Friday 30 October 2009

**Halloween Special** Shop Girl Unleashed

The Spirit of Halloween snatched my soul today and replaced it with a low-energy light bulb.
It flickered.
And Off.
The wolves of my mind were restless.
They clawed at shadows as I sipped a potion of caffeine and milk (no sugar).
I cursed: ‘Damn.’
And indulged in dark thoughts, such as: I am trapped in a glass cage.
The door chimes rang and a middle-aged couple walked into the shop.
Their souls were blinding 300 watt halogens.
They told me they were visitors to London and drew up to the counter, where I stood pinning crystal beads together, like this:
Put pin in crystal
Curl end of pin
Put pin in crystal
Curl end of pin

“Oh,” the lady said, her bright eyes widening. “I bet you love doing that.”
I looked at her and considered lying.
“No I hate it,” I said.
I thought the truth would set me free.
It didn’t.
It just made a nice lady feel uncomfortable.
“Well, it’s not so bad,” I said, trying to backtrack.
They left and in came a man who wanted a BIG BIG light for the price of a teeny weeny light.
He entreated me with puppy dog eyes.
“Please,” he whined.
The wolves howled inside me
Lucky for him, he left unscathed, and I returned to my perch to continue stringing bead after bead like this:
Put pin in crystal
Curl end of pin
Put pin in crystal
Curl end of pin

I searched for my soul on e-bay but it wasn’t there.
Too much shadow, I suppose.
The wolves were growing evermore impatient to get out.
They could sense the Spirit of Halloween.
A woman burst in wearing gold glitter stilettos, followed by a shorter man with a shaved head.
“Don’t mind us,” she said, “We’re both pissed.”
I stared at them.
“Why not come back when you’re not pissed?” I suggested.
The man saved himself and left the shop.
But she was foolish.
“I’m not leaving until I’ve bought something,” she said.
For a while I watched her tottering about the shop, so close to breaking so many things.
Then suddenly I thought: ‘Sod this’
I unleashed those hungry wolves and in the last flicker of my replacement soul, I watched them gobble her up.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

The Hands of Shop Girl

Some readers may remember me saying that when I left the shop, I’d get my nails done.
That I’d get a manicure and a stick-on diamante.
Since I haven’t left the shop my hands are still rubbish.
Pinning crystal involves washing them every half an hour and that, combined with the cold weather, leads to dry, cracking skin.
On Saturday, my date, disgusted with my granny hands, shoved me towards a vendor selling expensive moisturiser.
She took one look at them and shook her head.
“No, you don’t need moisturiser.”
She shook her head some more.
“What did you do to them?”
She turned them this way and that, looking for an explanation.
“Do you play tennis? Do you ride a motor bike?”
“No,” I said. “Not that I know of.”
Then she led me over to the sink and made me scrub them with hardcore exfoliation salts.
They felt lovely after that, as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
Not that I’ve ever touched one.
“How much does this cost?” I asked, enjoying the feel of my new-found skin.
“30 pounds.”
That was half the winter coat I’d come out to buy.
She tried to tempt me with a discount and for once I saw it from the customers’ point of view.
Sometimes, despite the great offer, you can’t justify spending that much.
And then my wonderful date told me to stop being silly and bought the pot of salts for me.
Suddenly I've the potential of having beautiful hands.
I’ve started wearing gloves in the garden.
Although that’s more to do with the stinging nettles I merrily pulled out last week.
I thought they were mint.
The stings turned into red spots and lasted the entire day.
Yes, I’m still gardening, still working on those carrots I mentioned a few months ago.
Connie came into the shop and I told her about them.
“I don’t know when they’ll be ready,” I sighed.
“Well, the bloke on telly said it’s when you can see the top.”
So after work, I went home to inspect them.
I dusted the soil away from under those green scraggly leaves and noted with excitement, the small orange beginnings of a carrot.
Of course I pulled it straight out of the ground, all 3 centimetres of it.
“It looks like a radish,” Petra said, when she saw the photo.
“You should put it back in,” the Date said.
It was smaller than expected but at least it smelt like a carrot.
I’ll wait a little longer before I touch the rest.
Meanwhile if you’re wondering why I’m talking about hand cream and carrots, it’s because the Southwark News has succeeded in blowing my cover, and I’m not sure how to proceed with writing about my customers...

