The weather was forecast fair for the end of the week, there was a big order of pies to go to a catering customer just North of Cambridge, so the plan was for OH & I to set off early, call in at Cocoes, the wonderful Strattons Hotel’s deli in Swaffham with their pie order, go on for a cuppa and see the lovely Farmer Lahogue at Lahogue Farm Shop’s new cafe (handily just off A11), drop the pies off at Impington and then head into Cambridge for lunch (probably the new Sticky Beak) and maybe spend an hour or so at Kettle’s Yard looking at art. We’d put all hands to the deck on Thursday to free up Friday. All good so far.
The only slight shame was that twitter chum Mick Whitworth, editor of Fine Food Digest and Norfolk boy, was driving up to Norfolk from Devon, and also calling in at Lahogue for his cuppa but we were going to miss each other. Bad timing. Never mind. Next time.
These days everyone driving between Norfolk and London drops in at Lahogue.
Someone tapped on our car window in Swaffham and said something was flapping under the car. It looked bad. The floor of the engine seemed to be hanging off.
We called the AA but I was all too aware that the car would probably be heading back home to North Norfolk whilst I still had a cold box of 125 pork pies that were needed by Origin8 in Impington. So I did what I always do in moments of crisis. Displace. Look at Twitter. And saw:
He had no idea I’d broken down and we usually tweet rather than use the phone so interesting timing.
Standing in the centre of Swaffham with nothing better to do it seemed a sensible suggestion though. I thought I should let Farmer Lahogue (as I call him) know that I didn’t think I’d be dropping in and, at that moment, I couldn’t think of anything nicer than to hear his friendly voice.
Within five minutes that utterly amazing Twitter network had swung into action. @lahoguefarm was in the car on his way to pick me and the pies up and take us down to Impington. We’d head back to the Farm Shop. Farmer Lahogue had already contacted Mick Whitworth and he was going to take me back to Norfolk.
Chris (Farmer Lahogue) I’d met once and Mick I’d met twice. Both delightful people, who, because we speak daily in bursts of 140 characters had become the sort of good chums who, it became apparent, would help out without a moment’s thought. It’s what @Breckland Claire calls Karma.
So that was what happened. Chatting all the way, we got a bit lost in Impington, but passers by and Google Maps sorted that, along with a couple of calls to Origin8 and we handed the pies over to chef Emilio. As I type, I’m aware that that sounds like a mere skip and a jump but the journey from Chippenham, near Newmarket to Swaffham, to Impington and back to Chippenham probably took over a couple of hours out of Chris’s busy working day.
Back to the farmshop, I made myself useful be-ribboning some pots of violas for Mother’s day and ate a huge and splendid sandwich from the café, including Purely Pesto’s pesto on excellent local bread. They do a good sandwich.
@maximusfishing, another twitter chum, popped into the office to say hello from his Friday fish stall outside – which is supplies by their own boats. You can’t have too many twitter chums in a day I find.
Mick Whitworth arrived and Farmer LH gave us a guided tour and I, predictably, got stainless steel envy in the huge kitchen, where they are producing their own range of pies and cakes. It’s good to see a business going from strength to strength and the new farm café is proving a big hit, picking up lots of business from locals, but also all those London and Norfolk people in transit who stop for a cuppa but end up buying their shopping from the farmshop, from quails eggs to celeraic. And gorgeous local venison.
We wrestled my huge cold box into the back of Mick’s car, said our farewells and set off on the next leg of the journey, back to Norfolk. We giggled most of the way, talking food biz, music and pig’s nipples. And what Mick doesn’t know about the artisan food business isn’t worth knowing. It was pretty much like we’d known each other forever.
And in the end I had a great adventure and a fine day, thanks to the kindness of friends. I haven’t felt so free-wheeling since I used to hitch hike in my 20s.
Thanks a million to Chris, Farmer Lahogue, for being a complete hero and getting me out of a nasty pickle and to Mick for willingly becoming part of Chris’s rescue plan. And to both of them for being total wonders.
*Disclaimer: hardly any Crackle was used as bribery in the day’s events.