Friday, 15 April 2016

The Freshwater Follies. Chapter One; in which GiGi realises things arenot always what they seem.

Dearest Emily,
I've been busy making notes for your new little sister's book, and thought I'd post you snippets from time to time. So here we have the first draft of the beginning of Mrs Middleton's Tales from the Bookroom. All characters aren't entirely fictitious, but with what we are about to relate-nobody would ever think it could be real!

Nobody in Freshwater ever really retired. Maybe it was the fresh air, and the incredible land and sea-scape. Maybe it was something in the water. Maybe the fact that on full-moons, no police wanted to work that shift played a part...
Ninety-year old's yomped up the Down regularly, in front of GiGi's eyes as she traversed the barbed wire fence, tearing holes in whatever inappropriate garment she was wearing that day. Dog-walking did not mean a change of clothes, or a walk down the lane, and through a gate in order to go back up Julia's Field next to The Lane onto the Down, and past her house.
So, torn clothing became the norm, as did being overtaken by SR's. SR's were GiGi's dub for those she deemed the Super-Race. There were quite a number of these in Freshwater- comprising all ages from 65 (the Spring Chickens of the Super-Race) to over 100. These people spent their days Kayaking at the Bay, Yomping up the Down, Running Marathons, Running Cafe's, Lecturing, and Volunteering.
Freshwater, it had to be said, was a quite extraordinary place- almost it seemed entirely run by Volunteers. GiGi reflected that if the Government caught onto it- they'd simply throw away the public purse, and let everyone just get on with it- Freshwater style. If it was sink or swim, Freshwater was swimming and the SR's were in the lead, sporting white swim-caps and red bathing costumes for the women, and the men were out fishing with spears.
 It was then, GiGi reflected later, when she was living in The Lane, at the foot of the Down, with an incredible view down to the Bay, that it all began...
The big old Victorian house they had rented was at the top end of The Lane. GiGi loved it all year round, Summer days began when the sun rose ridiculously early- lighting up the house as though it had suddenly been illuminated by aliens, half-blinding everyone in their path. Sunsets comprised of reflected light bouncing off the Cliff's at the Bay, and full-moons gloriously danced across the water- a little further each month into summer- where they became quite simply spell-binding. Winter saw the tourists off, and the Down became a blustery, bleak and stormy place at the edge of the earth it seemed to GiGi- who would sometimes look out of the back window up towards the horizon that the Down depicted- and she'd see no-one, and nothing, and this became somehow, all and everything, and  comforting in its lonesomeness.
One particular May night though, wasn't quite so comforting. GiGi was sat reading, as a piercing scream could be heard. The dogs barked, GiGi froze and listened, wondering what on earth it was that she had heard.
An hour later, the Down las lit up by the searching light of a Helicopter.
It was raining, cold and windy, as she and Mr Middleton traversed the barbed wire fence to find out what was happening.
Mr Middleton decided to go down to the Bay, rope in hand, to see if he could help-returning forlornly, with the news that a Policeman (barely out of nappies) had turned him back.
That night, the playing out of a real-life drama (not a televised version) in front of their eyes, one in which they were powerless to help, had prompted Mr M to join the Lifeboat services.
GiGi had scoured Facebook for news- as it was unquestionably the best way to find things out locally (other than the locals Tom-Toms, which certainly during daylight hours, were a force to be reckoned with.)
A couple had been walking along the cliff edge, it was reported, and the Wife had fallen, and the Husband had fallen, trying to rescue her. One had been transported by air to Southampton Hospital.
The next day, GiGi tried to find out more about the incident.
She walked down the Lane to Orchards the 'corner shop' where for the last 150 years, local news was spoken rather than bought off the printed pages of a newspaper. Nothing to be heard there, as it seemed Linford the Bull had earlier that morning been seen coming out of Green Lane and over towards Orchards. This occurrence had topped the morning news and eclipsed any other items.
GiGi walked back glancing more often than usual around her, lest a stray bull appear through a hedge. As she approached home, Mrs Potsby could be seen, via some clippers trimming a hedge, a big bag of hedge trimmings in front, and her blonde hair, gloved hands and clippers behind. 
"Hello!" said a voice behind the hedge "Lovely morning!"
"Yes, indeed" said GiGi "compared to last night and all that..."
Mrs Potsby cut in " I know dear- the wind, how it howled, we couldn't get out of the front door. Luckily it's all calm and bright this morning- I've been putting off this job for ages." She dropped the clippers, and appeared around the side of the hedge, wiping stray leaves from her hair.
"Linford escaped again I hear, took three women and a farm-hand to get him back to the field this time."
The field, GiGi thought, made him no less a threat to the public, than the road. From March to October, he was plonked onto it along with a Super Race of old cows, who year after year, produced little Linfords, who too ambled and gambolled up the Down, along-side dog-walkers, families and SR's on a mission.
Mrs Potsby went on about hedge-trimming, the opening hours of the tip being sparse, and the difficulties of life fitting in with a working day.
As GiGi approached home, somehow all thoughts about hearing a scream had turned into a howling wind and Linford's escape. As she entered the kitchen, and put on the kettle, this seemed confirmed by the sight of the great beast, scratching his neck on the barbed wire fence a few feet from her window.
Over the next few days, the story had disappeared as though it was a part of GiGi and Mr M's imagination. Nothing too had been mentioned at the Lifeboat practice. Mr M had said it was probably because he was a newbie, and anyway the problem about the slipway was becoming an issue.
That was the first unexplained disappearance that GiGi remembered....

