damp, sinking damp and fin rot the weekend before, I was thankful of the dryness.  Of course Brighton’s a very different place than Wiltshire, so a different kind of clientele, but they liked their chilli stuff and were definitely up for a laugh.  They also liked my free lollipop sign…so many people appreciated my attempts at levity that it almost made me forget the sense of humour failure that accused me of sexism the other week.  Almost.

Gloucester beckons this weekend, for a 2-day Victorian market.  I think the organisers would like traders to dress appropriately for the occasion, but maybe I’ll just slap an urchin or something to get into the 19th century spirit.  Or possibly contract TB.  Or declare war on France.  Which would be a shame, as I rather like France.  They do good skiing there 🙂

20141110_123714One place I won’t be this weekend, and apologies to my regulars for this, is Royal Wootton Bassett.  I booked up Gloucester ages ago and simply don’t have cover for the RWB market.  Pink Chilli Hobbit is understandably hugely busy with her own business, PinkBox Boutique, at this time of the year, and despite our best efforts at cloning we’re not able to be everywhere (our clones have all gone a bit funny, and whilst useful in some ways most are only good enough for tasks that require no thought whatsoever, like carrying heavy stuff, tabloid journalism or joining UKIP).

And with that, I think I will sign off.  As I mentioned earlier, this will most likely be my last long post for a while as my poor halfling brain will struggle to write anything sensible (steady…) once festive trading starts.  I shall be putting stuff on my Facebook page and tweeting as well, so feel free to pay me a visit there.

And why The Meaning of Bogies for the blog title?  It’s one of the many, many random questions that my youngest daughter comes out with on occasion.  I do wonder how the teenage mind functions sometimes :-/

This is what God Slayer does to you

This is what God Slayer does to you


hogswatch

 

March of the Poozers

Well, here we are again, only this time it’s distinctly murky.

20141101_085918The clocks have gone back, the nights are well and truly drawing in and – despite one last ridiculously warm Halloween hurrah – we’re all rummaging around in wardrobes for the thermals.  I have to confess at this point to being a bit weird and secretly liking long evenings, where I can lower the portcullis, pull up the drawbridge and park myself on the sofa to watch a film or catch up on some reading…all the while attempting to reduce the world’s chocolate supplies.  Not every evening, of course, because then you start to go a bit funny in the head through lack of human interaction…but once a week or so it’s sort of pleasant to hide from the world.

halloweenHalloween came and went without a single trick or treater knocking on my door.  I was at home, but  adopted blackout mentality with no lights on – in reality I was working upstairs, as I am now, in the study – but not a single ghoulish child crossed my path.  I even had my lollipops ready, just in case!  I do have mixed feelings about the whole trick or treat thing…it’s lovely to see little kiddies dress up and have a fun time, but when a surly teenager knocks on your door, mumbling incoherently at you, surely that’s a bit rich.  I veer between polar extremes of ‘it’s a lovely dressing-up event for the kiddies’ and ‘ghastly over-hyped American atrocity’ – and advancing years do nothing to change my views.  Of course when I were a lad none of this happened – it seems to have ballooned in the 21st century, driven by the crass commercial concerns of corporate retailers desperate to fill an event gap between the summer holidays and Christmas.  If I could think of a chilli-related angle on it maybe I might change my views!

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Ooh, look what I found in the tunnels

There’s been a lot of stock creation at the Farm over the last few weeks, yet we still don’t think we have enough.  Rough calculations (the kind we’re best at) lead us to believe we’re two-thirds of the way to having the right amount, even though we’ve been busy.  Of course it’s a good thing if we need that much, but it’s a bit daunting that – despite having more stock than ever – we’re still well short.  Of course this is a knock-on from being at so many events, we are victims of our own success, so I’m not complaining.  Oh well, another day on the bottling machine beckons tomorrow 🙂

20141025_154449Event-wise it all goes a bit quiet in October.  Even those events we do attend are a bit quiet – everyone is keeping their powder dry for the Christmas push, though I did win a frankly mahoosive cake at a WI function last weekend, which was a bit of a Brucie bonus.  There are signs that pressie-buying is just about kicking off – even though the number of units we’re selling is pretty stable, what we are selling is veering towards the scary end of the table, a sure sign of gift purchasing going on.  The supply of Voodoo Habanero box sets disappeared very quickly, and we’re keenly awaiting delivery of more, along with the new Fatalii sets.  The grinder box sets started flying out at the weekend, and I expect the 2-bottle sets will go just as well when we get them in.

