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Wincanton here we come!

I’ve been waiting for a while, but the paperwork is finally through, and I’ve got a date to start coming to Wincanton. Susie and I will be there every Thursday, between 10am and 3pm, outside the memorial hall (at the top of the high street – just about the only level ground in town!) Wincanton already has a fabulous bakery, butchers and greengrocers, as well as some superb boutiques and cafes. It’s a small town, but it’s been undergoing something of a rebirth over the last couple of years, much as Shaftesbury did over the early years of the millenium.

See you there!

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A big day

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.

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Big steps

It feels like a lot longer than a month since I last posted here. It’s certainly been busy, with plenty of events, lining up and booking new festivals and planning a few exciting changes for next year. I’ve also taken the plunge (again) and jumped into something I hadn’t really planned on doing just yet. Selling cheese online is complicated and fraught with the possibilities for horrible, gooey disasters, but the online Cheeseshop is now live.

Setting up an online shop is, as much as anything, an exercise in patience. From the unexpectedly tedious job of entering every product (one by one by one…) to waiting on samples to test packaging, to waiting for the lucky recipients of the tests to feedback (much thanks to Charlie T and my brother for the onerous task of recieving a box of cheese!), it seemed as if the shop and systems would never be ready. Now that they are, I find it’s actually a little bit scary – as if my baby business has suddenly grown up and turned all serious.

Serious-ish, anyway.

Life, of course, has carried on while all of this has been occuring. What was supposed to be a routine check-up on Susie’s engine discovered a ticking time bomb in the form of a severely blocked and ‘gunky’ cylinder head. More than a few hours in the hands of my lovely mechanics, cleaning, soaking and flushing, and Susie’s engine runs so well she’s hardly recognisable. So much so that when I pulled up outside Brewed Boy at the beginning of the month, they didn’t even realise it was me! More silver linings there, I suppose.

Now I’m off to stock up on more cheese for the counter and the online shop…

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Summer Storms

It’s been a stormy couple of months, in more ways than one. We’ve had heatwaves interspersed with foggy, murky days that feel more like October than July, awe-inspiring storms of nature, and slightly less awesome storms of the politcal variety.

There’s still a huge amount of uncertainty as to the impact that the dreaded ‘B’ word will have on businesses, especially when it comes to importing and exporting goods, and the possibility of a sharp increase in tarrifs. The prospect of the resulting price hikes in some of our favourite cheeses is distinctly unpalatable, but at the same time, there is also an opportunity for some of our British cheesemakers to step in and fill the void.

Typically, top-quality British cheese does tent to be a little more pricey than it’s imported rivals, but with the cost of European cheeses already on the rise, that gap is narrowing. We already have local(ish) answers to classic European cheeses like Camembert, Livarot, Pecorino, Gouda and many more, and there are rumours spreading about a very local version of Shaftesbury’s most popular cheese…

I have to say that I do still believe we’re better off as part of Europe, but any sotrm has a silver lining and I’ll look forward to seeing how our wonderful British cheesemakers make the most of it. In the meantime, Susie and I will carry on in the firm belief that cheese makes everything better.

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An update:

Completing the work needed to bring Susie back to the condition she needs to be in has proven to be more difficult than I had expected. At the moment, I’m not sure how long it will take before we can get back on the road, but don’t worry, it will happen! In the meantime, I do still have some cheese, biscuits and accompaniments, so if you would like a cheese delivery, let me know! Hope to see you all soon,

Carolyn