Nothing too exciting today. I went to work and it was so quiet I left at 3.30 p.m. with a big smile on my face. It is rare that I get out of there as early that. Two days a week I drive 15 miles to a small British Gift Shop where I work in their tea room. The dining area has a grand total of five tables. I joined as a co-manager but really I am all things, I seat our customers, take their orders, cook their food, take it out to them and clean tables. In my spare time at home I bake quiches, prepare chicken salad, make the occasional home-made soup, and shortbread for the afternoon teas. People seem to like what I prepare and I get a great deal of satisfaction from that. There is another lady who works on my day. We are all part-timers and I have been there for over four years. On other days you will find another two ladies and on the weekends there are three. Weekends are exceptionally busy. We have our busy days but not quite like the weekend, normally that is. On the menu we have nostalgia meals; bangers and mash, shepherd's pies, sausage sarnies, sausage rolls, Irish bacon butties and those quiches I mentioned earlier. There are also afternoon teas which include a various selection of tiny sandwiches, and my goodness lets not forgot those delicious scones that Hazel makes, with Devonshire cream and strawberry jam. All the biscuits are imported from England. Those are just a few items on the menu.
Most of us are Brits but there are some Americans, like the lady I work with who grew up in Washington DC. I have seen people come and go. Many of us arrived as customers as I did, drawn for the nostalgia of the old country. We have had a retired ballerina who danced with the Royal Ballet for many years ("Nothing too exciting Denise, I was only in the chorus." She was a very modest lady who has since gone back to England), a retired interior design specialist, a journalist and one lady was a voice coach for the children's choir at Covent Garden. Her husband was a trained opera singer she met in Italy and their son performs with the Baltimore Philharmonic Orchestra. As for me, I arrived with my sister Bev who was staying with me for a few weeks and we went for lunch. Before we finished our meal we had both been offered a job. I laughed and turned it down immediately as I truly thought they were joking. My sister said if she lived here she would have accepted on the spot and explained that she was flying home to Germany in two weeks. For seven days she told me I should take the job. We had made another reservation for the following Wednesday and they hadn't forgotten me as I was asked again. At the beginning of lunch I had said no, but at the end of it I had begrudgingly agreed to a two-week trial period, while inwardly rolling my eyes and wondering what on earth I was agreeing to. I might not have had any experience but I had the right accent I suppose. I remember the owner telling me, "You cook for your family don't you? Well, this is just like your family, only a big family!" That didn't encourage me one bit. I felt sure I was going to break so many cups and saucers I would get fired the first day (hopefully), or drop a tray, pour hot tea over someone, spill food into their laps. I haven't done that yet though the first ploughman's lunch I ever fixed, the customer looked at it a little strangely and furrowed her brows. I said, "I'm sorry, I'm new." She actually wrinkled her nose and said, "Yes I can tell." I was mortified and showed it, but now I would probably role my eyes. You tend to do that after a while, hoping that the customer doesn't see you and on some days not caring if they do. I have learned that with some you just can't please them even if you did a double flip and cartwheeled across the room to entertain them. Well, I've come a long way since those days. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is a fun place to be and this is supposed to be my 'fun' job. And when we say that amongst ourselves, because all of us came there as customers and were 'drawn in', we all laugh and shake our heads.
It certainly has given me a new-found respect for those good people who do this full-time. When I go to a restaurant now I give my server a big smile and look them straight in the eye, and leave them a generous tip. I know how sore their feet must feel after being on them all day, and dealing with the general public can be a challenge. I can tell you some fascinating stories but am thankful to say that most people I meet are extremely nice.