What was it like still working through lockdown in the midst of a global pandemic?

Well at the time it wasn’t like we expected it to be fun to be honest.

Let us start at the beginning.

Just before the official lockdown in South Africa happened on the 27th of March 2020 we were all a bit unsure of what was going to happen, were we considered an essential service? What permits did we need? What were we going to do to keep the business running?

So many questions and very few answers came our way. I suppose as South African’s we are able to adapt a lot easier and work it out as we go.

Being a supplier to a grocery store meant that we were in fact able to work through lockdown and we eventually just printed all the different versions of the travel permits and hoped that one of them was the right one.

I will never forget going to work in the first week, I was on a highway that normally stands still with traffic and that Monday morning during “rush hour” I was one of 3 cars on the road.

I was quite worried about coming across a roadblock, but it was just the fear of the unknown, I guess I was expecting doomsday type roadblocks with tanks and barbed wire. There was none of that fortunately where I drove, in fact I only drove through 3 roadblocks the whole time and the whole process was fluid and easy to navigate.

I think that Charles Dickens puts it eloquently in the tale of two cities where he writes, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

I feel very much the same way about the time spent working through lockdown.

We were all fairly stressed and concerned about our health and families, we were worried about the business and what affect the lockdown would have on that.

We worked hard! A factory that normally has about 50-60 people in it was being run by 10-13 of us, we worked right through public holidays, Good Friday saw the directors step into the factory with us to pack boxes and get the job done.

We were loading bags of green coffee into the roaster sometimes lifting the 50-60kg bags by ourselves. Putting on thousands of tin ties onto bags by hand. Loading boxes onto pallets and pallets onto trucks. I am not complaining though, the physical work during this time was exactly what we needed to keep our minds busy and the business going.

There were really some good times, for the first time I truly understood how the factory and it’s machines worked, I got to work closely with some of the team in the factory and discover some amazing people who work in there that I would not have gotten to know otherwise.

We ate really well, like really well… one of the joys of being in the restaurant industry is that we have some good cooks and chefs on the team. One of our favourite and memorable meals was the pea soup that Karen Fitzgerald made for us, warming and comforting in a time of weirdness. Then there was the prego rolls that we cooked on the braai and ate sitting in the sun on the pavement.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…

Sure, it was and still is a stressful time on a global economic, physical and mental health level and I don’t know how long this will last or how we will come out of it.

But I will look back at my time working in the lockdown with a bit of fondness and appreciation for the smaller, simpler moments that we shared.