Friday, 3 April 2020

Strange times

Late afternoon Friday felt like going on holiday, but without going away anywhere. I left work just after 4.30pm and am off now until Thursday. Most of the workforce have been laid off – a situation we are reviewing on a weekly basis, but with many customers either postponing or pushing back delivery of their orders, it makes sense to scale back production.

It also means that the handful of people who are still in, have plenty of space between each other to maintain that all important 2 metre social distancing. There is still some necessity for the QC function, which is the area I am responsible for, but today I worked out a roster with my staff which enables us to provide cover during the run up to Easter, and potentially beyond.

The hardest part was finding sufficient work for the team to do at home, an issue that I’ve spent the past couple of days solving, so now everyone is sorted, and I can put my feet up for the weekend, secure in the knowledge that short of closing the factory completely, we’ve done everything we can to keep the workforce safe, whilst keeping things ticking over.

Before finishing, it’s surprising and encouraging to see how quickly people have fallen in line with social distancing. There’s a well-stocked village store and Post Office just along from our premises, and it’s good to see that it’s well patronised at present. 

I’d a package I needed to post back to a supplier this morning, so I strolled down to the Post Office and joined the queue. The shop has a one-out, one-in policy, but it was quite entertaining whilst waiting for my turn to stop and chat with a few fellow shoppers, whilst at the same time keeping our distance. 

Community stores like this are worth their weight in gold at the best of times, but during the situation we’re facing now, they really come into their own. My company helps by placing a regular milk order for the staff tea-room, and if we have visitors, such as auditors, who fancy a working lunch, we can phone down an order for filled rolls for our guests to enjoy.

I forgot to mention that Mrs PBT’s has a stack of jobs for me to do, so the weekend won’t be one of complete relaxation for me but keeping busy is the key at present. That reminds me, I’ve still got that Isle of Man article to put together.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Looking back to 10 years ago

They say nostalgia’s not what it used to be, but I’m not so sure.  After threatening to write a piece about my one and only visit to the Isle of Man – which incidentally took place almost 10 years ago, I found myself looking back at several posts I’d written from around that time.  

Apart from a paucity of photos, I was pleasantly surprised at what I’d written back in the early days of the blog, and keeping in mind this was a decade ago now, I  ended up asking myself, did I really write that?

I will be working on my IOM piece from tomorrow, once I’ve finished my work for the week, but here’s a quick flavour of what was on my mind back in April 2010.

A short preliminary piece about my forthcoming Manx excursion; a trip I was obviously looking forward to.

A lengthy piece about beer ticking, which ended with me urging CAMRA to split the “Breweries Section" off from the Good Beer Guide and make it a separate publication.

10 years on and CAMRA is still stuffing the back of its premier publication with irrelevant  and surplus information, which can be found elesewhere, if necessary.

A write-up of that year’s Good Friday Ramble – an annual walk organised by Maidstone CAMRA. Sadly, there won’t be a ramble this coming Good Friday; the first time in over 41 years that the event has been cancelled.

That year's ramble took us to the Bell & Jorrocks, (Bell and Bollocks?), in Frittenden - a village which is well off the beaten track.

A review of some random bottles beers I’d drunk, recently - some of the prices will make you envious!

And finally, a lengthy article about one of my favourite beers – Harvey’s Sussex Best.  A beer I've known and loved over the years and always end up going back to.

It's a beer with that perfect balance between sweet juicy malt, and an earthy, peppery hop bitterness. At 4.0% abv, it's just the right strength for a good session's drinking, being full-bodied but not too strong in alcohol.

The links are all there, so why not indulge yourselves in a spot of nostalgia.


Wednesday, 1 April 2020

A touch of spring to lift the gloom

I’ve been working from home these past couple of days but had to go into the office today to physically finish off some product testing, and also release for sale a number of packed products. By no means everything in the workplace can be managed remotely or electronically. 

The company is running with a skeleton crew, with less than a third of the normal workforce present. Strict hygiene and social distancing measures are in place, and I wouldn’t go in unless I was convinced these procedures are as safe as they can be. With no dealings with the general public, and only the odd delivery driver to attend to, our workforce is at far less risk than supermarket workers, but even so I’d prefer us to switch to a complete shutdown, if it can be done without impacting too much on the company’s future.  

It’s a difficult balancing act trying to ensure we all have jobs at the end of this crisis, against the need to protect the health and general well-being of our workforce, as well as reducing the impact on our amazing National Health Service.

All this, plus a recent family bereavement, has left me feeling more than a little washed out. It has also kept me away from my writing, so by way of something a little lighter, here are some photos taken yesterday, whilst out for a lunchtime walk with son Matthew. Warning, some of the photos are of closed pubs.

Yesterday’s walk took us down the normally busy Pembury Road, and past the row of townhouses being built on the site of the recently demolished Primrose Inn. We then turned left and ascended one of the steepest roads in Tonbridge; a road which not only affords some of the best views locally, but one which is lined either side by some rather attractive 1930’s properties, all built in the Art-Deco style.

Few of the houses possess all their original features, and most have ripped out their metal framed Crittall Windows, in favour of more modern, and easier to maintain uPVC replacements, but in the bright spring sunshine they were all looking their best. Blossom, of varying types, along with the odd magnolia, all added to a bright and joyous looking scene, light years away from the dark threat that is hanging over mankind at present.

A footpath leads off from the far end of this road, towards a footbridge over the virtually traffic-free A21 trunk road, which also serves as the Tonbridge bypass, and across into open fields. It was then a short hop past Tonbridge Cottage Hospital; a facility originally built as an isolation hospital to house patients with smallpox and scarlet fever. Nowadays, people are isolated in their own houses to protect them from the latest plague afflicting mankind; a reminder, if one was necessary, that nothing much changes in the world.

We crossed the London-Hastings railway line, and shortly afterwards passed back under the A21. Our route took us past the Vauxhall Inn- a Chef & Brewer pub, that started life as an old coaching inn on the London-Hastings road, before being much enlarged to form today’s rambling, weatherboard pub. With the Premier Inn next door, this complex is normally a bustling hive of activity, but the large carpark was virtually empty. 

It was then back along Pembury Road, before diverting past the Weald of Kent Girls School; one of three grammar schools that Tonbridge is famous for, and which helps inflate house prices to an artificially high level. 

There was one final pub to pass, before turning for home. The Cardinal’s Error, in Lodge Oak Lane, is an attractive old tile-hung building, that was converted from two former farm cottages to provide a pub for the surrounding post-war housing development. It is the nearest pub to where we live, but I’ve never really looked on it as a local.

It caters for quite a mixed clientele, and the beer – Harvey’s Sussex Best is normally in reasonable form. Apart from the obvious current closure, it is good to see the Cardinal’s is still trading, so perhaps when this unholy mess (if you’ll excuse the pun), is all over, I’ll make more of an effort to call in for a pint.

So there we have it, roughly an hour’s walk through an attractive and semi-rural area on the south-eastern fringe of Tonbridge.  A walk too that was fully compliant with government diktats, originating straight from home and returning there as well, without the use of any motorised transport.