The Jabberwocky Soliloquy has moved

The blog has moved to its new advert-free home at www.thejabberwocky.co.uk/blog

If you haven’t already done so I would recommend a cup of tea at this stage, before embarking on the journey.

Once you have acquired tea please click here to continue.

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Free Redirect Service

WordPress calls its customer services employees happiness engineers.

Speaking as someone who has worked in a variety of different customer services roles over the years, I can’t say I have ever met someone in front line support who would willingly submit to the term happiness engineer. In fact I would go so far as to say that they are some of the most bitter, cynical and sarcastic people I have even met. Just not with customers. You have to have an outlet for dealing with someone who is shouting at you, telling you how wrong you are and (on occasion) getting their wife to call back and demand to know why you think her husband is such an idiot.

The WordPress Family, as I expect they are probably referred to, charge $119 dollars to migrate your blog from WordPress to a home with one of their bedfellows with the aid of one such happiness engineer. You can then pay a further $12 annually to have all your links redirected as well. The blog, as you may have noticed, has already taken up residence behind the website, with the invaluable aid of @tallwebguy, and althought the $12 would not kill the Jabberwocky financially, I have an excellent temporary alternative that will save one unnecessarily titled person the trouble.

This free redirect service will take you to the new home of the soliloquy. Henceforth posts probably won’t appear on here any more, or only when I forget and log into the wrong site. You are still very welcome to come in and look around, but if are tempted to link to a post, please use links from the new site.

The reasoning for this is all about SEO and google and page ranks. Disliking it doesn’t make it go away. I tried that.

To use the free redirect service, please click on this breathtakingly unrelated picture of Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire.

Thanks for reading the soliloquy. You were what made it worthwhile. Otherwise it would have just been me, and the computer, approximately 125 cups of tea and occasionally a large bag of jelly beans.

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Heading South for the Winter

If you have just joined us please make yourself at home. There is no need to be alarmed, just keep reading and all will become clear. Catering.

The Jabberwocky has cultivated itself a modest online presence thanks to your help and some hastily learnt webdesign skills. However one thing it has not achieved is search engine optimisation. This elusive and mysterious phenomenon, hidden inside the walls of a large and brightly coloured organisation that rhymes with moogle, is the one thing that makes the difference between front page and no page. It is the process of convincing a certain search engine that your website is relevant when a hopeful internet user types “catering in Warwickshire” into the search field. And that’s not as easy as it looks. Not only do you need a wealth of people linking to you site, which represents worthwhile content, you need to mention the main thrust of what you do (in our case catering in Warwickshire) a lot, so that it can be picked out as important from within the writings of your page.

However there is grand and related news! Thanks to the skilful ministrations of @tallwebguy the blog has now moved and found a new home on the Jabberwocky website. This means that in future all the idle ramblings of the blog will contribute directly to the popularity of the website, meaning both the blog and the website should show up more effectively in search engines, and finally google will count all the times I have written things like “excellent catering services in Leamington Spa” and “catering services for events in Leamington” as relevant to our cause, including, but not limited to, those ones just there. Thus we scramble up the rankings and fight our way to an internet presence, hoping that it will bring us bountiful hits and bless us with bookings. Catering.

At this stage there are still a few private chef for hire kinks to be ironed of out the new design, and there are certainly available for weddings, christenings and family gatherings still a few old features that have not yet been brought to life in the new setup yet, but @tallwebguy is on it like a catering van for outdoor functions of any size. Which I mean sincerely as a compliment.

Please feel free to roam over there and have a look round, and leave any feedback over there as well, preferably prefaced with the words “Catering in Warwickshire”. I had better go and find some food, feel free to link this article to a social media outlet of your choice while I’m gone.

Great Warwickshire Based Catering and an interesting and insightful blog – go on, you know you want to know what’s down there.

