The owners of a fish and chip shop in Sandwich, Kent, spent Christmas Eve frying food for lorry drivers stuck in queues of traffic heading for Dover after France closed its border with the UK due to coronavirus fears.
Eastry Fish Bar is ten miles away from the Port of Dover but just a few minutes drive from the A256, a busy bypass used by lorry drivers to reach the docks.
On any other Christmas Eve the chippy would be shut but, with the area being in tier four, its owners - unable to meet with family - decided to open.
Christine Johnson, who has owned the village takeaway with her husband Keith for the last 40 years, comments: “A chap in the village came in with a load of brown paper bags and asked for 100 portions of chips. He explained they were for the lorry drivers that were stranded. He was a lorry driver himself and he said if he was abroad, he hoped he would get some help. We were due to close in an hour and we had quite a few pre-orders to get out so I said come back after 7.30pm.
“My grandson was looking forward to going home but my husband said, “get out there and peel some more potatoes!” We managed to find some spare boxes and just filled and filled them with chips, we were putting sausages in some, I heated up every pie I had and boxed those up. I never knew how quickly we could put out so many portions of chips. We went way past the 100.
“When the gentleman came back, he was a bit overwhelmed at what 100 boxes of food looked like!”
When the customer tried paying for the food, Christine refused to take the money. She adds: “Their family had clubbed together and raised £50 which they put on the counter and said they would put the rest on credit card. I said I didn’t want the money, but they kept insisting so I said, "okay, we’ll donate it to charity" and that’s what we’re doing so we’ve got £50 going to The Fishermen’s Mission.”
It wasn’t until Christine and Keith went to go home that night that they saw the huge backlog of lorries.
Christine adds: “It was so sad to think they did their last trip thinking they would be back in time for Christmas and then it all went wrong. One lorry driver said he was hoping to get the ferry the next morning but he still had a two-day drive to get home so it wasn’t over for him when he got off the ferry in France.
"It was really nice to do our bit. The customer that took the food said the lorry drivers were so grateful and appreciative. The temperature had dropped down to 1°C that night and although they’d had sandwiches and cold drinks, a hot box of chips made their day.”