By Heather Tuffs
Given the near and far flung corners of the world that my previous blog has apparently reached I am slightly feeling the pressure with this much requested second attempt! So I will apologise now if this doesn’t live up to your expectations but I’ve tried my best!
Another 3 weeks has gone by very similar to the last one and the one before that and the one before that! My weeks are certainly going quickly but I know that is not the case for a lot of people. I’ve delivered to many people this week who have really had enough of being imprisoned now but continue to do their very best to entertain themselves however they can (alcohol seems to be a common theme!) and look after their loved ones, which is the best thing anyone can do right now. Hopefully we might start heading in the right direction soon.
And I certainly don’t want to be accused of doing what I feel social media can do to people which is paint such a rosy picture in this blog that everyone reading it feels inadequate or left out. As you’ve probably worked out from my last blog attempt, I’ve been approaching this lockdown situation with my usual attitude of trying to make the best of a situation and look for the positives (of which there have definitely been many) but that’s not to say I’m not missing lots of things too; Three Peaks fell race and other cancelled races; wild camping weekend trips to the Lakes/Dales; being able to visit parents freely; not seen my sister for nearly 2 months; holidays; and especially roaming those beautiful Scottish Islands and Highlands; and obviously work evening duties, staff meetings and tying soggy wet muddy canoes onto trailers (hahaha!)
But I know everyone has their own disappointments at the moment. And I also know that the Spar shop just can’t wait for all this to be over as they continue to work so, so hard to care for everyone. This virus has fallen especially hard on them as they have continued to keep the shop open fully to customers, continued market runs to carry on providing their fantastic fresh fruit and veg, as well as providing a fantastic delivery service for all the vulnerable people in Nidderdale.
So it’s not all amazing if that’s what you were thinking from these blogs, and I know this is in danger of sounding ‘preachy’, but I still think we have two choices in our outlook on life; either positive or negative and I know which I prefer; and the opposite just doesn’t help anyone. And I am definitely still enjoying my new job!
The embarrassing accolades keep coming my way but I still maintain I am just riding my bike around the beautiful Dale, helping out some great people and talking to lots of others; I just happen to be visible because I’m out on my increasingly creaky bike with a noisy, rattling trailer and an increasingly eye-catching flag; (see photo below for the latest decorations!) What people don’t see is all the invisible workers slaving away inside those shops and going the extra unseen miles to serve the local community to such a high standard.
It had to rain eventually
The improved flag!
The Delivery Machine
Erica Caswell keeping Heather fed
Ian out of the Kitchen and in Delivery mode
Our Nidd Assembly Hall in Food Bank mode
I continue to be inspired by the incredible service that the High Street shops provide day after day with such positivity and genuine care. Through immense hard work, determination to overcome adversity and the amazing ability of humans to adapt to new situations, the local shops now have a good system going. The days are still very busy, but manageable. Just don’t ask Spar about ‘Mental Wednesday’s’!
Time for a laugh now! Here are the recent highlights:
▪ A favourite Spar answer phone message; ‘Ring me back! You know who it is’. (Because obviously they’re so amazing in that shop that they can recognise the voices of everyone in Nidderdale…!)
▪ And another favourite topic; newspapers. ‘Can you just pop my newspaper round…’ (no mention of which newspaper that might be. But again, obviously they’re so amazing in that shop that they also know what newspaper everyone in Nidderdale reads!)
▪ My most hated ‘essential’ delivery item; bottled water. (It’s heavy and it’s so essential did you know it comes out of taps!!)
▪ A top tip for clearing out those customers when you’ve had enough; Choke on a bit of Bewerley Park flapjack and cough and splutter your way round the shop! Works in seconds! Lee is an expert!
▪ The increasingly desperate publics alcoholic requests; they’re not just asking for any old wine now but ‘a crate of your strongest stuff’! Spar have never sold so much alcohol in 4 years of running the shop. (and before you think they’re raking it in at the moment, consider the cost of employing extra staff, paying overtime and the obvious losses that result from this delivery business; How many businesses do you know that are kind enough to let people have their goods before they’ve even paid for them?)