2015 is taking shape already. frightening though that is to comprehend.  My inbox is burgeoning (yes, burgeoning no less) with mails about events for next year – some of which are repeats, some are new to us, some are completely new events with no history.  At some point in January there will be a gloves-off, no-holds-barred bunfight between all the main protagonists to discuss who’s doing what, when and more importantly why.  It’s a difficult task, with people having favourite events they want to go to again, some they think we should cover but don’t have the time, manpower or willpower to do, and a few left-field fightsuggestions that hang tantalisingly in the air waiting for someone to take charge.  2014 was difficult to plan, 2015 will – I suspect – be even harder.  I’ve learnt a few things this year though – namely, don’t fill in gaps too early, there are always events out there – even if they’re planned in at fairly short notice.

One thing I’m pretty sure about though – I reckon my cricket playing days will be extremely limited again, possibly limited to the point of extinction.  That is a real shame, but the bills have to get paid somehow.  I’ll try to sneak into a midweek  evening game or two, they’re unlikely to impinge on events too much.

Talking of events, we’re at a few this weekend:

  • Sheffield Global Market – Wednesday to Sunday
  • Bristol Temple Quay – Thursday
  • Reading Farmers Market – Friday
  • Sutton Benger Farmers Market – Saturday
  • Swindon Designer Outlet Farmers Market – Sunday

20141025_094316Pink Chilli Hobbit will be in Trowbridge as usual this Wednesday at her community market stall, selling all sorts of goodies.  At the last count she had 55 samples available for food and cosmetics…I have enough trouble coping with 10 or 12!  She’ll also be in Calne this Saturday morning selling chilli stuff, as well as other foodie goodies, so pop along 🙂

Had to drop off a delivery in Broadway (the Worcestershire variety) last week.  I may just have stopped for a nice lunch whilst I was there, it’s a lovely place – well worth a visit!

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And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I shall sign off for this post.

Have a great week, don’t work too hard, and remember to bow before your Poozonian overlords.


It’s Remembrance Day this Sunday, so spare a moment to think of the fallen from all nations, most especially the conscripts, that fought for their country.

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We shall remember them.

 

Back pressure build up

20140503_091926Yes folks, it’s now been a whole year since I was catapulted head-first into the crazy world of chilli peddling.  On October 5th 2013 I went to help Jamie at his stall in Devizes, only to be left in charge for the morning in what was to become my first ever trading day.  I can well remember the feeling of utter terror that washed over me as our illustrious leader left me to my own devices.  Although an enthusiastic fan of the product range I was hardly an expert, but I racked up reasonable sales – and haven’t looked back since.

A lot’s happened since that point, both professionally and personally.  I’ve bought two vans, which have occasionally run smoothly.  I’ve learned a lot about chillies, though it’s always a work in progress.  I’ve been loudly and menacingly accused of blasphemy.  I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with a bottling machine.  I’ve become known as the most irritatingly organised stall holder at a number of markets.  I’ve become a committee member of the Wiltshire Farmers Market Association.  I’ve been wet, cold and miserable on any number of occasions.  I’ve been hot, sweaty and bothered on any number of occasions.  I’ve had to embrace Christmas enthusiastically.  I’ve adopted market trader cheeky chappie as my language of choice on school days.  I’ve met Boris Johnson.  I’ve met the father of the lead singer of one of my favourite bands.

IMG_8554I’ve met all manner of customer, the vast majority of which are delightful, or at least harmless.   I’ve developed a Spotter’s Guide…

The Professional  You can see them a mile off.  They have the fixed stare of an addict, and they are making a bee-line for the stall, cutting across traffic flow and almost always heading to the hot end of the table.  Usually under 40, very often male, keen to find something new.  Not always the best buyers as they have cupboards full of the stuff (often our products).

The Interested Amateur  These are customers that like a bit of spice in their life, but aren’t sure if they can do the really hot stuff.  Often enthusiastic fans of our jams and Mango sauce, they don’t often go for the really hot ones but might try them for a giggle.

20140518_101617The What Have You Got Here’s?  Not chilli fans – yet.  Are the sort of person you like to see at events – they’re going to try a few things and see if they like it.  Usually go away with a milder jam or one of the less challenging sauces, but are occasionally lured into buying a hot one.

The Free Luncher  Come along and try everything, often so quickly that they can’t possibly be tasting anything.  They’ll have been spotted walking past the cheese stall, not breaking stride as they scoop up handfuls of samples for a free feed.  They are the main reason why we don’t use crackers for samples any more.

