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There are lots of perks to running a bookshop, obviously, the main one is running a bookshop, but close behind that is receiving free books. Sometimes they are excellent, often they are not, not because they are no good but because they are just not my cup of tea, and given that I don’t like tea this suggests just how picky I am. Books arrive in bright red padded envelopes, sparkly metallic boxes, with jigsaw puzzles, bookmarks, music tracks, booze and yesterday, chocolate.
The gifts generally tie into the book, Under a Pole Star, a tale of polar exploration, came with brandy and mintcake, A Year of Marvellous Ways, set in the Cornish countryside came with Slow Gin. Are these gifts shameless bribes from the publishers to make sure their book gets noticed? Absolutely. Is that a problem? Not in the slightest. I am quite capable of receiving gifts without feeling beholden. Personally, I think publishers know when they have a winner on their hands and get a little generous or maybe it does just give them the edge. If I receive five books and two have gifts I generally look at those first, if the book is good which it invariably is, my time is taken up and those other books, unless their blurb hits my sweetspot, get put in a pile and invariably forgotten about. So the gifts aren’t a bribe but they are a way of getting the book noticed.
All this leads me to a very pretty package that I received this week and the first thing I noticed was the bar of chocolate because although it was a specially commissioned bar, I recognised the packaging folds. This was a bar of chocolate made by Kernow Chocolate, a brand I am very familiar with as we have stocked them for years, wandered around their factory when they were operating out of farm barns and are a truly wonderful local brand. The book was set in Cornwall and the publishers / PR had chosen a local Cornish company. A very good start, it also helped that it was sea salt chocolate, our best seller!
I then gave the book a quick glance, teenage romance set in Cornwall, drifted past it, not my thing, and read the covering letter. Publisher and author both had great pedigrees, Puffin Club, Chicken House Publishing, Harper Collins, lots of very good names which again told me that the book was probably half way decent.
Anyway, I took some photos, ate the chocolate and promised to say nice things after a quick browse and maybe even stock it. Evening came and I didn’t fancy starting Guernica, it looked a bit gruelling so I figured teen romance would be the ticket. Oh boy, what a treat that I had nearly missed.
One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman is the tale of an orphan and a prince, of ponies and a perfect Cornish summer. It really is the most gorgeously, warm romantic tale and I was hopelessly drawn in and hooked. I don’t want to say too much about it without spoiling some of the storylines but it really is worth getting, I can just see this book being passed all around the classroom. It made me think of Jilly Cooper and Daphne du Maurier whilst being wonderfully innocent. Despite making me cry it does have a happy ending and we will, of course, be stocking it!
Reading Age 11+ Available May 25th.
I love books, let me tell you, no one loves books more that I do. Everyone tells me I have great books, I don’t know, but it’s what people tell me. And those books? Great books by the way. They are written by great authors, the very best, let me tell you, seriously, we have gathered the very best books together. Fantastic books and together we are going to make Christmas great again.
What about a signed first edition signed by the very best people. Trust me I know them and they are the best. What about Ann Cleeves? She writes the best crime fiction ever and what about Michelle Paver, she tells the very best scary stories and trust me I should know. How about Stef Penney, what a knock out! Great women, I love these women and no one loves women more than me, let me tell you. We’ve even got the latest signed Ben Aaronovich. Numbers are limited for all these so be quick.
How about children’s books? Let me tell you I’ve heard about children, I understand they are really great. Fantastic people,and they will love these books. Of course you will have to buy these for them but I can tell you that if you do that will make you the best, the very best. If you like surprises, and who doesn’t, especially when they can be just so surprising, then try some of our pop ups. Or what about That’s Not My Penguin. Great books. Really. Trust me,we are going to make Christmas great again.
Fact books, fun books, flipping fabulous books. We have them all. It’s going to be great!
In which I nipped up to London, bumped into George Bernard Shaw in Mevagissey, listened to a £250,000 loudspeaker and fell in love with bits of paper.
Hurley Books has had to take a bit of a back seat whilst we launched our holiday lets business, Dreaming Of Cornwall, unfortunately the season waits for no man and suddenly we had missed the London Book Fair which I had every intention of going to this year. Anyway the stationery fair beckoned and whilst I’ve never been before, what the hell, we needed to pay some attention to the shop so I jumped onto the night train and slept my way up to London. As ever I woke up to an empty Paddington platform and struggled over to the first class lounge (it is so nice in there and open to all with a sleeper ticket.)
|The wonderful Riviera Sleeper|
|If Leonard Cohen wrote SF|
Finally caffeined up and ready to face London proper I headed off to Islington. I got onto the tube and promptly got off at the next stop. I swear I could have lifted both my feet off the floor and I wouldn’t have moved a millimetre, the crush was horrific. I waited for three more equally press ganged torture chambers to pass and then I got on the fourth, where whilst I didn’t get a seat I could at least catch a breath.
|An empty Paddington|
The stationery fair was less hand made Italian papers and more salesmen with pen pitches. However, despite the rather business business feel to the place I did find some nice pens and some even nicer handmade paper and journals. Only some of which I thought would work in Mevagissey, so watch this space and see some of the lovely stuff we have ordered coming into the shop.
