Growing up in Cockenzie was anything but glamorous but it was absolutely happy and safe. What’s not to love about living by the sea above an ice cream shop!
My grandfather, Nonno Cesidio, had arrived in 1919 and took over the High Street cafe. My grandmother (known as Nonna Cafe) who was Italian but had been born in London arrived a few months later with my aunt and my father in her arms.
My family, like the vast majority, if not all the Italian cafes up and down the country, played a key part in their communities. Other than the local churches and pubs, which were in equal quantity, the Cockenzie Cafe was the gathering place for friends, families, happy times, sad times and many new romances.
Everybody knew everyone. A few of the older generation remembered my Nonno, most knew my Nonna. Daddy had his own reputation of being overly kind and occasionally grumpy. I’m not saying anything. Mummy was the glamorous addition to the village having come from Glasgow in the 1950’s. Who else could wear pearls and a cashmere twin set with two aprons. The second to keep the first clean! Then their eight children would never be missed. If not seen they were always heard. We were all involved in the cafes, the caterings and the kiosks weather permitting. School first then work. Work and home life when we were all together was a riot. Laughs, noise and happiness.
Context is important. The 20’s and 30’s in a seaside mining community were hard. But there were opportunities. One cafe had a mini fleet of ice cream kiosks that serviced the summer season all the way down the east coast. The war years were particularly difficult. Nonno Cesidio died while being transported to Canada on the Arandora Star as an enemy alien, along with Victor’s grandfather and 803 others. My father was interned on the Isle of Man with Victor’s uncle and many others. The majority of the cafes continued to trade. In our case, as Nonna Cafe had been born in London she was British, the cafe stayed open with the help of all the team that had worked for the family for years. Many businesses continued on a similar basis. Life carried on. They survived the hard times. Family and their community got them through. Post war and the holiday season pre package holidays provided boom times and one cafe became two and then three. Here we are one hundred years later proudly holding the same heritage.
The Covid world that we now find ourselves in, I feel like history is repeating itself a little. We may not have Il Duce but some of our politicians, particularly those further afield, leave us questioning their sanity. We may not be at war but we are in crisis. Family businesses like ours up and down the country are providing yet again, at a time of need, a place for us to meet our friends, colleagues and loved ones. An escape from the uncertainty for some, an escape from the loneliness at home for others.
Both Victor and I see this as a great privilege. I get asked every day how I’m doing? My reply is as always as long as you are able and choose to come, we’re doing great. Thank you.
I count my blessings every day that we are well enough to be able to continue to work and that we are able to continue to look after you all. I also pray that the Government doesn’t inflict too many restrictions, however acknowledge some may be needed to prevent further harm in the future.
The energy that you share is valued far more than you realise.
I’m going to share one of my favourite life recipes. I’m going to try and make it every day.
Wake up with a smile, be kind, be fair, be excited, bring new things to those around you, accept your mistakes, forgive but don’t forget, love those that mean the most to you, eat well, share and never go to bed on a quarrel.
I used to think that was all I needed to find success. Success in today’s world has a different meaning depending on what you do for a living or how you carry the burdens you are presented with in life. Covid has presented us with challenges and opportunities but perhaps for some not as fairly. The restrictions families have in not being able to see loved ones are heartbreaking. The restrictions that the hospitality, events and arts sectors are having to work within are crippling for some. Gone is the free market economy that we’ve established our trading ability on. With no sight of how or what will change, if anything these restrictions may only become more restrictive, success for all will mean survival.
We live by our principles. Be kind, be fair, provide great value, source the best freshest ingredients, support our suppliers who support us and be there and be fair to our team. The secret is to get through this part of the journey as there are always better times ahead. We love looking after you and that makes us feel happy and safe.
Happy times, sometimes sad times, together times and hopefully many romantic times. Thank you.
We are delighted to share our new menus and offers with you
Keep well and keep safe