Monday, 28 December 2009

A Very New Year for Shop Girl

Merry belated Christmas!
I hope your sock drawer has been replenished.
Mine has.
My current socks have grey stars on them.
They had grey stars on them yesterday too.
And the day before.
In fact I don't know why I'm still wearing the same ones. I could've put the spotty ones on instead.
Writing at Christmas is heavy going.
Too much food.
Today it's been twiglets. I can't get enough of them.
The New Year on the other hand promises lots of constructive activity.
Exciting things are on the horizon.
No don't be silly, the shop isn't going quite yet.
Give it till March.
But Shop Girl is.
I'm flying off in a new direction.
"How will you write if you aren't in the shop?" people cry.
The shop has been an indispensable source of inspiration for my writing this year but I'm almost certain I can continue writing if I'm not there.
Erase 'almost'.
I'm leaving home too and moving in with an artist friend somewhere in London.
We're registering with an organisation which looks after empty properties and rents them out cheap.
Tomorrow we'll stick pins in a map.
It's not voodoo; it's optimism.
The time has come for me to look for my next plot.
I can't wait to wake up in the morning and think: "Today I can write all day!"
Soon I shall be broke and looking for a new job.
Doing what?
I've no idea.
This New Year is going to be an adventure for more than just me.
One of my favourite characters, cousin Rosie, is heading off around the world and I want to wish her good luck.
As for me I've no intention of abandoning this blog.
It's been an amazing year but the Shop Girl story is far from over.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Wintry Shop Girl

I'm relying on 1200 watts for my survival.
They come from a dusty halogen heater that glows at my knees.
I'm wearing so many layers I can't move.
Because I can't move, I'm getting even colder.
Outside it's snowing.
But cold.
And there's not a customer in sight.
I'm wearing long, black, fingerless gloves which make me feel like a miser from a Charles Dickens'.
Or a robber.
Hunched over the counter, I count out my booty. Crystal beads for my mini suspension.
I'm making small chandeliers that fit directly over a bulb; potential sparkling presents for Christmas.
I've made three already and am enjoying the rhythm.
That said, there is a draft running through the building and I'm not sure how much longer I can go on.
I google the health benefits of being cold.
There are none, unless you are up to the neck in icy water. (No thanks)
I chain-drink hot tea.
Then more tea.
When I think I can take it no more, a young man comes in and says the magic words.
"Will you marry me?"
No, not those words.
The magic ones.
The only words that can warm me up right now.
"I'd like to buy your book."
And it's like a heater is turned on inside me and the feeling comes back to my fingers.
I find the pen that makes my signature look the best.
Black ink, thin point.
"What's your name?"
"Emil," he says.
"Oh!" I say, "like me, but a boy version!"
Yes, I have a way with words.
He leaves and I am happy.
I have 1200 watts and a kettle.
And if I get really cold again I can always click on the publisher's best seller list.
Seeing 'Shop Girl Diaries' right at the top warms me up every time.
Thanks so much to you all for buying it.
(You know who you are.)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Shop Girl Back to Reality

The funny thing is, barterers probably think I'm pleased to see them.
They come in looking so smug.
"Remember me?" they say.
How could I forget? I think. I'm still recovering.
They believe they're about to make my day.
I'm talking about the customers who reappear every few years, battle to the death over a price, pay by credit card then leave me feeling like I've been robbed.
Today a familiar unrelenting barterer reached a new low.
He tried to barter over my book.
"You know me," he said, as he flicked through it, "I like a good price."
I felt a chill run down my spine.
Oh no...
No, no, no...
"That book took me more than a year of blood, sweat and tears."
He looked unconvinced.
He turned to the last pages and started to read.
After a while he returned the book to the window display.
"I might come back."
The glamour of last week's book launch is truly over.
I'm back behind the counter, stringing beads together and apologising for goods that haven't arrived.
To be honest, they haven't arrived because they were ordered late because I've been too distracted.
You could say that lately I've been a bad shop girl.
It's difficult to take customers seriously sometimes.
Like the woman who pointed at a light this afternoon and said she'd need two when she moved house.
"When are you moving?" I asked.
"Maybe next year, maybe the one after... I don't know yet. Do you think you'll have them then?"
At the same time another woman was trying to describe the problem with her chandelier. Not one she'd bought from us but one that had been passed down through generations.
"I cleaned it and now it has a skin," she said.
"A skin?"
"Yes, like a skin."
"The plating has come off?"
"I've only got gold cleaner," I told her, "but that won't be any good."
I was obviously not helping but she just didn't want to leave.
"Like a skin," she kept saying.
I told her to call back next week when Mum was around.
After that I made a cup of tea.
You can always rely on tea to improve a situation.
I've also discovered a sense of commmunity does wonders too.
The Dress Shop Man bought my book today. He's going to display them in his shop as is Manze's, the famous pie n' mash shop.
Ah, pie n' mash... that's one off my list!
You'll know what I mean when you read the book.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Shop Girl is Launched

The Big day had come:
The Launch of 'Shop Girl Diaries'.
My nerves were momentarily eased by the successful match of my new tights with the dress.
It's those little details that really niggle.
As the Chines proverb goes, 'it's not the mountain that wears you out but the grain of sand in your shoe.'
My shoes were full of grit.
But I was not alone.
The launch team were all there looking gorgeous though it was pelting with rain.
At this point I must thank Brian and Liz, ex-lighting geniuses, who swapped selling chandeliers for a marsh in Wales where they count migrating birds.
Thanks to their donation there was wine for everyone.
But there wasn't only wine.
Oh no.
Michael, from The Woolpack, who'd previously planned to donate winter Pimms was unperturbed by the museum's rule of no coloured drinks.
He set to work with his alchemy kit and came up with hot, white, winter punch.
What a treat - except I didn't have any because I was too afraid of getting drunk.
There wasn't much chance of that though because I was so busy signing people's books!
I see a blank page and I have to fill it.
So instead of just signing I wrote an essay in each one.
I was thrilled to have so many people there as excited by Shop Girl as I am.
Thanks to Alison and Di from the Fashion and Textiles Museum everything ran seamlessly.
Over 100 people came to the launch and the buzz was incredible.
61 books sold!
I thought I'd be so nervous when the time came to speak.
But I looked around me and saw these people were my family, friends, readers and fellow enthusiasts.
So I opened my mouth and trusted the right thing would come out.
I don't know what I said, I'm still waiting for the video, but I know I meant every word.
I'd almost opted not to read from my book but I'm glad I did. People laughed in the right places and some tell me they've been laughing since reading on trains and planes.
It was a wonderful night and I only wish I could do it all over again to talk to all those I didn't get chance to speak to.
Thank you all for coming and making it such a special evening.