The I Don’t Like Chilli  Can be further subdivided into:

mr-yukThe Face-Screwer-Uppers – look like a bulldog chewing a wasp as soon as they get within ten feet of the stall.  Are keen to tell you what damage chillies do to their digestive tract, often at length, and quite graphically.

The I Once Had An Experience – have based all their knowledge of spicy food on having eaten a dodgy Vesta curry forty years ago, and have had nothing hotter than a korma since.  Scarred for life, they refuse to countenance anything exotic.  Probably vote UKIP.

The Will Try But…  – can be lured into trying something (usually Sweet Chilli Sauce) then run around like someone’s set fire to their tongue.  At least they’ve had a go, bless ’em.

The Can Be Persuaded – although they say they don’t like chillies, they’ll then agree that they do like sweet chilli sauce…and once they try ours you have them on the hook.

GiftThe Gift Buyer – seen a lot at this time of year.  Don’t do chillies themselves but are looking for presents for the family and friends.  Quite often go away with a product with a silly name (Bunny Burner, Hellmouth etc).

The Kids  Again, several categories:

The I Can Outdo My Dad – will try the hottest thing on the table and stand there getting redder and redder whilst claiming that they like it. Often accompanied by tears.20140412_145746[1]

The I Can Take Anything – occasionally spotted, indestructible children for whom nothing is hot enough.  Fear them.

The Lovely Children – the ones that you persuade to try Sweet Chilli or Habanero Gold who give a lovely beaming smile when they actually like it.  Often followed by excitable jumping up and down and persuasion of Mummy/Daddy to buy it pleeeeeeeeeeeease…

The Criers – persuaded by parents to try something a little too hot, will burst into tears.  Another good reason to have lollipops on the stall.

The Lad  All swagger and attitude, often approach with a bunch of mates and keen to show off.  ‘What’s the hottest you have’ is the question.  One application of God Slayer later and they’ve gone surprisingly quiet and their ears have gone purple.  Swearing often ensues.  They then buy a God Slayer to take down the pub.

bunnyThe Frightened Rabbit  An odd one, this.  They come up to the stall, start to look at the display, but if you speak to them they startle and run away.  Stallholder left in bemusement and checking to see if he’s applied deodorant that morning.

The Arm Folder  Stand five feet from the stall, arms folded in a very defensive pose.  Refuse all entreaties to get closer and don’t make eye contact.  Bizarre.

The Huggers  They’re bumped into their bestie at the market and decide to catch up on how Auntie Ida is, whether little Jack/Lily has started pre-school yet, or how fantastic their villa holiday to the Dordogne was…all this taking place directly in front of the stall, blocking access to other customers.  They are utterly oblivious and often find themselves being forcibly given samples on sticks just to remind them that they’re in the bloody way.

The Chilli Salt Convert  Don’t like chilli sauces, but will taste the Chipotle Chilli Salt, and once they’re done that they’re the biggest fan ever.  Often go away with one for their Mum/Dad/mate as well.

The I’ll Have One Of Each  Still waiting to meet this person.  One day, one day…

I’m sure there are many more…every market throws up another personality, another type of shopper, another mystery for us to unravel.  It’s what makes it fun, trying to work out which category each person fits into.

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On the product front we’ve cooked a lot lately – partly because we need the stock for the Christmas rush, partly because there’s a whole lot of chilli picking going on and we don’t have freezer space for everything – we just cook ’em straight vhbsaway.  That means we have the annual special edition box sets out.  This year sees a reappearance of the Voodoo Habanero set – Fruit Burst, Peach Habanero and Chocolate Habanero – which is already proving very popular.  We’re also producing a Fatalii set – with yellow and white Fatalii sauces.  We’re the only farm in the world to be growing the white fatalii chilli on a commercial scale, so we thought we’d better do fataliisomething with it!  The white Fatalii sauce is made with pears, so a little less sharp than the yellow Fatalii and it’s lemony twang, but they complement each other beautifully.  The fatalii set will be available in a few weeks, but orders being taken now 🙂

Of course we’ve reached the time of the year when standing outside selling stuff is getting colder and wetter, but we’re still flat out on the event front.  I’ve been to Salisbury, which was good practice for my extended stay there later in the year; a new farmer’s market opened at Sutton Benger, near Chippenham – a lovely little village, with great support from the landlord of the Bell House Hotel, 20141011_112132whose car park we used, made it a very successful event; Pink Chilli Hobbit has started running a department store under a gazebo – lots of different products, including chilli stuff, all at one pbbstall!  She’s doing a great job at combining a number of different lines in one place…it certainly adds flavour to markets where the producers don’t see benefit of going individually, but a bit of everything all adds up to a worthwhile venture.

