Friday, 30 December 2016

Twilight Reviewed

Dearest Emily,
The twilight of the year, is a traditionally reflective time.
Christmas is over- the festivities meaning for me a mid-winter celebration- a feast, a party to inject joy. A time to bring people together to eat, drink and be merry in the depths of dark, stark days. A chance to cook up and clear the store cupboards of nuts, fruits and preserves-creating space for filling again throughout the coming year, as new life is sown for the birth of spring up ahead.
The shortest of days have passed, and each sunset creeps in a little later.

For me, the beauty in these early sunsets is how they herald an earlier end to my day in the Winter months, sending me burrowing indoors at the Rabbit Hole, to bake tomorrows bread, paint, write and basically hibernate a bit just like Granny Elsie used to do, until the Spring starts springing...
It's easy to do that here on the West-Wight- to go with the flow of the seasons and natures directive.
It suits me very well Em, I like my now five year old routine of rising at 6.30, and going to bed reasonably early too. It makes me feel good, and it somehow makes everything seem easier to do.
Here under beautiful 'Wight-Light' present unless it's the most foggy of days, when the light is dimmed down over sunset and then switched off- it makes it simple to  switch-off too.
Unwinding each evening for a good two hours- writing, reflecting upon the day, and making lists (I won't look at, but help me empty my brain onto paper) seems akin to me to metaphorically put back all of the books I've taken off the shelves in my mind each day, and to put them back in some order.
And so, on New Year's Eve, there's a tradition to do a big reflect on a year's worth of events- big 'books' of the mind, heavy to put back on a shelf, and to decide quite which section to put it in.
Right now, many on the face of things seem simply dreadful- the illness and passing of Grumpa, whom I dearly miss.
To continue the death-thing, there was so much of it this year, luminaries dear, such as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Alan Rickman, and too many more, along-side all those we did not know caught up in terrible wars, terrorist attacks, accidents and illnesses.
And, other tumultuous events exploded- a referendum to the populace to answer a simple question- yes, or no to being in the European Union- without any ideas of what that might entail, gave a government a 'poisoned chalice' to negotiate uncertainly for the foreseeable future.
Then, a neanderthal narcissistic bigot became head of a world super-power, who seemed to want to be best-buddies with another already heading up another big chunk of the land we call earth.
The stuff of an apocalyptic sic-fi novel Em? No- at the end of 2016, the world spins on some axis, but uncertainty is the only true power it seems.
But, dearest Em, to take the dystopian sic-fi paperback and throw it in the bin, and begin 2017 with a Gaiman-like fairy tale view-point:-
Uncertainty is an allie.
Uncertainty is a reality that holds all of the vital- life-affirming ingredients of the bread we bake each day of our earthly lives.
Hope, faith, optimism, honesty, reflection, morality, compassion, debate- all these emote and question borne up out of uncertainty.
These are all very 'alive' qualities. Each of us, touched by uncertainty, sadness, shock at world events, hold a key that unlocks the secret door to examine our own individual stand-point in the changing landscape around us.
And, I'm certainly hopeful,  that these experiences, if we allow our own uncomfortable truths to surface and be examined, can bring out the best in our questioning and beautiful selves.
We can, awaken and re-kindle compassion daily, explore our own moral- compasses, draw upon our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and see in sharper-focus our own personal humanity.
And, in doing so, we can become an army of souls, dead and alive who share just what really matters to those being humans, alive and vital on this earth today.
However the pivotal events of 2016 play out in the future history books, our own truth today, can be the current 'awakening' of our individual souls to be Master to our depths of reasoning and core-values.
The common-good can be a core of our own individual 'Fairy-Tale'.
Yet, whilst, and if, we do some personal navel-gazing, be certain dear Em, of one thing.
Nature just keeps-on, keeping on.
Night, follows day. Winter is followed by Spring, and there is new growth.
The new growth flourishes, later in the cycle of the year to fade and die-back.
Then, to be re-born.
'Twas ever-thus, Emily, what-so-ever we humans were being busy about!
That, at least, is our certainty.
Deep, and yet, deeper.
I, on the other hand apart from some bouts of navel-gazing, intend to resolve for myself a challenge of not buying any new clothes (or old clothes from the chazzers hereabouts) a fun foray into mending and making as needs or fancy-be.
I'm going to set about Camper-Vanning my little 'Mobile Bookshop' to Fetes, Fairs and Festy's.
Life, and Lipstick dearest Emily.
May the force be with you, and Bel and Flo,
Your ever-loving Grandmother,
GiGi Xxx

Monday, 12 December 2016

On Hiding Lights under Bushels

Dearest Emily,
It's been way too long since we last saw each other- you and Annabel and especially little Florence are all growing up. Do you think I'll recognise you? It has been over three whole months after all!
I've done you another picture. It is of School Green opposite the Rabbit Hole.

