After staying open for the duration of ‘hard’ and soft’ Lockdown in our shop – and with a fast-tracked new postal and free delivery service (Maids on Wheels!) offering hot roast dinners, anything we had time to bake, including the groceries and essentials that Maids probably hasn’t sold since rationing – our sleeves remain ‘rolled-up’ and ready for the next 12 months, and whatever it has to throw at us. We can now post even chilled goods Nationwide, with “Personalised Pies” and “Champagne Tea at Home” being particular postable favourites.
We will continue, doggedly, with our own established and proven Covid hygiene protocols as we have been doing since 13th March (Week 1 of Lockdown). The main success, we feel, is not just that we smoothly manage distancing for customers but that we sanitise after each and every customer regardless. We created a new role called a DHO (Designated Hygiene Officer; usually me!) on the premises at any time, whose job it is to monitor and reduce risk ‘on the spot’, and our WCs are sterilised before and after each use.
We have almost finished our new WC block (exciting times) which we formed from the ruins of the former Ladies WC (sincere apologies for those for whom the avocado green sanitary ware was a nostalgic gem) and is now either side of a new lobby from the restaurant. We uncovered the original tiled floor in the process and managed to preserve it and, to use the words of the late, great Kenny Everett ‘it’s all done in the best possible taste’.
The shop area has had no tables in it since March, to give as much space possible for customers and this will continue for the foreseeable future. We can serve 2 people/associated small groups at once, safely, from 2 very separate serving points and we are lucky enough to be able to have a full one-way system using the main entrance door and the restaurant fire exit into the cobbled garden area (which is now filled with our lovely old wrought iron garden furniture) to reduce the risk further.
In Week 2 of Lockdown, when the first of the ‘rare rains’ hit us, we found a use for our old market stall as a rain cover portico at the front entrance for customers and there it has stayed ever since, as a beacon of stoicism and hope and a nice reminder to newbies that we are an ancient bakery and tea rooms and not in fact a pub! The original restaurant tables are all still there, so the place still ‘feels’ like Maids…but some of them are ‘dummy’ tables in that they are used as a natural barrier to create distancing between tables (we aim for 2m+ inside and 1.5m+ outside).
We value every pound that customers choose to spend with us as if it were a hundred. We are thankful to still be open and it’s because local people are buying ‘things’ from us – whether they are old, or new ‘things’ we have started doing to make ends meet (flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, ground almonds, myriad of bakery ingredients, cocktails…ad infinitum). We continue to support our isolated elderly and shielders with delivered hot roast meals in small portions with half-loaves and individual eggs etc to suit their needs. Speaking of new things, have you had one of our “Carry On Smoothies”? The “Sid James” is my personal favourite; we are slightly (and strangely) disappointed not to have received a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter from Ealing Studios yet, but have a frame ready, in anticipation.
We remain open every day from 8.30am to 6pm and will continue to do so even if no-one comes. But please do come. We are sometimes open much later from the ‘Sash Bar’ we created out of our office window so we could sell champagne, beers, smoothies, ice-creams, late pie etc, with its old WW2 original Union Jack as a backdrop to remind us that we are stronger than we think, and we can (and will) Carry on Regardless.