My Quarantine Routine: Elly, a mum-of-two who had to shut down her workshop
The coronavirus lockdown has meant that many businesses have had to temporarily close as they aren’t deemed as essential.
Although most business owners know it is for the best and know that the government is offering financial support, shutting up shop is still heartbreaking.
Today on My Quarantine Routine, we’re talking to Elly Simmons, who owns Herringbone Kitchens with her husband Will. Herringbone designs and makes bespoke cabinetry in Canterbury for clients across the UK.
Although the couple were trying to find ways to continuing operating safely, when the Prime Minister announced a lockdown on 23 March, they decided to temporarily close their workshop to keep everyone safe.
They also have two kids -four-month-old Finn and five-year-old Freddie, who they are now teaching at home after the closure of schools.
This is how Elly spent 23 March, the day the lockdown was announced.
Early morning wake up call. My youngest son Finn wakes for a feed. I promise myself I won’t look at the news, but find it hard to switch off.
The pressure of owning a business with a team of 25 people, as well as my own fears about the virus are crushing. I put on a podcast to help myself fall back to sleep.
My older son Freddie jumps in our bed to play with us. Last Friday was his last day of school, we are all assuming he won’t be back until September.
When I picked him up that day I had a cry, it just feels so sad that these children are being cut short. When we were first told a week ago that the schools will be closing, I panic bought nerf guns and lego.
I have no idea how I am going to manage any type of home schooling with the business and a four-month-old. I still can’t believe this is happening.
Before this week our business was booming, we were on a course of hitting a 30% increase in sales this year and had upskilled and brought in more staff back in November to deliver this target.
We are lucky that our business is booked 3-6 months ahead, so we are still very busy.
My sister-in-law has a recruitment agency for support staff in schools, her really successful business that she worked so hard for, completely dried up overnight.
Right now we are still selling kitchens and our designers are busy, so I am confident we can ride this wave but am anxious like everyone else. I check the news and I see that the government will be releasing new information later today.
Realised we should start some sort of home school for Freddie. I log on to the Google classroom his school has incredibly set up over the last week, it’s so well done and very detailed, but I know I do not have the patience for that right now when what I am really thinking of is my family, the business and the virus.
I quickly shut the page (and mute the school mum WhatsApp) and decide I’m not touching it this week.
The holidays begin next week and I’ll spread the home school work out over them. We get out the nerf guns and start building dens. We find 26 pillows in the house, do some maths with the pillows and I try to forget about it all for a couple of hours.
Freddie starts an activity book and my husband Will and I have a quick meeting with our workshop manager to see how the changes are working.
To keep our team safe we have come up with a new schedule that splits our team into two, so people work condensed hours with four days on, then four days off.
This will mean there are less people in the workshop at any one time and will limit their travel to only coming in four days a week.
Over the last month we have worked really hard to get ourselves six weeks ahead in the workshop, just in case there was a lockdown coming.
The whole team has been 110% supportive and upbeat which is incredible, everyone just keeps saying we’ll do whatever it takes right now. The team have been coming up with great ideas on ways to keep us all safe while being really productive.
Lunch as a family and then we all have a Zoom chat with our designers. The designers are working from home over Zoom and are loving it. One of our designers keeps wearing different themed outfits every day and Freddie is loving guessing what he will wear next, it’s the little things that keep us all close.
I play in the garden with Freddie and Finn. We have a small courtyard garden with AstroTurf.
I have no idea how this will keep him entertained for months, but I feel so lucky we have a space and worry about those families without a garden.
Will speaks to the accountant over Zoom, we go through the books, double check the plans and decide to wait until the announcement later today before agreeing anything.
I put up some fun Instagram stories about the different projects our fitters are one, two guys are in Notting Hill and the other two are on separate jobs in Kent.
We all keep in touch over WhatsApp groups. I like to keep everything very light hearted on Instagram. Everyone is looking for escapism of some form right now, so hopefully pretty pictures of kitchens can help.
I start making a lasagne for Freddie and I have a cry to my mum who lives in America. She was suppose to visit us in April and we were going to go home to celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary this summer, but all of that has now been put on hold.
We won’t be seeing her until October at least, when Finn is almost one. They are healthy, but in their 60s so we are all a little bit worried.
I make the guys put down the nerf guns and we have dinner as a family. I try to make it a rule that we have no phones from 5-7 pm during the bedtime routine, but lately Will has been glued to the radio for the 5 pm announcement from the government.
Tonight’s message though is coming at 8:30 and we all suspect it will mean we are going in to lockdown, what we don’t know is what lockdown looks like.
Freddie and Finn are in bed. He had a lot of questions about the virus at first. What happens if we get it, his grandparents or friends get it.
But now he loves the idea that he doesn’t have to go to school for a while. Every night I ask him how he is feeling, tonight he said ‘happy.’
We hear the announcement from the Prime Minister that we are going in to lockdown. All of our friends who own businesses start messaging each other about what this means.
Everyone is really confused if the lockdown means all businesses that aren’t necessary or essential must also shut, or if it means you can still go to work if you do not work from home. Boris said both things in his speech.
30 minutes later, guidance comes out on the government website, but it is still just as confusing.
Ministers start wading in on twitter and contradicting each other. Ultimately we decide that the health and safety of our team, their families and our clients is the most important thing, and that we could not guarantee that with the workshop open.
We send a Whatsapp to the team what this announcement means, or how we are interpreting it. I feel overwhelmed and teary. Our team is like our family, we feel a real sense of responsibility for everyone and for helping them achieve their goals.
Last year three guys in the team got mortgages, this year many more people wanted to have weddings, get mortgages and start families.
All of our suppliers are also small family businesses, so any break in the supply chain has a rippling effect across many families. But in my heart, I know it is the right call for everyone’s safety.
Can’t sleep. I am worried about what the lock down means and what type of world we have just entered. I can’t imagine I have ever been more anxious in my life, but because of the boys and the business I know I have to put on a brave face tomorrow morning.
The British mantra, Keep Calm and Carry On is constantly ringing through my head.