COVID STATUSWe are despatching online internet orders as normal. Select a despatch date at our checkout.Our Tetbury Shop Opening Hours are currently: Tuesday to Saturday 9am - 3pmWe can rarely answer our phone at the moment - please email if you have any queries. Our shop is open throughout lockdowns as we are an essential business.
COVID FREEDOM DAY ON MONDAY ... (17th July)
England is about to start an experiment by relaxing Covid rules from Monday 19th July, referred to by many as 'Freedom Day'. Masks will no longer be compulsory, neither will social distancing, limiting numbers of guests for weddings or funerals, or hand sanitising before entering shops. Night clubs will also re-open after being closed since March 2020. We are the first country to abolish most legal Covid limitations on society whilst having rising numbers of cases. Travel restrictions will still remain, as we try to prevent Covid variants entering our country. Our Government believes we have to live with Covid and open up our economy so that businesses stop going bust. They also recognise that isolation causes other effects such as mental health problems. We will no longer wear a mask in our shop though customers will be protected by Perspex screens and an open door. You are welcome to wear a mask if you wish and you will still have access to hand sanitiser.
Our vaccination program is now highly advanced with over 95% of the older members of our population having had the two doses of vaccine and, although the vaccine does not prevent a person catching Covid, it highly reduces hospitalisation or death. The figure will probably never go higher than 95% as some are unable to take the vaccine for medical reasons, and some refuse to take it because of their own personal or religious view on vaccines. Adults over eighteen can now have the vaccines, though many younger people will still not take it. We are having over 50,000 new Covid cases each day because testing is now widespread. Deaths remain very low compared to previous waves. Some scientists believe we are reaching a point of herd immunity as many have either had the vaccine or the disease. The Delta variant spreads much faster than previous ones. We have started planning for September now, when we will vaccinate 35 million people with flu vaccines.
Over 60% of our population are worried about Freedom Day and many will continue to wear masks and still practice social distancing as voluntary acts.
Today the British Grand Prix takes place at Silverstone car racing circuit. 140,000 visitors will attend with proof of a recent negative Covid test. Last week we also hosted the finals of two European football matches where thousands attended, again with testing evidence. Those who watched the photographs or TV footage of the G7 meeting of world leaders saw them hugging, not wearing masks, and travelling. There will always be an element of 'do as we say, but not as we do' from our politicians.
We appreciate that the world is watching and this experiment could fail. Yesterday I visited the grave of a friend who died five years ago. When you see all the recent graves at the cemetery from last year and this year, it visibly demonstrates what this awful disease has done and it is not surprising that people are worried.
CHEESE WEDDING CAKES ...(13th March)
We have been enormously lucky during the pandemic. We live in a part of the UK with some of the lowest number of cases of Covid-19. Our mail-order business has had its busiest year since we went online with a full ecommerce shop in 2000, only two years after Google was founded. We have quadrupled our internet sales during this last year. Having spent our working lives in retail and wholesale, we feel sorry for those businesses which have closed and the thousands of staff who have lost their jobs.
Of course, not all parts of our business have grown. We are in a tourist area and there have been no tourists for parts of the last year. We hope to have a busy summer when they return.
We pioneered the concept of cheese wedding cakes almost twenty years ago and have sold hundreds, in fact, thousands of cakes over the years. However, restrictions on wedding receptions meant that we have sold hardly any cakes during this pandemic. It now looks like restrictions will be fully lifted by this summer, assuming the vaccine continues to be effective and reduces illness and death. Many couples have delayed their weddings completely, so we hope this year will be a busy one for cakes. However, as face masks will probably continue to be mandatory for some time, we will be unable to give consultations in our shop, as these necessarily involve the tasting of cheese.
SURVIVING THE THIRD LOCKDOWN ...(17th January)
... is our goal for 2021! This lockdown, however, is a bit different from the first two, as no one knows how long it will last, or whether more restrictions will be put in place. Much will depend on how quickly any new mutations of the virus will spread, and how fast those at risk can be vaccinated. In the meantime, we will continue to operate our internet business and, for the foreseeable future, open our shop. The shop operates in a Covid-secure manner so, for all customers, please wear face coverings (over your mouth and nose!) and remember the social distancing ...