Hope you like it so far Em, there's quite a bit to come!

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxxx

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Easter down the Rabbit Hole

Dearest Emily,

Hurrah for the Easter holidays, for time off to spend with family and friends. Great to see you guys and catch up on hugs, giggles and fun.

We opened our second shop for this holiday too- with much reason for adorning cakes with Bunny rabbits, chickens and chocolate.

The religion of my life hasn't a lot to do with world nonsense. Easter to me, simply means the start of a season to come- a part of the year when everything around me wakes up, the days get longer and show promise of sunshine and smiles- of life affirming hope for joy laying ahead. Baby rabbits signify birth in Spring, eggs and chickens the same, and chocolate ones just signify fun.

And that's it I'm afraid to say Em, no Jesus on the Cross, no anti-Easter offence- no offence actually. As I wake each day, and hear dreadful reports of atrocities carried out in the name of religion- my heart bleeds along with compassionate souls. But, religion sucks for me. In the name of Lewis Carroll making some imaginative sense of his surroundings by nonsense- the reality of things sometimes is more nonsensical...

Back to the Rabbit Hole, where everything is normal. I have to say, after its first weekend of opening- that I thought a Bookroom pride of place for strange tales...
Nope- you should've been a fly on the wall at our opening party Emily!
To be squirrelled away, as treasure for your next little sister's book.

Which, if it were a children's story- it may well begin with what you said to Annabel, when you were siiting in my little car...

As I took this shot you were saying "Come on Annabel, let's drive off and get some sweets!"...

Adieu for now, my lovelies,
Your ever-loving Grandmother, 
GiGi xxx

Monday, 7 March 2016

Telling Tales from the Bookroom

Dearest Emily,

It's been a little while since we spoke last on here- and I've been mulling over what to write for your new sister who is due in July.

You of course- being the first Grandchild and the eldest, got my first foray in print (post-knitting book.)

Back then, my excitement at sleuthing dead people and discovering that Julia Margaret Cameron of Freshwater fame was the muse for Lewis Carroll's White Queen in Through the Looking Glass, held no bounds and to accompany curating an exhibition at our Decadent Dimbola, I penned and coloured in your little book- and little then did we know what was to follow!

Leaping forwrds to 2014, and you were to have a new sister then! So, time for a new book, so it seemed to me, as she would need a book dedicated to her too. GiGi and the Cat was the result- a pastiche on what was occuring at Dimbola (freakishly happening in real-time as I was writing it) in the style of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.

This time, I didn't do my 'colouring-in' of Tenniel's work, instead creating my own 'Grotesques'.

Having no exhibition to curate this time- my manuscript languishes until I set my self ready to pastiche myself and my colleagues in print, (Annabel's birthday this year, Em.)

Now, here we are with the news that number 3 Grand-Girlie is cooking- so I had better get my thoughts together as to what to deicate to this new little treasure...

Well, as I have been writing your blog 'Tales from the Bookroom' since you were teeny-tiny, and we've journeyed together from The Bookroom in Yarmouth, to Decadent Dimbola, then Mrs Middleton's Shop in Freshwater- and we're about to go down The Rabbit Hole at my new shop-  we really have covered a lot of nonsense together, and I think it is high Carollian-time to spill the beans about Freshwater and the Wild West Wight. Seeing as how GiGi and Grumpa have elevated ourselves from D.F.L's (Down from London's) to fully-fledged Immigrants over the last 5 years- and life has taken on an altogether altered state, here on a little Island that's a few hours from ye olde metropolis- yet a million miles away from normality.

I remember Emily, when we first moved here, and Uncle Joe was all set to start his first term at school- aged 13, having been brought up in the centre of a city, and bringing the street-wise, yet sensitive teenager out to the proverbial sticks. All was going well, and I found myself taking up the offer from Mr Edmonson to work in the local Bookshop- where I had always half-joked that I would give up chasing Fashion-dragons for and thoroughly enjoy.