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Feedback for the World of Tomorrow

Notes in car windows; the purest form of feedbackThe wonderful thing about opinions is that everyone is entitled to one. It may not be valid, or reasonable, or factually correct, but it is your right and pleasure, as a someone capable of complex thought, to create something that reflects a recent experience. What we define as complex is up for debate, but I will define it as language for the time being, or at least until there is an app that lets the other great apes post status updates to Facebook.
– Good delivery, well packaged, great seller. Recommended +++

The internet has now given us this glorious ability to comment, rate and share everything about our lives, and to comment, rate and share everything about other people’s lives as well. As someone who knows what twitter is I can’t be too judgemental of this practise, but luckily my tweeting into the cyber-pit has no effect on your life and can be discreetly ignored.
– Contacted customer services and got no response for 4 hours!!!! Could have walked to shops myself!!! AVOID!!!

There is another type of feedback though, and one that is altogether more self-serving and, to speak from the inside looking out, unpleasant. The idea that you can leave feedback on impartial websites to provide other users with an opinion of your transaction is superb, and can be wonderfully effective, so I will graciously start with the good side.
– OMG SCAM DIDNT ANSER EMAILS AND ITEM NOT WHAT I WANTD NEVER USING AGAN!!!

Back in the day when the internet was still in its infancy, and you had to unplug the phone and listen to it dial space before going anywhere, there was Ebay. Apart from the auction process Ebay worked because every single transaction was rated, by both buyer and seller. You didn’t give bad feedback because you were likely to receive it, so even complicated and unpleasant transactions were sometimes resolved. Ebay has disposed of seller feedback now, unless you count the ability to leave positive feedback, which I don’t.
– Great Seller, prompt delivery, thanks.

Still, the process has it’s virtues: As a seller you are pained to offer good customer services, which makes Ebay (or Amazon/Play etc.) look good, and of course is beneficial to the customer. And then there’s Trip Advisor.
-Customer services were condesending condesnsing rude

Here you are not confined to one single line of bile, if you have something to say you can share it in as much pedantic detail as you like. You can rest assured that your single review, one of only 2-3 that any given business might get that month, will stand out and drag the ratings down for possibly years to come. You will also be treated with as much value as all your peers, no matter what you write, and of course let’s not forget that the internet is wonderfully anonymous, so it needn’t even be true.
-Sat down and was rudely told to move, food was slow and the waitress flung it at us, kicked me in the shins and spat in my partner’s face.

Speaking from behind the feedback lines, where you wait to be shelled with either love or, let’s face it, shit, the benefit of Trip Advisor seems a little limited. A restaurant can reach the top 5 in a town on a couple of great reviews, and who’s to say those people didn’t all suddenly join trip advisor and visit that restaurant in the first 2 weeks after opening. On other other hand a bad review, based on (for example) perceived slow food delivery or incorrect ambient temperature, can potentially cost a restaurant thousands in the immeasurable currency of lost custom.
-Wasn’t offered a free meal and complimentary drinks after sending a steak back. I wanted it rare with no red bits or blood IS THAT SO HARD?!?

So set up a trip advisor profile and enjoy the quiet pride of being a couch restaurant critic. Write interesting reviews, concentrating on the meal, because that’s why you’re there. Review all the restaurants you go to, the good ones and the bad, and enjoy the thought of doing something nice and completely free for a stranger whose food you have just enjoyed. And when it’s bad, for inevitably sometimes it will be, tell them. Tell them in a reasonable manner, and have an alternative in mind. If your table is in a draught but the restaurant is packed they really won’t be able to move you, and if they’re apologetic, understanding, and try to keep the door shut, that should be ok. If they tell you to sod off, whip out that one star review and give it all you’ve got, it makes the rest of us who try hard look better.
-I am never eating here again. Words simply cannot describe it. God I wish I could torch the place.

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Release the Hounds

A press release
Yesterday I wrote a press release. It’s something I have been meaning to do for a while, but then thing happened, as usual, and I forgot. Most recently the hedgehog, but it’s not his fault, poor little dude was just trying to survive. I learnt about press releases during a brief stink at a local newspaper some years ago, although that was very much from the other side. When you have read your forth luminously glowing, praise-ridden account of how the drains in the shopping precinct have all been successfully replaced with only minor delays and had to convert it into some kind of news, you begin to realise that journalism is actually a proper job.