Less of the big events in October, but plenty of regular markets to keep us busy.  This coming weekend we’re in Leicester, Reading, Gloucester, Swindon, Bath and Oxford.  We soon descend headlong into full-blown Christmas mode, so expect the Bah Humbug hat to make a reappearance!

That’s all for this week.  Keep the faith, clunk click every trip and toss me a droob.


 

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Nights are drawing in

 

Rubber dinghy rapids

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, mainly as I’ve not had masses to waflle about.  I thought I’d save up my random ramblings until I can pad them out a bit 🙂

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Though I have little to waffle about, it’s all go at WCF Central.  We’ve been cooking furiously (mainly furious when the bottling machine has a spitty fit…thank you Hellmouth) so we now have more stock in place than ever before.  Its’ causing us a bit of a headache, what with the need for a national crate mountain, but it puts us in a decent position in the headlong rush towards Christmas.  I know it’s still only just autumn, but us trading wallahs have to be ahead of the curve, otherwise there’s a danger of us getting caught with our trousers down if something unexpected happens.  A good productive day can see over 3,000 units produced without having to work till midnight – we’re getting good at this efficiency lark, you know.  Bond will claim it’s all down to his ‘floating’ role as Efficiency Bitch – soaking up all the odd jobs that sometimes get in the way of smooth running – but for the most part it’s down to good planning and days of monster batches in the big cooker.  They’re a pain to prepare for, but once cooked it’s just a case of bottle, bottle, bottle till you get bored of hitting the pedal.  Needs must though, we need the stock, and we have a lot more days like that to be prepared.

20140921_101457On the trading front it all goes a bit quieter at this time of year.  Yes, there are still plenty of markets and festivals, but the monsters of the summer are gone and everyone’s focussed on the upcoming horror that is the festive season.  Since my last update I’ve been to Reading, Gloucester, Tetbury, Royal Wootton Bassett and Wroughton – mostly places I’ve been to before, although the day in Wroughton was unusual.  I was asked to give a presentation to the Wiltshire WI for their Produce Day, which was fun.  I suspect the average age of the audience was the wrong side of 70, and the average natural hip quota significantly less than 2, but they all listened attentively to the producers there on the day, and asked plenty of questions – thankfully no difficult ones – not to me. anyway wilogo🙂  I’ve been asked back to give a similar presentation at their anniversary event next April, so I can’t have scared them too much with my Don Estelle shorts and tales of incinerating potential Prime Ministers!

I’ve had a bit of a weekend off before that, taking a Sunday off to head to Wembley for an NFL game.  Now I know it’s still fairly new to the UK and so it’s a bit of a novelty, but it’s so much fun going to one of these games – the glitz, the glamour, the cheerleaders, the vastly overpriced pretend food, the cattle market that is Wembley Stadium Station afterwards…it’s not like that at the County Ground, I can tell you.  And you certainly don’t get Def Leppard as pre-match entertainment at  Swindon, though many would say they’re glad of that.

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On a totally separate subject, something caught my eye today, and frankly I’m baffled.  I followed a brand spanking new Fiat 500 through Devizes, and I’m sure the owner is really, really proud of her shiny new toy…but why in the FSM’s name did she choose beige as the colour?  Now we all have our preferences.  I realise this.  I seem to have developed a preference for loud colours recently that can leave your retinas in a state of shock.  But beige?  For a car?  A little research leads me to believe it’s actually a colour they call ‘New Age Cream’.  Seriously, what the hell’s that all about?  It’s beige, people!  Eeeeuw.

mcglashanSince my last post one of the most important decisions in British politics ever has been taken, with the result of Scotland’s independence referendum.  The result was, of course, the safe option of the status quo – one I think is probably the best for Scotland – but it does lead me to believe that far from it being decisive, we’re just going to have to go round the loop all over again in a few years until they get the answer the nationalists want.  I think, by the time voting day had come round, everyone in England was utterly sick of Alex Salmond’s weaselly fizzog appearing on every screen, and if the English had had a vote we’d had voted a resounding Yes just to get rid of the bugger.  A really vindictive part of me would have loved to have seen a Yes vote win out, just to see how an economy built on shortbread and little drummer girls in plastic tubes would actually work in the real world.  However we’re all still one big happy family, but just wait till Andy Murray wants a big cheer at Wimbledon next year…I think he’ll find a few less supporters next time round!

