Thursday, 29 January 2009

More bureaucracy please, we're British

I hate bureaucracy and I hate it with a passion. I hate it if I witness it from afar and I hate it even more when it's closer to home. I hate the fact that it stifles invention and I hate the fact that it always seems to be a hapless bureaucrat with zero grip on reality who is enforcing it. And what I hate (the last one I promise) even more than bureaucracy itself is a government spouting absolute nonsense about 'entrepreneurial Britain' and 'small and medium sized enterprises being the lifeblood of the economy' and then doing all it can to suck them into a quagmire of endless form-filling, box-ticking, flag-waving etc etc. For example, I got a phone call from the Office of National Statistics enquiring why we hadn't completed a form informing them of how many job vacancies we had on 1st January 2009. I explained that we were two people short of a full team and we didn't have the time. They didn't get the joke and threatened to fine us if we didn't complete the form!

Now to the real bone of contention: I just want to run a tea business; selling great tea to anyone who cares to join me. I have done this for almost two years and for said period, I have placed a small number of tables and chairs outside (which is a pedestrianised area) for anyone brave enough to take a chance on the British weather. Today however, I have been told that we are violating City of London's strict regulations on outdoor seating (despite the government spouting more nonsense about trying to make Britain fall in love with the outdoor cafe culture) and that we are in line for a fine. Oh yes, 2009 is the year of the fine, which is fine because as a business we are doing fine!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Back to what we know

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.

C.S. Lewis

With economies crumbling, governments floundering, banks not lending, consumers not consuming, I have decided to begin this blog with a quote. Its relevance? Since the coming together of the now era-defining words which are 'crunch' and 'credit' our customers cups of tea appear to be getting larger and their books longer. Gone are the halcyon days of a customer ordering 'A Jasmine Silver Needle and a slice of carrot cake to go, please' and here to stay are the torturous words 'An English Breakfast with an extra cup and and a pot of hot water on the side please'. This is swiftly followed by 'Do you happen to know where the Jobs Section of City AM is?' and 'Do you have a cushion for this chair?'.

In times of need people often take comfort in all things familiar so we have stocked up on English Breakfast tea, digestive biscuits and are now showing reruns of Only Fools & Horses (for our US readers think The Golden Girls (sorry Del)). We think that we're here for the long haul so may as well make the most of it.