I should have been in hospital in London having my hernia fixed (again) instead of writing this, but at the last minute I was called and told that, because of a surge in Covid cases, all such operations had been postponed for the foreseeable future.
The hernia is more inconvenient than painful – I have to keep remembering not to lift things – but that message did bring me up short. Here was a major NHS hospital cancelling surgery when the general drift of public pronouncements at the moment suggests the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
It feels like one more crisis hanging over us. The fuel shortage hit our business hard, particularly deep down in the Dorset lanes at the Fox in Corscombe. Things were very slow there for a few days, with people nervous of wasting precious petrol in their tanks to drive several miles for a drink or dinner when they had more urgent uses for it, such as getting to work the next day.
And then there is the continuing shortage of staff in hospitality. I am not exactly comforted to hear Government ministers saying this is a pain we have to bear for a while as the economy readjusts. After all my industry has been through in the past 18 months, something more proactive from our leaders would be more welcome.
All this talk of a high-wage, high-skill economy seems to beg the question of how I can make a profit without passing on higher staff costs to customers and risking driving them away.
But it is probably best not to get me on to politics. I did, however, like the gist of remarks Chris Loder, our local MP in West Dorset, is reported to have made at the Tory Party Conference. He suggested that shortages on supermarket shelves were a ‘great opportunity’ for local shops to sell more locally produced goods.
It sounds as if, like me, he has been taking advantage of the milk stations that have been springing up around West Dorset of late. There are a few in car parks, some by the side of roads, and even one at the back of Waitrose. You take your empty bottles and fill up from the chilled tank with local farm milk, rather as we try to do with petrol when it is available. Some of them have butter and cream for sale, too.
What I particularly like about them is that it stops you wasting money buying things you don’t need to consume in the supermarket when you have to pop in to get some milk. So much so that I am in discussions about having one in the car park at the Fox.
It’s not a new idea. I remember seeing something similar being tried years ago in Oxfordshire, but often it is things we know already, and have discarded, that are what is needed if we are to solve the problems we are facing right now.
My own problem-solver this week was my grown-up daughter Ellie’s boyfriend. He and Ellie had come down to visit, the first time I had seen them for a year, but their arrival coincided with one of my Kitchen Tables, where a group of guests come to my house for a private dinner which I cook as they chat away with me.
I had decided, for a dessert, to make bay leaf burnt cream. There are so many bay leaves around at the moment, and we either chuck them into stews or ignore them altogether. I had carefully bought a blowtorch to finish the whole thing off – the dessert is like a crème brûlée – and been reassured that it came with its own gas canister inside.
But when I tried to use it, there was no gas. It could all have got very embarrassing if Alex hadn’t saved the day, and my blushes, by rushing down to the local camping shop and finding some fuel.
It was lovely having Ellie and Alex around, albeit briefly. Covid – and what we can only hope is its long, slow fading – has been especially tough on families who are separated by so many miles. But I suppose I am lucky down here that the local community is a bit like an extended family that looks out for its own.
Such as the customer who turned up at the fish truck during the petrol crisis to tell me there was a garage where I could get diesel when everywhere else had run dry. In these uncertain times, we all need someone keeping an eye out for us.
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