Cheese makers and suppliers are working in difficult conditions and are still building up stocks after Christmas. As a result, we are finding it harder than usual to obtain both British and French soft cheeses, as well as a few other products, but we still offer an interesting range of good quality items. Hopefully, this situation will ease over the next month or so.
Couriers still have busy workloads due to increased online ordering but are doing their utmost to get your cheese to you by next day delivery. Inclement winter weather can be a problem at this time of year, although we have our fingers crossed that heavy snowfalls will not cause too many problems and, after all, as the saying goes: "If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
On an optimistic note, its good to remember those lines of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins: "And, though the last lights off the black West went - Oh! Morning at the brown brink eastward springs!"
THE SEASON OF GOODWILL ...
... is almost here, with only a month to go until Christmas Day bursts upon us. So you'd think that a spirit of kindness and consideration would be in the air, particularly with all the 'Be Kind to Our Staff' notices in shops right now. Most people have been kind and supportive of each other during a difficult year - but not in a Waitrose supermarket in Clapham, south London, where, at the weekend, a customer whose card was declined spat in the face of a member of staff, unleashed a torrent of foul abuse, and kicked Christmas displays as she stormed out of the store.
Looking on the bright side, we're not expecting any of that sort of behaviour in our shop in the run-up to 25th December. Generally, our customers both in the shop, and online, understand only too well that everyone, like us, is fed up to the back teeth with lockdowns, rules and regulations, social distancing, and face coverings. If a customer's card is declined in the shop, it's likely that all they need to do is to verify their payment using their PIN number; online, they should contact their card provider. We are only too happy to send a payment link to help those who may be having difficulties.
For internet customers, it may be worth remembering that couriers will be struggling this December and, while we - and they - will try to ensure that parcels arrive in good time, delays will inevitably happen for a small percentage of you. Try to be patient. We will be working fourteen hours a day and have only limited time to hunt up parcels which are still on the couriers' vans, or sitting in a delivery depot, but we will do our best to assist you - all you need to do is to send us a courteous e-mail, and we'll answer it as soon as we possibly can!
Finally, remember that face coverings in the shop are now mandatory for everyone, and any face covering should cover mouth AND nose! Even if we have to wear our face coverings - let's do Christmas! (25th November)
We have received our first Christmas order. Plan early for Christmas, like us. You can place your Christmas order anytime from now and set a December despatch date. Remember we don't charge your card and take payment until we prepare your order much nearer Christmas. (6th October)
We mostly post our blogs on Facebook, but here are a couple of our last virus diary entries.
CORONAVIRUS DIARY - Part 13
"Crazy, crazy, crazy!" That's what one of the courier drivers told me last week when he delivered a box of cheeses from a supplier. Courier firms across the country are really finding it difficult now. Not only has the volume of online shopping in the UK increased tremendously - and it all has to be put on a van and driven somewhere - but the roads are generally busier with traffic than they were back in March - customers aren't stuck at home self-isolating, but have gone to the park, to the supermarket, to the beach, and so on, which means that the courier has to find somewhere safe to leave a parcel in their absence.
People are sending LOTS of gifts - for birthdays, to cheer up those self-isolating, as treats for new mothers - and, of course, there are many Father's Day gifts awaiting preparation. We love reading the messages sent to accompany these presents: some are humorous, some touching ... all human nature is there!
We have had to re-send several parcels when the original goods didn't arrive in what we felt was an acceptable time, but this - whilst infuriating both for ourselves, who have prepared and packed the order, and dealt with all the necessary paperwork, as well as for the customer, who has waited for delivery of a parcel which turns up several days late - is part of the job these days. It just means more work and frustration. But not everyone wants to queue for three hours outside a branch of Ikea or any "bricks and mortar" shop - not everybody actually wants to jostle with others in a supermarket - so we believe that online shopping will become more frequently used; this means that courier companies will have to "up their game" and employ more drivers and other staff to deal with the surge in business, which isn't going to go away any time soon. The very large national hub where all our courier parcels first go is having trouble dealing with the many thousands of boxes each day and we assume that it will have to be extended or replaced with some sort of super-hub. Many 40-foot trucks go there from all over the UK and then the same trucks loaded with different boxes leave to return to depots all over the UK. You can probably imagine the huge scale of the operation.