▪ And who needs bricks when you can hold the roof up with beer? The Spar stock room is piled so high with crates of beer that it touches the ceiling. (and I honestly thought that must be a months worth; a gross underestimation of this imprisoned publics drinking ability – it’s only a weeks worth!)
▪ Two false birthday celebrations in the Spar! Lights out, candles and cake, singing… only to find out it isn’t Denis’ birthday untill July!! (it had a few customers in hysterics anyway!) And then another one the following morning; it wasn’t his birthday either!! (Maybe a sign of Spar’s desperation for a celebration!!)
▪Charismatic 90yr old ‘Nice Barbara’s’ greeting when I delivered her prescription; “have you brought more drugs for the old junkie..!”
▪ An essential Lockdown tool; Litterpickers! They make your arm 2m long! I am greeted by one customer who holds out a very generous gift in the jaws of one of these every Saturday morning.
▪ Another delivery to the lady who talks to me by trying to stick her head through her cat flap!
▪ A delivery payment in Euros! (Maybe it was wishful dreaming of holidays elsewhere!)
▪ Another delivery mix-up that clearly caused offence; “this is NOT a bungalow”! The address was ‘3 The Bungalows’ and the house I tried to deliver it to was indeed not a bungalow (should have spotted that!) but appeared to be in the right place. Won’t make that mistake again!!
▪ The usual comment as a snarling, dagger-like teeth baring, barking, eye bulging, snorting dog launches itself at the gate; ‘oh he won’t hurt you, he doesn’t mean any harm, he sounds much worse than he is, he’s a friendly dog really. (I have my doubts when the animal is held firmly, straining at the collar as the owner gingerly opens the gate to collect their delivery whilst trying to control the raging beast!)
▪ No order rejections lately; probably because everyone’s scared it might end up in some random blog.
▪ Tilly’s 10 minute phone conversation with a customer regarding an ‘overpayment’. This involved rummaging back through a weeks worth of receipts to find the required one, and then involved a discussion over the exact cost of every item. And all for a precious 15p!
▪ And another of Tilly’s favourite answer phone messages; ‘ring me back as soon as possible please because I’m going out’ (if you’re going out why can’t you come out and collect your shopping..?!)
▪ A long silence from a customer on the Spar phone followed by; ‘I’m still here you know..!’
▪ An answer phone message from a customer Spar couldn’t get hold of; ‘712003 ring me back please’: (why was it always engaged? Because they’re ringing themselves..!)
▪ A repeat of Kendalls ‘stand in the park and look to your right…’ description: Brilliant! I know exactly where you mean!
▪ Another Kendall’s classic. a very helpful delivery label; ‘1 Bishops’. (That could be three different houses you know! There is Bishops Way, Bishops Garth and Bishops Close..)
▪ And another: ‘it’s the first house before the school, no after the school, no I think it’s before the school, where is it Dave?’ (and which school are we even talking about?!)
▪ And another; ‘it’s the house with the green door’. There were 3 houses with green doors..! But only 3 useless direction in 3 weeks isn’t bad really! (Or maybe it’s because I know where they all are now, even the house with the bit of string on the gate!)
▪ Top delivery tactic for reliable directions: ask the postman!
▪ A lovely old couple whose delivery was the highlight of their week: they actually dressed up for it!
▪ A woman who complained that her kitchen towel didn’t fit in her holder so could she return it for some that did. (Do you know that stuff is like gold dust and hasn’t been available for weeks?!)
▪ My new job doesn’t just involve delivering things anymore but also ‘rodent removal’! (See photo below of what I was asked to remove for good old Val of Southlands!!) Her good friend and neighbour Joyce told me to throw it at her!
▪ An indication of just how long this has been going on; I now recognise certain customers writing and can tell you the daily habits of an increasingly large number of people, what they like to eat, what time they go for their walk, what time they get up (and possibly even what newspaper they read, but not at the immortal voice recognition level yet)!
