April Fools, Norovirus and lots of sweating…..

Let’s start with a confession. I am a food hygiene junky…… I get excited when there’s an article in the newspaper. I cut it out, laminate it and share it. Sad? Yes. Don’t hold it against me.

I got the phone call on a Wednesday lunch time.

I was having lunch, and the call came over the walkie-talkie:

“Are you receiving, Fiona?”

“Go ahead.”

“I have a phone call you need to take, where can I transfer the call to?”

Alarm bells ring. This is not good.

I abandon the most lovely bowl of Tomato & Basil soup (full of lush cream). Gutted. It was lovely. Having said that, I had had 4 bowls in a row, including having it for breakfast that very same day.

I very swiftly moved to the privacy of the Outdoor Store office and grabbed the first paper and pen within arms reach.

“Fiona Robertson speaking, how can I help you?”

There was no introduction of who the customer was (*note to self – must have a chat about telephone training when staff are passing on a call…..).

The customer started talking right away:

“Hello, it’s just to let you know that my husband and I ate in your Snack Stop on Tuesday and we have been violently ill.”

As soon as I heard that, my first priority was to slow her down, right down. I needed details.

“Sorry, madam, can I ask you to pause for a minute, there’s some details I need to get from you.”

“Can ask your name please?”

The lovely lady gave me her name. I checked what they had eaten and when:

Ate a steak pie (*read steak pastry)
On Tuesday
Ate it after 4pm (they weren’t allowed into their B&B until 4pm – no prizes what B&B that was then!)
She stressed that at no point was she ‘accusing’ us of giving them food poisoning, just ‘letting us know’.

The cracking thing was, Ed had eaten the very same thing, same batch, not long after that and was, guaranteed, fit and healthy. I kept that bit of information to myself for that moment.

She then told me what had happened. About 4 hours later, after eating the pastry, her husband started vomiting. Not good. It was so bad, he had to go outside the Bed & Breakfast to throw up. If that was not enough to contend with, he had to go back in again to sit on the toilet. Both ends. It can’t really get much worse. Deep joy.

Then the wife started getting the symptoms. Both of them. Deeper joy. The ‘good’ thing, if there possibly could be a ‘good’ part, the husband got better more quickly.

Brain in ‘full-on’ mode, I asked where they had been, in particular, where they may have been where there had been coach tours or where there were a lot of people in the same space as them.

Imagine my delight when she said, “We have only been at The Green Welly during our stay, we haven’t been able to leave here since Tuesday.”

You could literally hear her brain going round. I let her think.

Then she said, “However, my husband and I travelled up to Scotland on the train.”

That was it then. Close confinement. No escape.

I explained to her then how it worked. The ‘onset’ for food poisoning is not, for a steak pie, that quick, certainly not to include diarrhoea. I said to her that my husband had eaten the same batch, and he was just fine (or in similar words).

It was Norovirus It couldn’t be anything else.

I said to the (lovely) lady that I thought it was Norovirus, and why: the vomiting, the diarrhoea and also that my hubby had eaten the same thing, therefore confirming that the steak pastry wasn’t party to the symptoms. Also, we have all our HACCP systems in place. (That would have been too much information at this point.)

What I did say was that I would do some further homework, and in the meantime, she should phone the Killin Doctors’ surgery to confirm what I suggested. The arrangement was that she was going to call me back. She confirmed again, that she was not accusing us of anything.

When she called back, it was only about an hour later. I was surprised, our local Doctors’ surgery is not that easy to get hold of.

“Hello, Fiona, it’s just to let you know, I phoned a friend, who I was needing to call anyway. As it happens, she is an Environmental Health Officer, and she confirmed what you have said. Thank you for everything, and giving me such good advice.”


I did the right thing, after wishing them a speedy recovery, I called the B&B and warned them about the risk, and having to make sure that the precautions were taken. I won’t mention names, however, the call was interesting. I had to stop the owner of the B&B, saying to them that we had not caused the problem. Once I had explained, they then went on to tell me about a ‘chicken sandwich’ than ‘they’ had eaten after a flight from South Africa. I didn’t have the heart to tell ‘her’ that it was probably the flight food, and not the chicken sandwich. Eventually, I got my point across. They asked about the next available Food Hygiene course for their staff. That’s not the point – as a business owner, you should know all about Food Hygiene, not rely on your staffs’ knowledge, and trust an employee to ‘get it right’.

After all that, she asked what the price was for the Elementary Food Hygiene course. When I told her, she asked for a discount.

Right. That’s not going to happen. That’s the price. Build a bridge. Come on, it’s not that expensive. How can you attach a price to making sure you ‘get it right’?

In the meantime, I have heaved a sigh of relief. I didn’t think that I was going to write a blog about a boring subject like: ‘vomiting and diarrhoea’, this is a first, for sure.

