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2020 has been an exceptional year for everyone. Down in Burnsall, the roller coaster set off at about 10am on February 4 with a catastrophic sudden illness striking a loved one.

Doing their favourite morning dog walk around the lake near their house, my mum was, thankfully, with Dennis as he collapsed and my brother was, even more thankfully, just a scream away… After what must have felt like a lifetime of CPR, Dennis was airlifted to the nearest intensive care unit, where he remained for several weeks clinging on to his “2% chance”.

So, when the wettest February on record did its worst, and we had flooding in Burnsall three weekends in a row, at least I could put things into perspective. If the water got into our flood-resilient building, it would be a pain in the neck, but the clear up operation would be relatively simple and at least nobody was going to die.

The flood defences working well in Burnsall

Meanwhile Dennis was still in ICU, conscious now but suffering a brain injury and with a desperately bleak outlook.

On the third weekend of flooding the water finally got in. I will forever be grateful for the help I received one weekend after the next as we defended the building with huge success – but in the end the ground was just so saturated that the third weekend of heavy rain finally did for us! As predicted, it was a pain – but we’d cleared up and were serving again by mid-morning.

I wasn’t sorry to say goodbye to February.

By comparison March started well and despite the worrying news of Coronavirus, we were planning a year of workshops and wood fired pizza nights and looking ahead with confidence.

Maybe the events of February had been such a distraction that I genuinely didn’t expect things to happen so quickly. As I collected the Riverbank bread from Lovingly Artisan on Wednesday 18 March and Aidan, whose bakery it is, said of a lockdown “it’s not IF Rachel, it’s WHEN”, I was honestly shocked into finally believing it was a real prospect.

The team at Lovingly Artisan had been in full planning mode on that last visit, considering options to continue operating safely and this inspired me to swiftly do the same. I knew that takeaways were allowed to continue operating through the Italian lockdown and as Riverbank had started life as a takeaway, a switch back would be relatively straightforward. So, when Boris shut down hospitality just two days later, I listened to every word. Sure enough, he gave the nod to takeaways that I was hoping for, so I stayed into the evening and hastily re-configured the kitchen – sending out a message to explain that Riverbank would be staying open. It was a late night, but I felt really pleased with the plans for the following day and encouraged by the lovely replies to my email.

The next two days were a bit of a blur. Customers were amazing, the weather was kind and we worked extremely hard in the kitchen – but the fear in the village was palpable and in amongst all of the support, one or two vicious comments online, plus an anonymous letter pushed through the Riverbank door really spooked me.

On Monday 23 March we shut up shop and I retreated to the Lakes for lockdown.

Unable to run Riverbank, I switched focus to my other ‘passion project’  For around a year I’ve been building my stock of carefully selected gifts and cards but that was only ever going to be part of the story.  I had a vision for the ‘’ part of that had gone absolutely nowhere.

It still has a long way to go but now has a fully functioning e-commerce site and my very first craft kit is even on there. The website is simple – and far from perfect – but I built it from scratch – and I even got around to switching it on!

Branded packaging

And Dennis, or Lazarus as we now call him, has restored my faith in happily ever after. His recovery has defied all expectations, he’s home, getting stronger every day and even walking with my mum and the dog around the lake again (although they take a portable defibrillator in a small backpack on every outing!)

Dennis and mum in lockdown

Smiling again – Dennis and Mum

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