Monday 12 October 2009

Shop Girl vs The Fear

I approach newspaper editors as if they were someone I fancy.
My heart pounds in my ears when I dial their number and I always hesitate before punching in the last digit.
Sometimes I hang up before the phone rings.
Then I consider an alternative strategy.
I’ll send an e-mail instead, knowing it will go straight to their Junk mail.
This is the side of me I have to reason firmly with.
“What’s the worst that can happen?” I say.
The ‘shy me’ throws a strop and says she isn’t ready.
Last week I was sick and didn’t ring anyone at all.
Alone in my shop I felt pretty sorry for myself.
A customer came in and I burst into tears.
This is not a selling technique I recommend for lights or books.
“Go home!” he said, so I did.
I tried to make soup.
The vegetables softened to a pulp but the rice refused to cook.
I crunched on the wholemeal grains as I watched Master Chef, wishing I could pull the dishes out of the telly.
For the entire week I slept on the sofa, believing my bed to be cursed by Moktezuma, an Aztec king.
But he must’ve cursed the sofa too because I couldn’t get to sleep on that either.

A customer suggested I ring the doctors to see if I had swine flu; another reckoned I had tonsillitis.
I wasn’t convinced I was suffering from either and waited.
The only good thing about being tired is you stop worrying.
All you can think about is sleep and soup and lemsip.
One morning that week, I woke up and without thinking, I rang my local paper.
To my surprise, the editor listened.
An hour later a journalist rang me back.
“Can I come over to your shop and interview you?”
I was still in pyjamas.
“Yes!” I said, “I’m on my way round!”
Soon she was at the shop counter, writing down my answers in short hand, which looked like hieroglyphics.
I like reading interviews.
What are you most afraid of?
They often ask that one in the Sunday magazines.
I’d say: I’m most afraid of being afraid.
And I’d probably think I was being a bit clever.
This Thursday I’ll be in the Southwark News.
With a bit more courage, who knows how far Shop Girl could go.

PS. I’m open to any good promotion ideas!

Monday 5 October 2009

Shop Girl's Book

I’ve written a book.
You’ll never guess what it’s about.
It’s called, ‘Shop Girl Diaries’.
It all began on the Southbank over a pizza and a glass of wine with the Date.
It was the second time we’d ever met.
“I want to write a blog about my shop but I don’t want to write daily,” I announced.
“Write weekly then,” he said.
“Oh, can you do that?”
A week later I began the blog you’re now reading. That was over a year ago.
I’d always wanted to get our shop on paper and for three years I wrote a novel set in a lighting shop. It never felt quite right though and in the end I used the back of it as scrap paper.
In January my blog reached an editor at Salt Publishing, who asked me to turn it into a book.
Three people read the manuscript I sent off: My cousin, my Aunt and my Mum’s good friend.
“Are you sure you shouldn’t read it before it’s published?” I asked the Date. “You might want to change things.”
My book is very honest.
It’s the whole story; love, crystal and burning ambition.
“I wouldn’t change anything you write,” he said, “and besides it’s all true.”
It’s too late now anyway. It will soon be ready.
This December ‘Shop Girl Diaries’ will be out in the shops.
The next step is actually selling it.
I’m realising there’s a lot more to being a writer than writing.
To be honest I’d happily hide in a corner and get on with my next book.
But I mustn’t.
I’ve got to find my voice on the telephone.
I’ve got to persuade people to take an interest in me.
Radio stations, newspapers, television...
My tummy tightens just thinking about what I’ve got to do.
After reading ‘Paula’, I wrote to the author, Isabel Allende.
I thanked her for inspiring me and reminding me what I loved about writing. I also told her about my own Shop Girl story.
I didn’t expect her to reply and was very excited when she did.
She wished me good luck and gave me an important message:
“Don’t be shy."
With that piece of advice in mind, I ask you to consider making your Christmas shopping very easy this year and buying my book for everyone you know.
Not at all!