▪ And good luck if you ever have to try and find Knott Top Farm. It goes by the name of ‘Bumble Bee Cottage’ instead! (Wish I’d known that before riding up and down that hill several times!)
▪ A classic example of Chinese whispers: somehow ‘Stock Plain Farm’ turned into ‘Dot Field Farm’. (no wonder I couldn’t find that either!)
▪ And a first defeat; the top of Quarry Lane with £86 worth of shopping (including 4L of my favourite delivery item; bottled water) was just too heavy! Halfway up I ground to a halt and even had to WALK!! (Editor: Wow! A hill that defeated Heather! OMG!)
And back to reality a little…..
▪Delivering a prescription to a lady who I thought wasn’t in so left it on her doorstep. She was in, but so immobile that it took her a good few minutes to get to the door. I noticed her in the doorway after delivering to a house over the road, looking down at the prescription on her doorstep that she just could not reach because unable to bend down; and so grateful when I picked it up for her. It really is scary to see how difficult life can become when health let’s you down and there’s no fairness to it either. I delivered to another lady today who I would have guessed was 70ish and was genuinely shocked when her neighbour told me she was 98!
▪ An eye opening conversation with a DPD delivery driver living in a high rise flat in inner city Leeds: on his return home from work his son opens the door so he doesn’t have to touch it, he goes straight to wash his hands, all clothes straight in washing machine and then doesn’t dare leave the house till it’s time for the next days work. We are certainly fortunate to live in our beautiful Dale where we have definitely been sheltered from much of the suffering and imprisonment that is going on elsewhere.
▪ Poor Liz Chandler of Spar walking up in the middle of the night dreaming she can hear that shop phone ringing.
▪ Trying to do your normal job whilst wearing those wretched masks that mean you can’t breathe properly and make your glasses fog up.
▪Shaun and Tilly Chandler’s ‘day off’:
6 hours spent doing the currently very complicated Spar finances (keeping track of delivery payments, cheques, BACS payments..) sorting wages (for temporary staff, furloughed staff, self-isolating staff, loads of overtime etc) renewing shop licences and insurance etc. Whilst trying to care for ill and elderly parents that you can’t visit, and feeling ill with an ear infection and very tired yourself. And then the rest of the day spent catching up on all the usual jobs they haven’t had time to do during the week. Even an hour sat in the sun in the garden is a luxury hard to come by at the moment. It is so relentless at the moment and I am continually astounded at just how hard they work in that shop but with such cheerfulness.
▪ And imagine how frustrating it must be for Lee Chandler when you’ve been to the market at 4am, done a full days work and then you find out that a delivery that was supposed to come in the morning isn’t coming till 6.30pm so you still need to hang around to unpack all that.
▪ Cath of ‘Fish with a Twist’ starting work at 5am; I saw her in Spar at 6pm buying ingredients and she still had another 3 hours work to do.
They ALL work so hard on that High Street in a continuing determination to do their very best to look after the people of Nidderdale and provide a truly top quality service. We are so, so fortunate to have such an amazing, dedicated set of local shops, selling such high class produce. Why would you shop any where else!
The flag gets additions
More flag tinkering
A well earned brew
Some Bewerley Flapjack to power the workers
I continue to be amazed at the generosity, kindness and care of both the local shops and most of their customers and have felt like I’ve been riding on a wave of goodwill throughout this Lockdown. The friendships made during this period will last long after this is over.
Thanks to the Chandler’s who continue to give me all their beautiful fresh fruit and veg, Cath for all that lovely fish, Kendall’s for those great pies and all the other generous gifts from so many people. I definitely don’t expect it but all that good food has been so appreciated. This delivering business is hungry work!
Thank you to everyone for all the good laughs and positivity throughout this challenging period. I love helping you all out and I feel very proud and fortunate to be able to call glorious Nidderdale my home!
A Thankyou from the Bewerley Team
We would like to extend our immense gratitude to the Staff at Spar for their incredibly kind donation of two extra mountain bikes to our fleet. We hope we will be able to inspire many more future Heathers with this generous gift.