This Friday will mark a year since a transporter arrived on my doorstep, quite early in the morning. Unlike today, the weather was perfectly Autumnal – crisp and clear, cool enough that we could see our breath, sunny enough that the vehicle being transported shone, as blue as a summer sky.
The Truckle Truck project had, until then, felt largely unreal. Everything existed on paper, insubstantial and almost as if the project wasn’t really happening at all. The idea behind it grew out of a very simple desire to make a living selling cheese, and how to make that work against a climate that was increasingly tough on traders and shopkeepers. It was a practical solution, certainly – trading from a van is far less costly than a bricks-and-mortar shop, as well as offering a broader reach for customers. But there was an element of nostalgia in it too. My mother grew up in a small, rather isolated village, and often told us stories about the peripatetic traders who came to the village; the cornucopia of the grocers van and the eagerly-awaited baker uncovering his trays of bread and buns.
The reality, of course, bears little resemblance to that hazy dream where the weather is always kind and traffic is always accommodating. From heat waves to downpours, howling gales to deep freezes, coping with the extremes of our climate has been a challenge, whether it’s keeping the cheese cool and the stock dry or just making it through the day without frostbite or taking flight. I’ve had to get used to leading a convoy of increasingly irate drivers too, and spotting lay-bys big enough to pull over in is slowly becoming second-nature.
Twelve months ago, Suzie arrived on my doorstep. The exciting, slightly terrifying moment when The Truckle Truck went from a dream to a tangible reality. The deadline of the first event – booked months earlier, when I had still planned to be on the road for the latter half of the summer – was looming, and thus began a frantic rush to get the last pieces of the project completed.
The bespoke chilled counter was measured up, made and installed in record time, the decals calculated, tested and applied at breakneck speed and the first deliveries arrived.
We made it, just.
Setting off for Peterborough, just six weeks later, I had no idea how my fledgling business would work. It’s been a steep learning curve, and the challenges that we’ve faced have come from some very unexpected quarters. But, thinking back over the last year, I wouldn’t change it for the world.