Monday, 8 September 2008

Very Bizarre Things

Now here's a Very Strange Thing.

A couple of months ago, ever hopeful that one day in my current lifetime we might just be ready to open for guests, I registered the domain name Haven't done anything with it yet mind you - it's sitting there waiting to see some action. (As indeed is our future guest acccommodation. But we won't go there just now).

One night in August, when it was just too hot to go to bed, I was idly googling Slow and Slow Holidays. Other Slow Holiday sites are strangely almost non-existent, but I came across one site called 'A slow holiday in the Auvergne'. Bizarrely, it had an almost identical domain name: But even more bizarrely, as I discovered when I went to have a look, it refers to a gîte in a renovated corps de ferme owned and run by another two north Norfolk escapees, Andrée and Gary Lloyd, who moved at around the same time as we did. And more bizarrely still, they're people that we knew, albeit vaguely, because they owned Norfolk's iconic cook shop Head Cook and Bottlewasher, in North Walsham, which we (along with just about every cook in north Norfolk) used to zoom along to whenever we were in dire need of something esoteric for the restaurant kitchen. If you couldn't get it there, you couldn't get it anywhere; even if you didn't need anything, you'd come away with some find or other that would quickly become completely indispensable, like Exopat baking sheets. In fact I blame Andrée unreservedly for the ridiculously overflowing contents of my kitchen drawers.

Maybe it's not so strange after all. Norfolk was pretty big on Slow - at the point that we left, the number of Slow Food members was growing hugely, and Aylsham was one of only two Cittàslows in England; since then Diss, also in Norfolk, has become the third English Cittàslow. At the same time, the restaurant and hospitality world was changing fast. We called it the Starbucks Effect: an increasing number of customers were becoming innoculated with the big-chain virus so that they no longer knew quite how to deal with small, quirky one-off businesses like ours. "But why aren't you open all day?" they'd screech through our closed door at 11am, "I want a tall skinny vanilla latte and I want it NOW and there's nowhere to get one and it's just APPALLING ...". Or they'd shake their heads in utter bemusement at the fact that we chose to close on Monday each week, even Bank Holidays. Or that we didn't cram more people in. Or have two sittings ("But you could make SO MUCH MONEY!"). Or that we chose to do things differently, not big-business-ly. It may or not be a coincidence that a number of small business people that we knew, or knew of, were also making the decision to move on at around the time that we did.

Anyway, at some point in the future we hope to collaborate with Andrée and Gary in offering two centre Slow Holidays. In the meantime, if you fancy a whizz - sorry, trundle - down to Puy de Dôme in the Auvergne, check them out here.

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