Al made his fruit baskets today. Four at £15 and three at £10. They are popular as presents for the Person Who Has Everything And Hasn't Space For Anything More, as they have the virtue of being used up and just leaving you a nice basket to play with at the end. Each of them takes about half an hour to do (time not included in the price) and so he needed a shop assistant so that he could get on with the job and be finished by noon.
I like being a shop assistant so much. His customers are lovely. One chap came in with two presents, one for the shop and one for the shop down the road which makes no concession to the season but shuts on Wednesday regardless. They were from Freda, who can't get out much but rings all the local shops to put in her orders for delivery on a Friday. Val at the pet shop mentioned that she delivers to Freda - Al said, he goes every Friday, he'd be happy to take her order too. That's all right, said Val, Freda likes a selection of cat toys taken round so that she and the cat can choose a new one. It's not a delivery that can be delegated.
Chestnuts are particularly good this year. The English crop was good, but now the French ones are being sold. Walnuts are also really delicious. Al rather fell out with one of his wholesalers - once the local suppliers were sold out, he bought a bag (these are not cheap, over £50 wholesale) but thought they were a bit lacking in flavour. Upon enquiry, it transpired that they were last year's stock. Crossly, he sent them back, knocked them off the bill and bought fresh ones from his other wholesaler. Very naughty, and the way to lose customers. And if Al loses a customer over one detail, he may be gone forever.
Until the last couple of days, it has been very mild, so there have been plenty of local cauliflowers and calabrese, which may be frosted by now. There has been freezing fog; a still, cold day today. Going into town, we drove through a patch of fog, and straight out again. It was like going through the smoke of a bonfire, it was so patchy. The land is very low-lying around us, it's on the flood plain of the River Waveney, used for grazing cattle most of the year and left to become waterlogged in the winter. The Sage remembers, as a boy, ice-skating on the frozen waterways, but they don't freeze hard enough for that now.