Coming of age...

Said in my best 'Old Rose' voice... "It's been 18 years"...

Eighteen years have passed since the momentous day when we flung open the doors of our shop for the very first time. It feels like just yesterday, yet it was way back in 2006 when we embarked on this journey, nestled in Horndean. I can still vividly recall the mix of emotions that consumed me: excitement, anticipation, and yes, a healthy dose of fear. In the days leading up to our grand opening, sleep eluded me, replaced by a relentless surge of adrenaline. It reached its peak with the arrival of our very first customer—a moment that marked the beginning of an unforgettable chapter, fueled by the support of friends, family, and curious fellow business owners who had already ventured through our doors.

The walls surrounding me now (we moved into our current shop in 2009) have borne witness to my tears— shed more often than you would think. Sometimes, they come from sadness, more frequently than I care to admit, from anger. Yet, primarily, they stem from encounters with the incredible individuals who enter the building, call me by phone, message me online or drop an email. Thankfully the tears also come from laughter (some of my customers/visitors & deliverers are exceptionally funny) to the point where (at my age) it can be quite a scary thing because I just never know if I’m going to pee myself!

These walls have stood witness to my personal losses, days when I have sobbed so badly, desperately wanting to be anywhere else but inside the building smiling at everyone who walks through the doors, because inside my heart is shattered into a million pieces, yet it’s some of those same people who have walked through the door who have helped me to heal, helped me to rebuild and mend those broken pieces.

During the pandemic, these walls offered refuge, shielding me from the outside world's uncertainties. They've contained my own ailments as well, none more so than when I got hit by chickenpox at the ripe old age of 47 – no, it really wasn’t pleasant – but I had orders which needed making. I wanted to be at home, in bed, sleeping (if you’ve not had it as an adult consider yourself very lucky) but I couldn’t be for I had customers I couldn’t let down.

On rare occasions, these walls bore witness to my unravelling—there's a hole in one panel from my doing, along with a door off its hinges from a moment of pure frustration. It's not a frequent occurrence, and losing composure in front of others is exceptionally rare. Yet, there are times when my tolerance for rudeness wanes, and I'll admit to a singular instance of head-banging against these very walls; I learned a valueable lesson that day when a big bump appeared and the most terrible headache ensued.

They've echoed with my screams, most notably when faced with a bridezilla pushing me to my limits and beyond. Two, in particular, were fortunate to reach out via call or email rather than face me in person! Yes, I've even coined the term "bridezillerie" to encapsulate such moments.

I'm not the same person who first unlocked these doors. My appearance has changed with the times—grey hairs now too numerous to conceal, and my physical prescence has expanded at a very similar rate!. Yet, despite the incredible business growth, financial struggles persist, bills mounting and rising with each passing month. Aches and pains are my constant daily companions, a testament to the sixty-hour workweeks that have left my feet swollen and ankles thickened—yes, I've even acquired "kankles."

These walls have seen my life threatened, my safety jeopardised on more occasions than I care to count. They've borne witness to familial disputes, a council official's intimidation tactics, and the occasional drunken altercation. I’ve had my car tyres let down a few times, had cars parked so close to my shop door I’ve had to climb over their bonnet to get out. I’ve arrived many an early morning to find bits of half-eaten food (kebabs, burgers and way more often than I would expect portions of chips) scattered all over the forecourt (they are not the easiest to sweep up) along with copious piles of dog mess at different times. People have thrown up before all over the door (including the handle) and dump their rubbish in the planter outside. I’ve had the plants in that planter stolen by some oik and we even had our main window (the window was back in Horndean) smashed when some drunk threw himself at it. Every morning I sweep up cigarette butts and rubbish that could easily go into the bin just 15 steps away.

But amidst the challenges, I am blessed with remarkable people in my life - those who make this journey possible. My customers, many now dear friends, bring light to even the darkest days.

These walls, have so much of me and my energy absorbed into them I feel for whomever may end up here once I’ve gone! They’ll need to burn a lot of sage, that’s for sure! But that won’t be for a long while yet, because for all of the tough, hard, scary, frustrating, bad and heartbreaking, there have been moments of wonder, beauty, heart-warmingly kind, funny, happy and downright crazy ones too, and I wouldn’t swap my job, or give up my little 240sq footage of Fareham for any other job out there.

Bring on the next 18!




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