In the meantime we are upgrading all our parcels - at our own expense - to a By Noon delivery. In this strange new world, this doesn't necessarily mean that a parcel will actually arrive before midday; it just means that it may be given some priority on its journey to the customer, so with any luck it will arrive on the day it's supposed to ... well, that's the theory anyway. We still can't guarantee that one hundred per cent of our parcels will arrive on time. Most of them do, and that's about as good as it gets right now. One lovely comment last week from a customer - "this cheese is the best I have tasted for years - regards Don".
Shops in Tetbury are preparing to re-open in the middle of June. Windows are being cleaned, frontages being given a lick of paint, and so on. Visitors and customers - not always the same - will be relieved (in every sense of the word) to know that the public toilets are now open! However, the free parking, which was available for two or three months over the spring, has now been withdrawn and the meters have been unveiled once again. As is often the case - you win some - you lose some ...
We are currently working six days a week on internet orders, plus five days a week in the shop. The shop still has reduced hours because footfall is relatively light (this is partly due to very warm weather) but perhaps we will extend these hours once everything is back to normal next week. It all depends on how busy we are, and how tired we feel. At least we have managed to take one day off for each of the last two weeks. That helps tremendously to combat the fatigue, and it has been good just to sit in the sun, build up levels of Vitamin D, rest our weary feet, and give our brains a break from the business.
CORONAVIRUS DIARY - Part 11
The mad pace of internet business is starting to slow slightly for us although, with Father's Day only three weeks away, it will probably gather pace again as June progresses (a few people have already placed orders).
There was even enough time for us to have a day off on the last Monday in May which, coincidentally, was also the late May Bank Holiday. Having worked flat out for long hours every single day for the previous ten weeks without a break, it was a real pleasure to have some time to ourselves, to visit a garden centre, sit in the sun, and catch up on non-business-related jobs.
Bank Holidays have lost something of their relevance now that we are living through strange times. Once, they were a welcome break from the routine of work but, now that there is no work for many who have been furloughed or who cannot run businesses. every day is a holiday. Similarly, the last week of May is, in theory, half-term - but how can you have a half-term when the schools remain closed?
It's my impression that quite a few people who haven't managed to structure some sort of routine for themselves to pass their time are completely bored - adrift like a rudderless boat in uncharted seas. Some have been busy cooking, trying new recipes; others have made a valiant attempt to lose weight through exercise and cycle rides. Jo, the florist across the road from us, has cleaned her house over and over again, gone for long runs, and has, for the last couple of weeks, been working at her shop providing a local delivery service now that she can obtain stocks of flowers again. We've really missed her - it has been quite lonely being one of the few businesses still operating on our street - and it will be great to have her back full-time when she is allowed to open her shop properly in mid-June. We think that many other businesses are preparing to re-open in a few weeks' time; they are all able to restrict customers to one or two people at a time and work according to rules and regulations.
What the town really needs is the return of visitors but, while councils keep public toilets closed, and cafés and restaurants are not permitted to allow customers inside to use toilets, outings must be carefully planned so that the need to use a toilet doesn't arise! It's like being back in pre-Victorian times, before the introduction of public conveniences, as the unfortunate inhabitants of some English seaside towns recently discovered when they found that their gardens were being used by members of the public who'd been "caught short" - it doesn't bear thinking about!
There are still so many rules and regulations governing our lives - and so many things we can't do, such as have haircuts, dental treatment, and so on. It's all very frustrating, and I find that the best remedy is just to go for a long walk in the beautiful sunny weather and get away from it all. In Estcourt Park, a country estate between Tetbury and the nearby village of Shipton Moyne, the grounds with their mature trees are full of lambs with their mothers - a rural idyll that would have delighted the French landscape artist Claude Lorrain. It's a pleasure to see the lambs jumping about and suckling from the ewes. Nearby, the meadows are carpeted in golden buttercups, and the hawthorn blossom is thick on the trees. It's true that rain is badly needed - it's been the driest May on record for most of England, and yes, there are distant mutterings about hosepipe bans - but, in the meantime, the sunshine has been a real tonic for all of us.