Friday 21 August 2009

Shop Girl's Creative Reflections

I’m in a little Catalan village in the mountains.
It’s dark and the cows are sleeping.
The murmurs of voices float over from the terrace of the local bar.
Apart from that, it’s very still.
My brother left for the city today. He took the Date with him and dropped him off at the airport.
“You’ll be able to write lots now,” the Date said.
It’s quieter than ever and I’m already missing their banter.
After they’d gone, I sat on the balcony and scribbled in my notebook, hoping for a good idea.
Some novelists say all you have to do is find one great character then your novel will develop naturally.
This afternoon I started with a character called Billy.
Billy saw his girlfriend cheating on him with his best friend. He saw them through the window of a cafe and he got so angry he imagined doing all sorts of horrible things to the pair of them.
He would’ve offloaded to his flatmate but his flatmate was sleeping.
His flatmate slept a lot because... he’d won the lottery and didn’t need to work.
No... because he worked as a security guard in a nightclub.
No, I know, because he was getting over a nasty break-up himself and was so depressed he only got up occasionally and only then to fry an egg.
I stopped writing and shut my notebook.
“Short stories,” the Date had insisted the night before. “Write short stories.”
But I’m not sure Billy could even be developed in a haiku let alone a short story.
I’ll just have to keep scribbling and see where it takes me.
Maybe it’s all this sun I’ve been basking in.
It’s quite a change from the halogen up-lighter I’m used to sitting under in the shop.
Ah, the shop.
I haven’t thought about it in a while. Perhaps that’s the problem.
What if I can’t think of a plot unless I’m in the shop?
What if without the shop my imagination fails and Billy and his flatmate are all I can muster?
Scary thought.
I’m going to move my chair into the sun and reflect on this problem.
It’s so beautiful here.
Mountains fade to blue in the distance.
The still lake is a sparkling mirror beneath them.
Do I really have to go back behind the counter to get a story?
Surrounded by all this, surely I must be able to think up something half decent?
And if not, well, perhaps Billy isn’t so bad after all.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Shop Girl: The Bells! The Bells!

As shops go, we’re a little random.
Crystal chandeliers are our speciality:
“Gold plated, not gold spray paint,” we say, “they won’t tarnish.”
“What about in the Caribbean?”
“No one can guarantee that,” we admit, “too salty.”
Still, we’ve sent a lot of lights over there and those customers keep coming back.

On the other hand, we also sell latte whisks for £1.00.
“Good for omelettes as well as milk,” I say.
And big brass bells.
Some of these bells have Titanic engraved on them and some are plain.
“Are they from the real Titanic?” people ask.
I’m always tempted to say yes.
“I think they’d be more than fifty pounds if they were.”
Generally, customers are tentative about ringing the bells.
“Go on,” Mum says, when she watches them gently tugging at the bell chord. “Give it a good ring.”
The Nigerian business man who came in yesterday didn’t need any encouragement.
Smart in a suit and tie, he walked over to the two bells left on display and he rang the first bell with gusto.
We looked at him and smiled.
Then he rang the second bell as loudly. It was a deeper sound than the first.
“They’re slightly different, aren’t they?” Mum said.
“Are they different?”
He frowned then rang the first bell again and then the second.
“Which is better?”
“Well it’s whatever sound you prefer.”
He rang them as hard he could and the dongs started to feel like they were inside my head.
“You should join a bell ringing club,” Mum said.
He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully.
“Which is bigger?”
“They’re the same.”
He rang them again, doubtfully. He didn’t want to make a mistake.
I stepped forward with a measuring tape and confirmed they were the same size.
“Give me one for thirty pounds,” he said.
“No, they’re really cheap. Go to Greenwich and you’ll see miniature ones for seventy pounds.”
“I only have thirty pounds.”
Mum and I looked at each other. We were having a Sale after all.
“We’ll do them for forty five,” I said.
“But I want two.”
“So it’s ninety.”
“I only have sixty pounds.”
He started ringing them again as another customer came in with a pack of bulbs.
“Do you sell these?”
Mum addressed the bulb man while I stood by the two bells, ready with my screwdriver in case the bell man should want me to take one off the wall.
“They are Pickwick bulbs,” the customer said.
“Yes Pickwick.”
“We don’t do them,” Mum said, “but they’re lovely.”
They were of the candle shaped variety.
“Yes they are, aren’t they?” the man said enthusiastically.
The business man was ringing the bells again.
“They’re looking for bell ringers at Southwark Cathedral,” the bulb man said. “What’s it called again?”
As the business man went to ring the second bell my hand instinctively went to hold the chord. But I caught myself, let it go and allowed him to ring the bell with energy.
“Pickwick,” Mum murmured.
“Yes, Pickwick.”
The bell man dealt three twenty pound notes onto the counter.
“Give me two for sixty.”
We all have our limits and this man had just found ours.
“Would you work for free?” Mum cried.
“Of course,” he said, “I am a Christian.”
I spluttered into my hand. He struck me as the kind of person who’d sell tickets to heaven.
But then again, I’m of the cynical variety.
Mum was momentarily flummoxed.
“Well I do a lot of free work myself but this is a shop!”
“Campanology,” the bulb man said, “that’s what it’s called.”
In the end the business man did buy a bell and we tied it up in a plastic bag so he’d resist a final dong on his way out.