So the world is starting to open up again. For weeks now we’ve been able to leave our homes and travel on buses and visit non-essential shops, but it’s only in the last few days that I’ve considered lockdown to be actually over. Work has restarted for us. I’m lucky to have a job that’s taken me back, the hospitality sector is never very secure and of the 21 people employed in the kitchen I work in only eight of us were able to come back.
We’re currently open Thursday to Sunday, with shifts taking place on Wednesday to clean and prep food for the coming weekend. This gives everyone two days off at the beginning of the week, for the first time since working there we have a “weekend”, two days off to look forward to and be able to plan things for every week. It’s only for the next few weeks until business picks back up, but it’s a nice way of easing back into working life.
The menu is a lot smaller now, less staff on shifts, less prep to do, less meals to learn, they’ve made it easy on us. But even so the first weekend back was hard. The first shift even, a Thursday morning, made my feet hurt in a way they haven’t since I first started kitchen work, I was walking less than a third of the distance I would do during a lockdown day, but standing in place was causing me so much more ache than walking ever did. I’m also leading some shifts, acting as kitchen supervisor and being in charge of the small teams and tiny menu. It’s a job I did full time for a few months a couple of years ago, but ultimately the small amount of extra money from the promotion never made up for the added stress for me. Now I’m mainly doing it as a favour to my manager, a good friend of mine, and since we’re having our wages topped up by the furlough scheme I’m not actually getting any pay rise at all. It’s fine for these quiet, uncertain days, and I am happy to have a job at all. I complain about work and I insisted that I didn’t want to return, but the truth is I enjoy it there, the people I work with I largely consider as friends, and the work, while stressful at times, is satisfying and somewhat rhythmic – nothing feels better than it being a busy shift and getting into the flow of sending order after order upstairs in a timely manner and everything just coming together nicely.
New start times of 10am as opposed to the old start times of 7am have made a huge difference as well. There’s time now to get up, have a coffee and read/internet for an hour or so and then take Shadow out for an hour or so in the forest to chase sticks. It’s a nice habit, and when you’re stood in a bright, hot, busy kitchen on an afternoon it’s nice to remember the morning light of the woods where you started your day. Sadly for Shadow it also means she’s starting to re-learn how to be left by me. I worry sometimes that the lockdown has made her over-dependant on me and that she’ll struggle to adapt back into the routine of being alone at home, or being left with somebody else. Luckily for now my friend is still staying with me, luckily she’s one of the eight returning work mates as well, so we can work our shifts around each other and look after both the “kids” while the other works, this means that neither Shadow or the little girl have have their routines too disrupted, and they both get to stay with somebody they trust and know very well.
A nicer side of the service industry starting to get back to normal is how nice it’s been to go out and socialise again, and I say this as somebody who is more than happy to stay inside with my Xbox as opposed to going out and spending time with groups of people. But the simple pleasures of reading a book in a coffee shop while waiting for a friend, or going for a few drinks and ending up back at somebody’s flat have been experiences that even I missed during the long months of everything being closed.