I’ve had several stabs at writing this post, and so far all of them had ended with me flicking over to you tube. The first post after our first real event is something important and should be treated with a certain level of seriousness, I think. But at this moment, out of all the thousands of things I have learnt from the weekend; all the excellent new experiences, disconcerting near misses and moments of abject exhaustion, all I really want to tell you is that I think Jabberwocky Enthusiasts, my term for all you lovely people who occasionally stop by and have been known to support the Beast with your time, your patience and even you cash, should be known as Wockusiasts.
That is in no way relates to the matter in hand, other than being the last thing I thought before drifting off into an uneasy sleep on Friday night, punctured by imaginary phone calls cancelling our pitch or reporting an unexpected sink hole in the Pump Room Gardens. I had great plans for this post, because of course I had dreamed of the fame and riches that would flood in upon us once people had seen the Beast, and intended to tell you of the crowds of people, the eager clamour for seconds, perhaps even the moment when we ran out of space for all the money.
That’s not what I have decided to tell you about. Partially because it didn’t happen, and partially because this blog is not about the success of the Jabberwocky, it is about the tale of the Jabberwocky. On Saturday morning, when at 11 o’clock, having been officially open for an entire hour, we had sold nothing at all; it looked like being a very short, sad tale indeed.
We were sat right on the end of a row, off the beaten track and only a stone’s throw away from the large mexican-themed chain stall handing out free food. I have often struggled to explain to people what’s so bad about big chains, being much more eloquent on paper than in debate, but that morning, as the mariachi band struck up “la cocoracha” for the 3rd time and the 4th person dropped their plastic tray in our bin after consuming free food, it was remarkably clear.
We began questioning our concept, and wondering if our menu was too adventurous, or too expensive, because time after time people would look at the Beast, sing his praises, marvel at the menu, and then head off for a free fajita. Eventually our first customer came, and we rejoiced at a turn in fortunes. Lunchtime began breaking out all over the festival, but we remained in a little patch of quiet air by ourselves.
As lunchtime slid by our fortunes gradually began to change, and people began to buy from us, assisted by some of our friends, who purchased and made loud, delighted comments about our offerings. I began to calm down and get a grip. I spent less time revolving pointlessly on the spot inside the van and more time taking samples out and talking to the good folk of Warwickshire on our little patch of path outside. We managed to smile properly as the grim determination faded and the enjoyment started to creep in.
I started talking about the food and slowly, cautiously, people started to buy it. Voices we didn’t know joined those we did in praising what we had worked for so long to create and voluntarily asked for business cards. People smiled when I introduced the Beast and when I described Barny as “our tame chef”. We learnt that samples will create sales much more effectively if you hand them out right in front of the van, and that people are quite happy to exchange brownie for a short conversation about food. I became eerily aware that enthusiasm about our food was actually surprisingly close to a sales pitch, but that either way it was earning us money and faced with an audience trying politely to help themselves to brownie, I simply cannot restrain myself and must perform for my unwitting fans.
By the time we eventually drove home on Sunday (the long way, so that the Beast could have a romp at 50mph along the A-road) we could only feel that the weekend had been a success. Perhaps a modest one from the outside and certainly a stressful one from the inside, but you cannot get that experience from books. Certainly not the part with the water boiler that kept putting itself out.
Not only that, we even managed to turn a small profit, which will go towards funding the next Jabberwocky Adventure.
Mostly though, this post is about Wockusiasts. In our time of need, you stood by us, either because you were there on the day, or you are here now, or a delightful combination of the two. Feel free to propose a toast to yourself, from us, next time you happen to be near a drink.