As you know Em, the light here is so amazing, and looking out of the Guest room window when the sun is high, I see the trees, now spare of leaf, casting long reflective shadows over the green.
Morning frosts are now frequent as we head towards the Winter Solstice when day and night are equal, and then its all about the progression towards waking up Spring again, and new growth.
I love the seasons here Em, so obvious in their eternal passage.
Most of all, I like things that happen, right under my nose.
It's probably a retail-thing, Em, or certainly a Book-Shop thing, as it is necessary to be fully 'present' each day- to listen to what you are being asked for, and try to find it- and also to the added conversation that meanders here and there.
This has been true of my Bookshop, and of  The Bookroom, where I worked previously, so I'm quite used to that. But, the Rabbit-Hole, Em, is a whole new kettle of fish.
Here, I'm consistently surprised and mostly delighted by how the now combination of books work their chatter magic on customers- but add in tea, cake and gossip (not me Em, that's Sarah- she's good at that!) and a prevalence of sparkling vibrant women hereabouts- and you get all sorts of magic...
To set the scene against a fab radio 4 comedy series I've been listening to each week- 'The Fair Intellectual Society' where a group of 19th century Ladies, meet up each week under the auspices of sewing and embroidery. They are actually a rather clever lot- who do scientific experiments, study the planets, and generally work big stuff out- but can't do anything about this in general society as women were not encouraged to think.
So, each episode introduces a hapless male- for example Isaac Newton who blunders about with one of our heroines one day, and she watches an apple fall on his head.
Working out what's going on she chatters unheard by Newton.
Newton has a secret, he is Gay. Our heroine makes a bargain with him, he is to put her theory out there under his name, and she won't tell anyone that he's been seen with a fellow.
And, that's the premise for each episode, Em, a man takes the credit for one of the Ladies theories and I've been very amused.
Here, I've got my own comedy series playing out weekly right under my nose.
I've told you about the vagabonds who meet weekly for my Secret Knitting Club haven't I.
Yes, that lot who mostly bring needles, and sometimes yarn, or sometimes don't even bother with that cover, but whom collectively simply decide to meet for fun purposes, to talk, life, lipstick, and sing very loudly...
So much for the Secret Knitting Club, I did try to reign them in, to focus on knitting for garments sake, but I am defeated. They are not about knitting, at all.
And so, when another customer, sat all-a-vegan caking in the window and asked if she could run a Secret Knitting Circle- my hopes were ignited once more- visions of my past Knitting School, where Hedge fund Managers, Solicitors and Fashion students really really wanted to be shown how to turn a heel, danced before my eyes.
'We want to meet each full moon', she said and I said that was fine.
So, we met, needles and yarn came out- a dog was in attendance.
It was fabulous Em, we knitted (a bit) whilst discussing Deep Philosophy, each from a different path, but all ultimately following the same road...
So, now Em, I have two Secret Knitting Groups, neither of which is about knitting.
One day, maybe I'll get it right.
In the meantime, who am I to argue, it's all fascinating!
Enough for now ma petite, I'm off to finish baking some sourdough bread for Mummy and Daddy for the weekend.
Can't wait to show you my little mobile bookshop in my tiny little new/olde Camper-van.
She has a name of course.
Blanche Du-Vanne, and I will see you on friday, loaded up with Chrissy-pressies and books.
Can I sleep in your room Em? I don't snore.
See you then, lovelies,
Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Magique Faraway Tree

Dearest Emily,
Every morning after travelling to work, I'm in need of a coffee and croissant and a peaceful view.
Yes, Em, I do know that I live two doors away, but that's not the point.
I make my freshly roasted coffee, I take it along with my croissant outside and sit and revel in the beauty of the view of a magnificent Horse Chestnut tree opposite my corner shop- on School Green.