I should also admit that I did media studies at school, and that apart from the ability to occasionally ruin films by predicting the ending, I also managed to take away a rudimentary understanding of press releases and how one should go about creating them. To begin with, you need a piece of news. Now for me, the last 10 months have been one long story: a rolling news-reel of adventure, where danger and destruction are lurking round every corner, and you never know quite what the world will throw at you next. 18 Months ago I was in a dead-end job, where I had been for years, biding away the hours with computer games and self-pity. Now I’m in the driving seat all of a sudden, thundering through life with barely enough time for a proper cup of tea.

I lied about the tea, there is always time for tea. However as exciting as I viewed my life, and by exciting I mean terrifying, there was nothing that stuck out as that perfect headline. I toyed with Entrepreneur Rescues Hedgehog or Jabberwocky Still Fine, but my heart wasn’t in it. So I did what I usually do, and tried to make a bit of writing that was worth reading. It’s a process, this business thing, and learning how to master each aspect is one of the things that will hopefully lead to success in the long run. I’m quite pleased with the eventual press outcome, although in the end it is probably a little lacking in news.

Yes, it is pretentious for me to refer to myself as an entrepreneur. The same goes for if I ever call the blog funny, or our business successful. On the other hand, business is full of people who will put you down. In fact, life is full of those people. You are allowed to make your own luck a little, and I at least had the decency to downgrade it from hilarious.

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Sharing the Hedge

A hedgehog at the end of our road.It was Friday evening, and I was heading home. Accompanied by the usual Radio 1 cacophony I was pottering through Leamington, pondering which of the many Jabberwocky jobs I should attempt when I reached home. I usually have 5 or 6 different bits of website fiddling to be getting on with, and believe it or not most blog posts take the best part of an evening, so naturally, I can’t afford to get distracted by helpless little hedgehogs teetering forlornly around on the pavement at the end of our road.

Initially I stopped, got out of the car and did what every responsible 21st century citizen would do, I took a picture. Problem solved I got back in the car and drove home, thinking about the poor creature. I’ve never really liked rodents as pets; not due to any particular prejudice, mostly just because they weren’t dogs. On the other hand I do have a soft spot for vertebrates. Mostly because they’re not spiders, mosquitoes, daddy long legs or earwigs.
Almost before I had a chance to think things through I found myself gathering a box, some newspaper and a few old rags, and heading back out there to do my bit.

Two other locals had gathered and were watching in concern. They saw me with my box and melted quickly away, pleased that something was being done and probably even more pleased that they weren’t the ones doing it. I was on a mission. The hedgehog, meanwhile, was trying to squeeze itself down a nearby drain. It looked wobbly and could hardly stand, so I coaxed it into my box and took it back to the house.

With him in his box in the garden I took to the internet to find out what to do with broken, probably dying hedgehogs. I started the day with a knowledge of hedgehogs amounting to knowing that they were lactose intolerant. By 7pm I was working on basic hedgehog first aid, and had already phoned my way down the rescue list in the Warwickshire area. By 8pm I had made up a rehydration fluid and emailed as well.

Logically there are now three ways this can play out.
1. He pulls through, and is snuffling around happily by morning. He winters at Jabberwocky HQ while he regains his strength, and them embarks into the garden to start a family in the spring.
2. He goes off to the vets the following day, they do everything they can for him, and I never see him again.
3. He doesn’t survive the night.

I’m sorry. At least he was warm and didn’t have to get run over by a car. The next post will be more upbeat, I promise.

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Because Blue

The Beast has surprised us a lot over the past 10 months, in both good and bad ways, but a few weeks ago, on the evening of the second Jabberwocky tasting, we discovered a whole new glorious aspect to his character. It would appear that beneath his chassis sit several blue lights, activated with a switch we had long though broken or lost or non-existent. In the original photos on ebay we had seen these lights, but had never thought to check on them, assuming that they would have been long gone.

A chance button press on the night of the tasting and the gathering dusk surprised us with an eerie but triumphant blue glow. We were delighted, and just like that another problem was born.

Wockusiasts who are familiar with the history will remember that the last tasting was a few weeks prior to the Leamington Food Festival, and that as a result of that everything that took place during that time was filed into two categories: 1) Useful for the food festival and 2)everything else. The lights were forgotten until recently, when Barny decided to have another crack at the electrics. It let to a painful decision: Should we pull out the electrics and start again with a simple system that covered only the internal lights and hand wash sink, or should we try and save the blue lights for prosperity?

