Friends, Cheqers, Countrymen, lend me your ears! I come not to bury the Coln Community Stores but to praise them (“they were all of them fond of quotations”).
The Stores are a tremendous asset, not only to the villagers to whom this is addressed, but to many who come from much further afield on bicycles or on foot as well, as the lunch-seekers working locally. Not only can you buy your paper, your magazines, your bread, your vegetables, your cold meats, even fresh fish once a fortnight, but you can indulge in an array of sweets, crisps, nuts and ice creams to satisfy any child coming out of school (and if you disapprove of that, let me say that there are a large number who don’t) not to mention alcoholic refreshment for the last-minute party-goer. For the discriminating there are about seventeen different flavours of water to tempt you. I haven’t even mentioned the Post Office: I can attest to the weight of sacks carried out to the postman’s van. The
Café is hugely popular: mother’s meetings; committee meetings; the Tour de France regularly calls.
While interment is not imminent the future of the Stores hangs in a delicate balance. It is a non-profit-making organisation whose income is calculated to keep the enterprise afloat. The only paid staff are the Manager (on Maternity leave) and three assistant managers (one currently off sick) who are all obliged to work longer hours than they are paid for. What makes it possible is the contribution of volunteers. These characters – you may have spotted one or two – regularly or intermittently turn up to serve at the counter, help in the café, prepare food for the café – the profits from which are crucial to the whole operation’s viability – look after the garden, even run the Post Office. Without them the shop would close.
The trouble is: there are not enough of them.
So, please, would you think about offering to help?
You don’t have to make a regular commitment or go on a rota; you can choose to work for as long or as briefly as you like (I sometimes go in to buy something and spend twenty minutes behind the till when I can see things are busy.) I understand someone recently said “Oh I can do invoices”: perfect. None of it is difficult (if you can’t understand the till you can always hit it or burst into tears; no one will mind) and it is fun, and it will keep the Stores alive.
Actually, don’t just think about it; decide to give it a go! To this end, anyone who would like to learn more, come to our Volunteers’ Party at 7.00 pm on Tuesday 21st (in Nigel Hugh-Smith’s barn) and hear from those of us who do volunteer have a sandwich-making competition, a stamp-licking relay or even a stockingthe-milk-fridge 100-yard dash.
Whatever: it will be bonhomie – and might keep the Coln Community Stores open.