 It's a delight , and I've bathed in its seasonal glory now for a year. It sits amongst a whole row along School Green road, planted at the turn of the last century, some now sadly diseased.
This one has escaped illness though- and dubbed 'harbingers of the season' I've loved watching the Horse Chestnut's changing face, as it tells us what's around the corner this season.
For me, this morning contemplation, sooths the pscyche and feeds my soul.
There's beauty in every stage of the march of time, Emily. This tree doesn't have an ugly moment. The lovely summer we had this year, followed by a very slow passage through autumn towards winter, saw it drop its fruit into the stream below, and dapple its beautiful leaves with gold, red and yellow.
For the Horse Chestnut, Winter is but a whisper of bare branched time- last December, even the daffodils on the bank chimed with its fresh new green foliage emerging just as January awoke.
It was a lovely reminder that spring wouldn't be too far away.
A little further along the row of trees is my Rabbit Hole shop-view, and this last week Emily, we got a bit of magic all for ourselves here in Freshwater.
Recently- rather unusually for us, (at least for the last four hundred years anyway) we seem to have been invaded by French persons. I first noticed this one Sunday morning as I came out of my corner shop carrying a tray of coffee and croissant to join my breton sporting, cigarette fuming friend, Steve.
As I walked through the door, I was snapped by a chap photographing my shop.
"Bonjour" I quipped aluding to the scene.
"Bonjour" he answered in proper French, and we chatted about he and his friends first visit to the Island which was 'charmant'. A week later- more French, and then last week, Uncle Joe called me from the Rabbit Hole to the corner shop- to translate a bit with some sailing book purchases.
We chatted a bit in my halting franglais and their halting fringlish.
These lovely youngsters had arrived in their sailing boat that they were taking to Brittany, at Yarmouth harbour- and had been marooned since by the inclement weather.
Two days later they appeared again, purchasing more armfuls of books, and then holing up for the afternoon with tea and cake at the Rabbit Hole, intersperced with trips up to the charity shops, and skipping over to the green to smoke.
Whilst I was baking in the kitchen, I could hear singing, a lovely harmony being practised, and in my imagination- I tagged them as Roux and his band of gypsy friends in the film Chocolat.
Little did I know then, Em.
A knock on ther parlour door- 'is it ok if we sing?'
'Of course' I  replied, later to hear that they would be performing something soon up at the Piano Cafe in Freshwater Bay.
"When?", I asked.
"We will tell you, we will be back".
I was out on friday when they did their afternoon rehearsal, which ran over into knitting class-time, causing whoops of delight to find yet another excuse not to knit...
They were to perform a 'little piece' on Sunday at three.
So, my friend Caroline and I took a hike up to the Piano Cafe for three o'clock , and sat with tea to watch whatever was about to entertain us.
 as a quite charming devized performance that began with all four facing the bar doing the 'you're going to miss me when I'm gone' followed by an acoustic guitar piece with mime- see here...

This was followed by a duet accompanied by some acrobatics, then some sea-shanties and a rousing 'Sweet Home Chicago' cover saw many of the customers up and dancing after being invited by one of the singers to join her to dance with them.
The finale involved- the girl who did acrobatics doing a handstand- which flipped her skirt upside down to reveal a floral skirt- her stripey knickers becoming a top- and between her legs- a monkeys head. This all now formed the impression of a character- (her legs becoming now- the characters arms.)
Phew, that was hard to describe- but the picture will show you better-

What fun Em, this little show was entralling and really well devized, by a group of marooned friends, who met at sailing school last year. Instead of being fed-up with their maroondom, they went around the Westy Wight- chatting to people who including myself- all fell in love with them- and turned up at the Piano Cafe to be entertained by them.
They finished with a round of 'Thank-you's' to all who had made them welcome.
I didn't want them to go home!
Hope they come back next year Emily.
Well that's my lot for today Emily- I'm off tomorrow to pick up a miniature Camper-Van, and have a surprise instore for all you girls when I visit at Christmas.
Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Extraordinary Co-ordinating