It has to be said that blue lights are not especially classy. If you were to see a car going past, under-lit splendidly with blue, it is entirely possible that you would not instantly think of its occupants as food connoisseurs. It’s a colour which, certainly in light form, is just a bit tacky. On the other hand the lights underneath the Delorean from Back to the future are blue, and everyone who’s anyone knows that’s cool.

Thus the debate rages on. In the end we had no time to deal with the electrics anyway, and the decision was moved to this Sunday, international day of pretending to get things done. I remain staunchly in favour of blue; Barny remains devoted to the idea of having a lighting system that works.

What really bothers me about the whole affair though is that during its brief period of illumination I failed to take any kind of picture, and will have to leave you guessing about the true magnificence of the Beast with Blue and me lamentably short of illustrations for this post.

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Catering to Disappointment

Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way you expected. It’s not about the effort invested or the money thrown at it, it’s about absolutely everything else deciding – often at a moment’s notice – that whatever you were trying to do is just not going to happen. Since we have started this project the Jabberwocky has not been about preventing these occurrences, it’s been about dealing with them.

I am not terribly good with change. Barny coming home from work early used to send me wandering vaguely round the house for hours. Us deciding to have something else for dinner would have me grumpily picking at my food. So given that I am a creature of routine the whole process of starting a business seems, in hindsight, to have been a very silly idea indeed. Happily I am also a champion of the silly idea, from a long and prestigious line of silly idea-mongers. Some of them, like moving the entire family to Germany for several years, have had happy consequences: Meeting my sister-in-law and learning German. Others, like break-dancing to Alvin and the Chipmunks or playing catch with large rocks, have led to broken legs and missing teeth.

In this industry, like probably any other, success is based around adaptability and rejection. Adaptability, because people are never thoughtful enough to want exactly what you have to offer and rejection because most of the time, they don’t want it at all. Look at Microsoft Windows: No one thinks it works and everyone hates it. And that’s one of the most recognised and powerful brands on the planet.

Rejection used to make me sad, almost heartbroken, because I wasn’t right. When I first showed my angsty bits of post-pubescent writing to someone who wasn’t my mother and was told it was not especially good I swore (on many occasions) that I would never, ever write again. I’m not delighted about being told my writing is pants now, we’re not that far down the road to sanity, but at least I have distilled a full day of despondent melancholy into a mere 45 minutes of impotent rage.

Today we had another rejection from a festival. It came through almost 6 hours ago and while I am not delighted by the situation, I am by no means crying myself a salty, self-indulgent river. I am cautious to suggest this, but I think there is a possibility I may have accidentally become a bit grown up.

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Hot Water Doesn’t Grow On Trees

The boiler, taken on location in Royal Leamington SpaAn interesting fact, which makes food festivals up to 5% more entertaining, is that our local environmental health authority requires every outlet selling hot food, regardless of where or how they do so, to have two separate sinks and a supply of hot and cold water. The idea behind this profoundly strange rule is that you then have a pot-wash sink, which is only used for pots and pans, and a hand wash sink. This prevents cross-contamination, preserves cleanliness and saves the lives of the innocent, like a dettol-wielding cleaning-batman.

Thus runs the theory at any rate. In practise, I have seen a whole variety of interesting reinterpretations of the words “sink” and “hot”, many of which would possibly cause a visiting environmental health officer to go all kung-fu on their asses. In most cases though, it is not about the exciting definitions of “clean” that can be found out on the edge, in the far reaches of language, it’s about the simple existence of a sink.

The Beast, may he forever rumble, has a pot-wash sink that has been approved, blessed and sanctified by Warwickshire District Council. Imagine one of those tiny closet toilets that you cram into a house where there is no space at all, and which seem to always be much colder than every other room. Picture the sink in one of those bathrooms, then halve it. That is our pot-wash sink. As we never need to do washing up in the van, because all the equipment gets washed at the end of the shift, it has never been a problem, it merely fulfils its purpose of existing in the exact same space-time continuum as the Jabberwocky.

