Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas Spirit and Olives

Christmas coupled with a Closing Down Sale makes life very busy.
My finger tips are sore after manic crystal pinning and I can barely zip up my vital fourth fleece which protects me from the arctic temperatures of our shop.
Fond memories of a nail salon in Bogotá come to mind and I push them away.
My hands currently resemble those of Santa’s great grandmother.
I’m not complaining. I love it when it’s busy like this.
When all the shop crew are together I feel happy.
There’s great banter and team work when Alfie is building lamps, Papa is throwing massive boxes down the stairs and Petra is laying out rows of crystal to pin. When Mum is going the extra mile by cleaning a half-price chandelier and I’m relishing the thought of a new space on the ceiling.
We’ve been working late to get our jobs done and on Thursday we reward ourselves with a bottle of wine and upgrade from a jar of Crespo olives to a superior pot of marinated ones.
It’s the little things in life, after all.
The little oily, herby things.
People believe we are closing now. Old customers bring us in chocolates and promise a drink that probably won't happen (but how nice anyway).
To make things a little more hectic, the Fiancé and I move north.
North of the river, that is.
I finally get the chance to be excited about having my own chandeliers.
Each time I come into the living room, I look up at the sparkly crystals and feel uplifted.
We get our first Christmas tree as soon as we move in and name it ‘Pepe the Great’.
We bring it home and find that its trunk is teeming with bugs.
The Fiancé grabs deodorant and a lighter, and the flames roar as he torches all the little beasties.
The smell is amazing. Pepe is less impressed.
Back at the shop, Christmas takes the form of a little bark crib in the window, complete with a mini fire that lights up.
Everyone wants to buy it.
“Sorry, I’m inheriting it,” I tell them.
What am I going to do after the shop?
The best I can!
As ever, at this time of year, I’m thinking it’s time for a revolution in my life.
Sometimes you get lost in the flow and you make excuses for not achieving your goals.
Lately I’ve been unable to get up early or squeeze writing time in at night.
I’ve been feeding my inner Spartan mince pies and half price sparkling wine and it’s all been very cosy.
The thing is, all the films on telly are insisting I spread the festive cheer and believe in Santa so his sleigh can take off.
I wouldn’t want to be a Bah! Humbug!
So...Ho ho ho, I think I’ll let the Christmas spirit bubble for the time being.
When January comes, a new story will begin.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Back to School

I contacted my old school to see if I could speak at an assembly about my journey from blogger to author.
I’d just booked a stall to sell copies of Shop Girl Diaries at their Christmas market but I knew I wouldn’t sell many if no one knew anything about it.
The date was set for the 29th November.
The time: 8 am.
When the day arrived, there was a massive tube strike.
I got up at 6am to find all my tights had vanished.
The only tights I could find had fake suspenders outlined on them.
I pulled them up anyway, believing my skirt would hide the sexy pattern.
My local station was closed so I ended up having to take two buses and a tube to get there.
I was running late and phoned the head mistress to warn her.
“We’ll sing a hymn or something,” she said.
As I strode towards the school building I noticed with horror that my inappropriate tights were very visible.
I jumped the toilet queue as soon as I got there and yanked up my tights so hard I ripped them.
I couldn’t believe it. How on earth could I walk into a room of two hundred girls aged 10 to 18 wearing ripped suspender tights?
I took off my boots, pulled off my tights and hurried into assembly with bare legs.
On a raised stage I looked out across a room filled with girls dressed in blue.
Once I’d been one of them in that same uniform. Would I have been eager to listen to an author?
I like to think so.
We sang a lively hymn and one of the girls read out a prayer. There was such a positive vibe that despite my nerves and cold legs I felt happy to be there.
There was a lectern for my notes which gave me great comfort.
The lights dimmed and I showed my first picture.
It was a photo of me in my St James’ school uniform when I was 4 years old, writing on a slanted board that we used to use.
I relaxed pretty quickly and enjoyed telling my story.
“Fantastic,” my head mistress whispered when I’d finished and I felt really chuffed.
She continued her support after the assembly by lending me some tights.
It was impressive how many back-up tights she had; clearly the mark of a successful woman.
The Christmas Market took place on the following Sunday.
Petra and I spread out sparking crystals, little brass ornaments and of course, my books, on our stall.
Our prices suited a child’s pocket money and we had lots of little people pleased to be able to buy little brass baskets and sparkly beads.
The Fiancé stood close by cheekily bullying parents into buying my book.
I squirmed as he did it but I couldn’t complain as he got great results.
By the end of the day I wheeled my suitcase home 18 books lighter!

*Thank you St James School and all those who wished me real good luck by buying my book!