I did enjoy it- and there I began to write your blog, marvelling each day at the things I learned, heard and saw- and so it has been ever since.

One Wednesday, when I was doing my 'other job' which entailed dragging items of old clothing stock out of crammed cupboards, ironing it and photographing it on a dummy and whacking it up on ebay (a financially rewarding yet thoroughly tedious way of earning a living) I wandered out for a stroll. The moble library was visiting in the car park- so I hopped in and browsed, picking up a few choices.

That evening I sat down to read one-

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C Beaton.

Having been an avid Agatha Christie re-reader since I was thirteen, this spoof-sleuth, and her radical journey from P.R in central London to hapleess Cotswold Villager- pugnacious, and bending, but never yielding to village-life, took my fancy.

Agatha was authentically difficult, everything she touched turned into an adventurous nightmare. The blackly comic story of her efforts to embrace her new life, where she was neither able, nor willing to make her own quiche for the local competition- buying one instead from a chelsea deli- and entering that instead- amused me.

Her winning- yet poisoning the judge- and then sleuthing haphazardly to find out how he really died, bludgeoning her way around half-blindfolded through a quiet Cotswold village where everyone called each other by their surnames- delighted me. My fresh-aired evenings were Agatha filled as I also fifty- something, carved out my own new life out of the thick of it in London.

Grumpa was working away, and one day, I rang him and spoke about the book- having met the real-life 'Vicar's Wife' in the story a Mrs Bloxby- though my one was no longer a Vicar's Wife by profession- the way she gracefully glided about her 'parish' range bells of similarity. I decared to Grumpa that I was now living in this book and promptly changed my name to my married one- having previously used my single surname. This became my nom de plume for your book- but it stuck!

Since then, I have read, and re-read all the Agatha Raisin novels- and it is with these in mind- tongue firmly in chic, that- Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you-

Mrs Middleton's Tales from the Bookroom
number one...
where fact and fiction dwell as conspirators-
Freshwater Follies
Nobody in Freshwater really retired. Maybe it was the fresh air. Maybe it was the incredible landscape. Maybe the fact that on full-moons no policemen wanted to work that shift...
Ninety- year olds yomped up the down, past my eyes as I clambered over the barbed wire fence to walk my dogs, tearing any item of clothing that traversed it daily...
Enough already Em, I shall carry on with my first chapter and let you read it once I'm done. LOOKING FORWARDS TO SEEING YOU AND ANNABEL AT EASTER!
Your ever-loving Grand-mother,
GiGi xxxx

Saturday, 6 February 2016

A Little Tour in Middleton

Dearest Emily,

I do love looking around people's houses- seeing how they live, what they choose for decoration. Shops too- how they are styled, the care taken with the displays.

I had a feast for my eyes today- when I went to see some lovely interiors in Middleton...

First of all- The Library...

A lovely warm and cosy sitting room, in reds and greens...

A pretty hallway,


 and last but not least- this lovely Haberdashery;

actually- let's have one more- the Apothecary;

Did you know that Middleton had a Haberdashers and an Apothecary Em?

Well, there's a whole street I didn't know anything about. It has several houses, an Apothecary, Haberdashers, Booksellers and a Flower shop.

It's true that no-one goes there much, just those that know about it.

And there are very few of those.

To get there, you go to Middleton- to a little road between two others, near to Weston Manor. Then, you drive down the lane almost to the end of it.

Now you must go- on foot. Only a few paces, through a gate, and knock on a door.

If you are very lucky you will be invited in, taken through the hallway, kitchen, conservatory and back garden.

Then, you go up some steps, through a door into another dwelling-and there Em is the street!

No, I'm not making it up- it's all true...

There on a workbench is the Street.

all in miniature and made by Patricia!

It is quite incredible Emily! Next time you are down- Patricia might let you see it. I showed my pictures to our Chairman, and he'd very much like Patricia to do an exhibition once it is all finished.I hope she does.
Look what she made for me too;

Amazing work, eh?

Lots of love to you and Annabel,

Your ever-loving grandmother, GiGi XXX

Monday, 1 February 2016

February Phantasmagories

Dearest Emily,

Easter seems a long way off, which is when I next expect to see you and Annabel- even though the Supermarkets would have us think we all need creme eggs right now.

So, here today I send you a scary ghost picture and this poem that Lewis Carroll penned for a friend who complained that he  was glad enough to see him when he came, but didn't seem to miss him if he stayed away.