Yesterday was the 1st of April. Do you not find yourself bracing yourself. Wondering what pranks someone is up to? Aye, it’s a natural human instinct. No matter how prepared you are, you are NOT prepared. As it happens, I was not consciously waiting for an April Fool. My last cracker, involved being told that a fantastic pal of mine, a definite brunette had ‘gone blonde’. Let’s hang on here, eyes dark brown, verging on black. Eyebrows, dark brown, verging on black. WTF? Amazed, I told Ed. He didn’t even pause for thinking time. Typical man. “Ask if it’s collar and cuffs.” Fecking fecker.

The first one, this year was before 9am. Blimey.

A whisky sale. All £13,000 of it. Plus £6 postage.

It took a while, to see that it was a cleverly put together piece of $hit. No way. Not today. It was a goodie though – fake email address, believable name, one of the best April fools that I have ever had. Brilliant, ya bam. Believable comment on the order, saying that WorldPay, our payment system, had crashed during the transaction.

Once I had realised it was an April fool, cruelly, I clicked ‘print’ and sent it to the whisky shop. That was after the blue air in the office had cleared. Lots of hissing and spitting went on. Lots of “YOU B*STARD” were uttered.

Very quickly, the whisky shop team had reacted, phoning our Internet geek to check. He didn’t answer. He was on holiday, how convenient.

I dashed downstairs, before they phoned our supplier. Luckily they didn’t. I spelled it out. The air was blue. There was also lots of laughter (*read, hysterics).

Fine. 12 noon. Surely escaped? Then the next April fool kicks off. I think it was about noon that it was ‘discovered’. My office assistant, Cyndi, announces that our Office Manager and Food & Beverage Manager who are still on holiday, have caught norovirus on their cruise. They would be off indefinitely. Who the hell came up with that one? Who ever it was had really, really bad timing. Give her credit, Cyndi was pretty darn cool about it. She threw up her arms and said words to the effect of, “It’s me, and me, and I know I can cope!”

Good on you, girl. That’s the attitude you need. The thing is, one of our new office assistants is quite unwell. So, this news was hideous. I told Ed, and he said, “Well, you are going to have to have a crash course on doing the cash sheets.” EEK!

Sense of humour was about to hit rock bottom. I spoke to my brother, and he shrugged his shoulders. I said, “This is serious, it can take a few weeks for the symptoms to clear from some people.” Shoulders shrugged again. I told him about ‘THE’ phone call I had dealt with earlier in the week. He shrugged his shoulders.

I could say some really bad, bad things here, however, I won’t. Iain was ‘in’ on the April Fool. Oh haha bl00dy ha. He must have really, really enjoyed me squirming! It was a bit of a giggle and ‘knowing smirk’ from him that ‘slipped out’ when I told him, “It was a bl00dy April Fool!”

I have various feelings about this, two belting April Fools, the first, was a cracker, the second was just cruel!!!

Never mind, I will, no doubt get some revenge. I am working on the plan now. By next April, I will have something to remember. Ah, well, maybe not, maybe the revenge will come sooner. Brace yourselves, you guilty parties…. Fi has her horns out.

Thankfully, Cyndi who must have been as close to a heart attack as I was, received an email from the ‘culprit’ today. Good, well done. I will not name and shame, because I still have to find out who had ‘actually’ thought it up. See if Bernadette and Lorraine come back (or not) with norovirus, I will, I can assure you, have the last laugh.

In the meantime this morning (Saturday) I came out of retirement. I helped serve breakfasts. Saturday morning, the first weekend day of the holidays and the queue is round the corner. Right roll up sleeves, (or I would have if I had had any) and get on in there. An hour later, the sweat was lashing off me. About 50 breakfasts later, I felt that I had been reminded what it was all about.

At one moment, I had a plate in my hand. What was missing? There was sausage, bacon, tomato, black pudding…. come on, what was missing. Doh. The egg. Then there was breakfast dyslexia. Link sausage with haggis, twice. (say it again to make sure you get it right…) link sausage with haggis. Hand it over to Debs, saying, “Right, 2 x link sausage with haggis.”

No wonder I got a ‘look’.

“Fi….. erm….. is this meant to be link sausage with haggis?”

“Yes, of course, look, link sausage with haggis.”

So, at what point did haggis become black pudding? Another ‘doh’ moment.

I knew at that point breakfast blindness had happened. Luckily at that point, not only had we all had enough, and needed a break, but the queue had died down. Breathe.

The rest of the day was superb, with some of the best customer comments that we have had in one day for a long time. That made up for the sense of humour failure yesterday, big time.

One comment on “April Fools, Norovirus and lots of sweating…..”

  1. YOu just cannie beat a good April Fools…


    There’s always next year…

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