With this vital point checked off, the next is the provision of both hot and cold water, whereby hot constitutes at least 76°C. At this point you probably noted, correctly, that huffing on it will not get the water in question hot enough. Instead, some serious kit is necessary to create a viable cup of tea, or at the very least comply with the EHO.

Our water-boiler joined us at the same time as the van, with assurances that it was broken. We we’re a little over-excited that day and never considered enquiring further. Two months down the line we tested it, and miraculously, it lit first time, like a charm. Not only that, it sailed through its gas safe check. Mysterious, perhaps, but at the time we felt a certain sense of entitlement to a small amount of good luck, so we took it.

The food festival dawns, we open the hatch, fire up the water boiler and fill it up. It puts itself out. We investigate, and discover that the underside is leaking profusely from around the tap. Ooooh. We eventually managed to get by with a combination of a very little water in the boiler, and a pan on the stove, and order was restored until such time as we could deal with the problem. After a little investigation this appears to involve either a) an new boiler – £500 b) a new tap – £65 or c) a tube of sealant – £10. As we speak a tube of sealant is on its way to us. Not that we are chronically unlucky; I’m not a big fan of luck in the first place, but we have started making enquiries into the new boiler as well.

Please feel free to rejoice that having read this far you have achieved something few others have, namely been interested or bored enough to read almost an entire blog post about a sink and boiler. In fact I would go so far ask to request that if you have read a more interesting post about plumbing this year that you leave me a link in the comments, so that I can send the author a short note of heartfelt thanks.

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Memorabilia and Autumnal Associations

The battle is over, but as the dust settles and the world continues to move onwards, we are not done with this. We survived our first event, scarred, happy and a little worse for wear, but the tale does not end there. I’m not even confident that we finished the first chapter.

I think people will follow a tale for all sorts of different reasons, but primarily for the narrative. With blogs I hope it is the same, after all, many of you lovely Wockusiasts have been with us from the start, and that probably isn’t due to our roaring success or celebrity appeal. I would therefore like to suggest that we have just finished the introduction, and that before us lies the uncertain future of our protagonist, Curiosity Catering Ltd, better known as The Jabberwocky, beginning with Chapter One; Memorabilia and Autumnal Associations.

I’ve not made a secret of the fact that we have not progressed as fast as we ideally would have liked. We don’t have any more events on the near horizon, and the season for catering vans is pretty much over. As the Beast attempts to enter hibernation for the winter, we have tried other ideas in an attempt to keep him busy. One that received much interest at the festival was the prospect of selling Barny off for the evening, so that he could make someone else’s kitchen a mess instead of ours, on the proviso that he cleaned up after himself. We dubbed this activity “chef for hire”, then almost immediately regretted it in favour of the more far snappy “rent-a-chef”. At any rate, it’s something Barny would be able to do very well, him being scruffy to the point of distraction in everyday life, but professional and presentable when geared up for cheffing and able to whip up something fairly close to perfection in approx. one trice.

It’s those first few clients that will be tricky. I expect every business is the same in that respect: word of mouth is what will carry you through the dark times. Once people know you exist and like what you do, which naturally they will, they will begin by telling everyone they have ever met, then possibly the national media, and then probably the Overlord of Social Communication, Stephen Fry, whose powers doth crasheth a site at the merest mention. But I may be getting ahead of myself there.

My point is that as Summer skips into the past the Jabberwocky needs to be earning its keep. More and more, I am realising that its keep is very much about who you know, regardless of how good your internet didgeridoos may be. I would also like to confess that I very nearly wrote irregardless there, and I can only apologize for that near disgrace.

Irregardless, there is still much to be done, like finally printing our Memorandum and Articles of Association, hitherto only electronic, now gloriously enshrined in laminated covers and binding rings; thanks to an office equipment windfall we had recently received from my mum. Maybe it’s just me, but I love office accessories. Those mythical, hyper-useful gadgets that you will only ever use once. Well I have now used them, and it felt good to finally have a hard copy of that which enables me to use the title “Director” at my discretion. Even the hundreds of hole-punch sprinkles that now decorate the bedroom carpet and the lingering smell of burnt plastic cannot take that away from me. Probably should hoover.
Pics first, then I’ll get the Dyson out.

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