And cannot pleasures, while they last,
Be actual unless, when past,
With anguish smarting?
They leave us shuddering and aghast,
And must I then, at Friendship's call,
And cannot friends be firm and fast, And yet bear parting?
I have of gladness,
Calmly resign the little all (Trifling, I grant, it is and small)
And think you that I should be dumb,
And lend my being to the thrall Of gloom and sadness? And full DOLORUM OMNIUM,
And daily thinner?
Excepting when YOU choose to come And share my dinner? At other times be sour and glum
At night-time languish,
Must he then only live to weep, Who'd prove his friendship true and deep By day a lonely shadow creep,
Sinks not in grief and wild amaze,
Oft raising in his broken sleep The moan of anguish? The lover, if for certain days His fair one be denied his gaze,
And posts them to her.
But, wiser wooer, He spends the time in writing lays,
And if the verse flow free and fast,
Till even the poet is aghast,
A touching Valentine at last
When thirteen days are gone and past
The post shall carry,
Of February.
Farewell, dear friend, and when we meet,
In desert waste or crowded street,
Perhaps to-morrow.
Perhaps before this week shall fleet,
I trust to find YOUR heart the seat
Of wasting sorrow.
See you both soon, 
your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi XXX

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Man who fell to Earth is gone

Dearest Emily,

We awoke this morning with the sad news that David Bowie has died. I thought I'd offer you some insight as to what he and his music meant to your Grandmother- who as a teenager bumped into his genius as we all did at that time- when Ziggy Stardust exploded in our ears.

I remember sitting late at night at a party in Kemp Town as we all sat serious faced listening to the album. I was transfixed- a story I didn't quite understand- one I'd never heard before- yet seemed familiar too- all at the same time (Carrollian even.)
At school, following the Alladin Sane album, a boy in my class got suspended for shaving off his eyebrows and dyeing the sides of his hair blue. Before this- it was merely that long hair meant suspension- and I was quite apalled that this boy, who had cut his hair short- was suspended!
Listening to Dom Jolly this morning talking about Bowie- he said that he was a Clarion Call for it being ok to be different- I can relate to that Emily, though you don't need one!
I never met Bowie- and actually I never felt the need to- his influence was so strong he felt close anyway.
I cut my musical teeth on Art Rock- Bowie and Ferry my men. A fresh and completely original march away from the fading Hippy movement- and precursor to Punk, it inspired, and delighted me- and has ever done so.
When daddy was still in my tummy- I remember his dad and I singing Kooks "Will you stay in a lovers story, if you stay you won't be sorry. Coz we believe in you. Soon you'll grow so take a chance with a couple of kooks hung up on romancing..."
I loved Bowie's originality- his spin on the zeitgeist- and moreover his encompassing commercialism. Not for him the high-brow- his own arched brow just was and is and evermore shall be.
Never before was there a David Bowie- and there never will be again.
A culture-shaper, without him- life would have been less interesting Emily...

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year's Day

Dearest Emily,

Hello 2016! What I wonder will it bring for you and Annabel?

I'm here in my favourite place (yes, you guessed it- the bookshop.) We're preparing for the move-in tomorrow to what I plan to be our Tearoom, and I was pondering what to write to you about for the New Year.

A lovely chap who regularly advises me on matters book-dealing, says many wise things- the favourite I have at the moment is "Book-selling makes you realise daily, just how little you know".

I treasure that quote Em- it says everything about life to me.

Here's a little snapshot of my day- to illuminate just what I love about life here in Freshwater.

Two customers come in and chat- they had been to our old shop last year, and found us again by chance driving past today.  They bought a book and the lady suddenly exclaimed- "Oh, look there's that book by your old school chum".

The old school chum had been into the shop the previous week. They had been schoolfriends on the mainland- but not seen each other since. The author had been here because he and his wife were looking to move here.

Message taken, and will pass on when said author comes back. Nice bit of 'small-world' stuff.

Then, in comes a chap who had put a book by- just saying that he'll pick it up tomorrow. 'Don't worry' says I 'take it and drop the money in". 

He was pleased with this- but concerned that I was trusting him- saying that it was a bit old-school. I just said that I preferred to trust people. We got chatting and he is going to bring me some fresh supplies of old Isle of Wight books.

Next- comes a chap who wants an old illustration of 'Little Jack Horner'- which I oblige with a 1930's Margaret Tarrant- and it turns out that he has a beautiful (and perfect) chandelier to go in my new shop!

The day ends with Uncle Paul arriving with a 1906 Ingle fireplace (pic above.)

No two days are the same here Emily- and you never know who or what is coming through the door.

People who like books like to talk.

You never know where that's going to lead- old friends meeting up- Chandeliers or Fireplaces.

It all works though Em.

Looking forwards to setting up tomorrow!

Your ever-loving Grand-mother GiGi xxx