Dearest Emily,
Since we last spoke I've just been getting on with ordinary life really, which as we both know- has its moments. Here are two such moments to bring a smile to your lips, and make you giggle.
On Sunday, we were lucky with the tides and the weather- so it meant that the fabulous Freshwater Inshore Lifeboat guys could do the spreading of Grumpa's ashes.
He wanted it quiet and low-key, and again, he was very specific about how, and where- and had given directions about the exact spot.
His lads that he was training were in his beloved D Class boat, and as they spread the ashes handed to them from the big boat, I read 'Crossing the Bar' (so apt it is for your Grumpa that Tennyson must have written it just for him Em!.)
Then, the big boat went round in a big circle as we strew the water with sunflowers and chrysanthemums. 
There was a minutes silence, before we headed back. The day was beautifully sunny, warm and the sea calm.
I've tried to capture the moment in this painting Em, all seemed vibrant, and Grumpa is in his 'happy place'.
The funny thing is Em, that when we got back to the Boathouse, the Crew kindly gave us the co-ordinates of where we had been. In an effort to let everyone interested know- my brother-in law set up a natty little 'still-life' with a tea-mug depicting the letter P (Grumpa was a massive tea drinker) and the piece of paper with the co-ordinates on it...
A nice shot, I think you will agree. The following day questions were raised by someone about the co-ordinates, which proved to be in Madrid!  (or, if the longitude and latitude were muxed-ip-Kenya!)
We did laugh,as Grumpa was very keen on seeing more of the world.
Better we use the picture then, for now. If you take a boat to Scratchells Bay, and can see the Needles to the left of the horizon, and the edge of the Island to the other, then it's the spot in front of you.
Today, I was late for work as usual (it's all that getting from one place to another stuff Em, yes, I know I'm next door but one) and I set up, fluffed about with the Coffee machine, emptied the dishwasher and set about packing up an Internet order, as a couple came in and started browsing.
The man was an engaging East-Ender, and his wife had a familiar face, which struck me though I couldn't place it, or feel that I knew her.
We got chatting as you do here in a bookshop, and it turns out she works for David Bailey, so we had a common interest in photography and its world.
Later in the conversation (hubby had remarked on the shop's name, and the niceness of calling people by their title.)
Theirs came out in the chat, but only later did it transpire that she was one of Queen Victoria's Great-great Gradaughters...
And then, Em, the penny dropped. 
She looked familiar because she looked like a young Queen Victoria.
What is more, her husband is a portrait artist named Michael McDonald, who had painted her in her Great-Grandmother's dress, here it is...

See what I mean!
Another ordinary week comes to a close dear Emily.
It's a while until I see you all as there's a lot to finish hereabouts with the new shop and guest-accommodation and Teagarden, but we'll chat and FaceTime until then, loving your 'Super-Cooper' picture,
Your ever-loving Grandmother,
GiGi, xxx

Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Art of the Ordinary

Dearest Emily,


The West Wight appears to me to have had a steady increase of visitors this summer. Throughout August it was so- seemingly busier this year than usual, and we were fortunate in meeting some lovely customers who appreciated our dear Freshwater.
One chap who lived in Haslemere, visited both shops three times during his holiday, and on his last Tea and Victoria sponge, we chatted as he sat in his now favourite spot by the window, overlooking School Green.
He was quietly engaging in speech, and had previously told me he had been to the Island as a child, but not since.
I asked him what he had enjoyed, and he gave me some food for thought...
'The people here, they are ordinary.
They say hello.
They don't conform.
Where I live (Stock-broker belt- my words) everyone conforms to a social stratum and they all dress accordingly.
Here they don't.'
No, Em, they don't.
They never did.
I think that is the essence of what I love about Freshwater.
The ordinary.
How, ordinary we are, collectively visiting our plethora of charity shops and dressing ourselves and our houses from them.
How ordinary we are to raise money for local causes and volunteer and fight for them tooth and nail.
How ordinary to share plants, vegetables and fruit and recipes.
To respect, stand by and care for each other when in grief or distress.
This, dear Emily, as in days gone by in my favoured focus of the 1860's, is how it rolls in a gentle, quiet and ordinary community.
Which is quite Extraordinary.
In the 1860's, Julia Margaret Cameron lived here, visiting and caring for her friends and peers, and photographing them as she went.
Charles Darwin, wasn't the Darwin we now understand from History- here, he was a chap writing a book, an angst ridden Scientist, who was all out of sorts (he knew he was about to blow his Wife's religious beliefs out of the water regarding evolution, but all that showed was a man troubled and anxious.
Tennyson wasn't Alfred Lord Tennyson, he was a chap who had written a poem that had enabled him to buy the house he rented, who had mood-swings and fretted about cash flow.
Julia herself, had a husband who had fallen out of favour in getting a job (Government Post-wise) as he'd taken the flak for Macaulay. His Laudenam habit didn't do much for his earning potential either, and Julia quietly assumed a genteel 'Amateur' status, whilst being paid handsomely for her likenesses, and therefore providing for her large family.
Her aristocratic background was very different from her ordinary life in Freshwater, and she loved and embraced it.
A pioneer in historical terms for her ground-breaking photographic work.
So, is Freshwater.
A beautiful, quiet, rural, seaside community that honestly beats to its own drum.
Not possible to pigeon-hole in terms we can grasp.
It is my home.
'Is there no-one Commonplace here? ' said Anne Thackeray Ritchie in 1853...
Everyone, extraordinarily Em,
And that is what I love.
Hope School went well today dearest, and give your sisters a big kiss from me-
Your ever-loving Grandmother,
GiGi xxx

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