I was going to buy these but they were two deer

I was going to buy these but they were two deer

A busy few days coming up – cooking at the farm followed by days trading in Temple Quay (Bristol), Salisbury, Devizes and Frome.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit will be in Marlborough on Sunday, and the WCF Massive will also be in Neath, Reading, Petersfield, Oxford, Bath and of course Swindon.  We’re always in Swindon.  We try to leave, but just like Number 6 in The Prisoner, we get caught by the balls and dragged back.  Oh…sorry…caught by one big ball.  My bad.

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That’s all for this week folks, apart from one very important question.  Take a look at the poster below, spotted in a local health food establishment.  WTF?

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Another promising career cut short

sackedGoddammit, I’ve been sacked.  Again.

This morning I received a rather peremptory e-mail from HR informing me that as I had contravened a number of company directives my contract had been terminated with immediate effect.  The final warning that was issued to me earlier this month had gone unanswered, and therefore I was cut loose, cast off, and sent packing.  Of course should I wish to appeal I could open the interestingly peculiar attachment to the e-mail and appeal against the decision.

Needless to say there was a heavy whiff of spam about the whole affair, not the least of which was the fact that the mail was signed by Quinn Schneekloth.  What, the Quinn Schneekloth, I hear you ask?  What a fantastic made-up name…if you’re going to try to ensnare unsuspecting victims in a viral scam then you may at least go the whole 9 yards and adopt the most preposterous name going.  And as I had never heard of the company I was being fired from, I took the news of my demise quite calmly, really…

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What do you mean, wrong type of Bond girl?

On the subject of unusual names I came across a wonderful suggestion for a Bond girl on some hand wash earlier (what is it with me and hand wash lately?).  The flavour of hand wash in question was Geranium Goodness, and it just sounded to me like a 1960’s big-boobed stereotype being seduced by 007’s latest Q-powered sex gadget as the camera panned away to a tropical island paradise vista…

So I’m not going to waffle on at length this week, for a number of reasons.  There’s a heck of a lot going on, but it’s all a bit swan-like right now – all serene on the surface whilst paddling like buggery under the waves.  Markets are happening of course, and cooking is a staple of the week’s activities, but nothing earth-shattering has happened since my last missive.  OK, John Cleese did pop along to the Chilli Hut at the weekend and buy Simon’s last Chocolate Habanero, but without the silly walk he just a customer, albeit a very tall one.

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I’ve been to Sherston and Bristol’s Tobacco Factory, where the public were as always very pleasant, and the Pink Chilli Hobbit has been to Avebury, where the locals were largely sheep.

Christmas looms large on the horizon.  Normally this fills me with humbug-style fear and loathing, but 2014 sees me looking forward to the busiest time of the year with a bizarre sense of anticipation.  It’s going to be oh so busy, and I fully expect to be sick of the sight of our stuff by the time the festive season is over, but we’ll be looking to work ourselves into an exhausted stupor so that we can slump over our Christmas turkey with a sense of pride and achievement.

We have to cook a proverbial – actually, literal – shed-load of stock before then, so I’ll have to get my bottling mojo on soon.  Jamie’s putting a schedule together which will allow us a few minutes between shifts to snatch a few Z’s…and somewhen before then we have a lot of chillies to pick.  Sleep’s overrated, I’m being told.

I took a bit of time off last Friday to watch a bunch of thin blokes on wheels whizz by.  The Tour of Britain wended it’s way through Devizes, so I took a walk up to Monument Hill, about a mile and a half from home, to watch the spectacle.  It was all over in a flash, as the 100+ riders hoofed past at some considerable speed…even in two groups split by a couple of minutes it was all done and dusted in no time at all.  I was really impressed by the organisation of it all thS0038145-2ough…there were a huge number of bike cops speeding ahead of the peloton to stop traffic.  When you think about the logistics of the event it’s amazing how well it all works, but blink and you’ll miss it – it’s all over so quickly (where have I heard that before?).  Still, it was a nice walk, even if I did somehow manage to walk past the pub on the way home without stopping.  Must…try…harder.

And you know what folks?  That’s going to be it for this week, short and sharp.  We have a busy week of cooking ahead, and you can find me in Reading and Gloucester peddling chilli goodness this weekend.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit is running her own stall in Trowbridge on Wednesday which sells WCF stuff…and we’re out and about in Birmingham, Abergavenny, Clumber Park, Salisbury, Bath, Oxford and Tetbury as well.  I’m not quite sure where I am on Sunday yet.  Might be Swindon.  Might be Tetbury.  Might be giants.  Make a little birdhouse in your soul.


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Yellow, furry, and in my Mum’s garden