Saturday, 31 October 2015

Daleks and Baby-Witches

Dearest Emily,

It was lovely to see you this week. Thank-you for turning my book-shop into a cafe and charging customers 3 imaginary pounds for their imaginary pizzas.

This week being Half-term has brought lots of small people through the door. Here's our Halloween window;

I was originally going to do a Doctor Who themed Hallows Eve window- but after purchasing a large Dalek, five minutes later, a young collector arrived and bought my entire stock! More about Daleks another time Em, I need to re-stock first.

Back to the small people. We are en-route for the local primary school- and at least once a day, a little foot appears on the doormat- followed by a yell- "Don't go in there, we haven't time!" followed by small peoples yelling back "I just want to look!"
At weekends, some of the larger small people come along on their own, by bike, or with Best-Friend and pocket money.
One particular smallie- races into the shop scurries around the corner to the back, and hides amongst the shelves, as his mother grunts across the mat. "Get out, get out!" 'I just want to look!" as he slips past her and into the window display. Not a word is said to myself or Wendy, my assistant. It has become quite an amusing game- and I rather suspect that smallie will win one day, and get to choose something to read.

We also have a lovely eleven-and-three-quarters year old girl called Alice (of course) who regularly asks for a job "because I am saving up. I don't know what for yet." Another, comes in on Sunday mornings to talk about her favourite authors and to hold the really really old books in her hands. This she does until she feels its a bit late- because her mum wants her to help prepare the vegetables for Sunday lunch. Every time she leaves she turns and says "I'll be back soon".

It's nice that in a fast-paced changing world, with E-books, and Reality shows, that small people are drawn in to a Bookshop. The other day, a sheepish face enquired- "Can I come in? I haven't got money". Books are friendly...

But today it is Halloween Em, so I've found a scary picture for you. It is from a family album that came from a big house hereabouts. It was taken in about 1890, and it is the inside of a Portuguese Church. Goodness knows how old the skeleton bones are.

I rather like it. This is really for 'All Hallows Eve' and more in tune with the Hispanic celebration than a commercialised Trick or Treat that we've adopted on these Isles. It does look to me, a celebration of those loved and lost, look at the thought, care and attention to making this display.

I shall save the Dalek for another time Emily, your Great Grand-dad manufactured these, back in the 1960's, so that's another story.

I hope Annabel still has the China Pig that I gave her intact. It did look a bit threatened when she banged it on the car window.

See you soon, 

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxxx

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Cider with Lorna

Dearest Emily,

This October has been adorned by the most glorious weather. Indian Summer again- seems as though the last four have been just so, and it certainly makes up for the lack of summer sunshine in August.

Something lately has jogged my memory back to early autumn in 1991.

A group of friends- myself, my partner Rudge, Chrissie, and Julie set off from London to visit Tim and Sussex friend Rob, for the weekend-staying over in an old Caravan at Binstead.

Tim lived in this Caravan, in the grounds of a farm, in order to keep an eye on an elderly lady- Mrs Wishart who lived in the big house at the end of the drive.

We bumbled down on friday night in Rudge's old work van, followed by Chrissie's mini- and parked up- unloaded and set off for the local pub. A game of darts was played, and conversation gave snippets of info about where we were.

It was described to us that Mrs Wishart was the last surviving member of the Bloomsbury Set, and that her artist son, had asked Tim to keep an eye out for the still fiercely independent lady. Tim had lived agreeably in this manner for the last six months.

The evening was passed pleasantly at the pub, tucked away down a lane- with no apparent regard for licensing hours. Old friends Rob, Tim, Rudge and myself caught up on life's happenings- and London friends Julie and Chrissie enjoying their weekend in the country.

Eventually, we all ambled back to the caravan, and set about designating sleeping areas.

At some point in the night- I was awoken by a jolt. The big old caravan seemed to move- not really of course- but it felt like it. I looked around- no-one awake here- just Rob issuing a loud snore, and turning over on the bunk nearby.

The next day, we all decided upon a barbeque that evening, and purchased all we needed in nearby Arundel.

In the afternoon- we all set off for a walk across the fields, Tim telling us more about the land (he was working on the gardens at Arundel Castle at the time.)

The barbeque was fashioned by bricks and a grill, and guitars were brought out to accompany our party- now set up in the gardens of the house. The overgrown lawns were interspersed with statues, and we pressed down areas for rugs, made up tables from crates, and the cider started flowing.

Another atmospheric, heady enjoyable night- accompanied by Tim and Rob singing and playing guitars, we ate, we drank, we wandered and chatted- eventually settling down once more to sleep in our quarters.

Again- I was awoken by a jolt. Again- no-one else appeared apart from Rob, who grumbled this time- and turned over again.

Late the next morning- one by one and bleary-eyed we appeared for breakfast- sitting outside the caravan at the bottom of the drive to the house.

Mrs Wishart appeared and Tim went off to talk to her. I remember a striking looking old lady with dark hair and wide soulful eyes.

Chrissie sat on a stone mushroom, next to a barn- and Tim mentioned that in the barn was the Hogarth Press- which was presumed lost, he said.

No-one paid too much attention to this, accepting it as a fact, along with everything else in this strange, forgotten place.

As we cleared away the detritus of our barbeque- I asked Tim whether he, Chrissie and Julie had been  woken by a jolt over the last two nights.

"Oh, that happens all the time. I just ignore it. According to Mrs Wishart, it's the Old Gamekeeper- who came up one day to shoot her."

Okay... That's that solved then.

Years later- the Hogarth Press comments ignited my interest. All I could glean was that Mr Ernest Wishart had his own Printing Press. That was more likely I thought- and filed it away in my memory box.

Until earlier this year.

An artist friend was researching D.H Lawrence in Sussex, and I told her about Binstead, as she was heading for Arundel.

A week later- a box of books was brought in to my shop for perusal. These had belonged to an artist who lived in Brighton, and his son was trying to sell them. There was a book of works by Michael Wishart- the son of the Lady on the farm. I've used one of his works to decorate my story here Em. (It is called 'Chinoiserie- Cache'.

Leafing through the pages, I started looking up more about Lorna- Michael's mother.

Absurdly- it turns out- that she was Laurie Lee's mistress- and her long-suffering husband Ernest- used to turn a blind eye, as she set off to meet him for lovers trysts- in the caravan we stayed in!

Even more absurdly- the story about a 'Gamekeeper' who came up to shoot Mrs Wishart- wasn't quite true...

The truth of the identity of the man who came up to shoot Mrs Wishart- was jealous lover- Lucien Freud.

Oh, well, that's that story explained properly then!

Looking forwards to seeing you and Annabel for half-term next week dear Em. We may even have a barbeque if the weather holds. No game-keepers here though!

Your ever-loving Grandmother,