I got into a lovely conversation with a chap from Charfleet Book Bindery, who recommended I visit Maison Assouline, an apparently remarkable bookshop, a not to be missed bookshop. Now I’ll be honest as I nodded my head and smiled enthusiatically, I was going to skip it and head straight to the V&A where I could drop the thirty thousand bags that the sales reps had laid me down with. Oh the weight! My shoulders and feet were killing me and for two pins I’d have just gone home. But you know the old prayer “I may only pass this way but once…”* So I decided to head off in search of this not to be missed bookshop. Could I just say, if you are in London, do go and visit, it really isn’t to be missed.
|* Seems it was more a “Be nice” motto than a “Carpe Diem” one.|
First off Maison Assouline is not a bookshop where you are likely to make a purchase unless it is one of their amazing cocktails from the large mahogany bar in the corner. The building was designed by Lutyens and from floor to ceiling the shelves are lined with folio signed art books; beyond glorious. The porter, yes porter, took my many bags from me, welcomed me and encouraged me to wander around. I nosed about a bit and found an oak spiral staircase in the corner and climber up to a small bindery on the mezzanine floor, I wandered through oak corridors and found a room stuffed with antiques to furnish my own library with;astrolabes, zebra pelts, plinths but what was really calling my attention was the very loud and interesting music coming from another room. I opened the door and realised I had walked into some sort of very private event. There were only three people in a very large book lined room listening to a pair of phenomenal loudspeakers. Again I was met with friendliness and waved in to browse the shelves but this time I just sat and listened to the rather incredible speakers. The music was loud but there was no bass reverb, no interference, if I had closed my eyes Billie Holiday could have been on the stage in front of me. Eventually refreshed, I left and asked the staff downstairs what was going on. Apparently the speakers cost £250,000.00 (yes, that’s the correct amount of zeros) and are only sold on a private word of mouth basis via private audiences, and I gatecrashed one 🙂 If you are tempted they are called YAR and whilst I’m not sure if anything is worth that much money I would say that if you would consider that an acceptable price for speakers then these were pretty decent!
|Oh to have this sort of space|
|Tucked away bindery 🙂|
|Hand built YAR Speakers. Amazing sound.|
Finally I made it to the V&A and made straight for the cloakroom where I dumped my oh too heavy bags and relaxed in the sunshine drinking a fresh lemonade. Then headed to the Underwear exhibition that turned out to be poorly curated and overpriced, that’s twice now, not impressed, but there was one little highlight. Behind one of the look don’t touch, don’t sketch, don’t photograph, don’t breathe cabinets was a picture of a chap in Jaeger longjohns with hat and parasol. Turned out to be George Bernard Shaw on the beach at Mevagissey!
|Very cute but lacking some practical elements.|
|Maybe wear this over the top?|
|An oasis of calm.|
And with a smile on my face I donned my metaphorical longjohns and headed back home.
It’s my fault. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again I promise. The boys were lined up for their last rugby match, a cold wind was blowing and I did it, I went and said “at least it’s not raining!” ‘twasn’t five minutes before the heavens opened and we ran for our cars. Well we did, the boys had to play on slippy grass and rock hard ground. Bad mother.
It’s been a lovely run of weather, in fact it’s been the hottest April on record which makes me wonder what July and August might be like. A friend came back from Portugal where they had had 7 days of rain to find everyone in the UK browner than she was. That’s not right. Well, it’s not right but it is nice. It was great to have a good sunny Easter and I’m so glad that it lasted long enough for everyone to enjoy their street parties and for all of those mad fools that flocked to London to stand in massive crowds I’m glad that it was dry for them too.
I really enjoyed the wedding, I’ll be honest and confess that I didn’t watch it live, I needed to get new wetsuits for the boys and I figured the roads would be empty during the actually ceremony. I can smugly announce that I was right and I nipped over to Newquay in record time and then came back and watched the recording. It was fabulous, I love all the pomp and circumstance, I’m not one for doffing my cap or thinking anyone is “better” than me but I do love to see celebrations and to see our nation at its most majestic best. I belted out Bread of Heaven along with the congregation, wondered aloud why Sarah’s daughters couldn’t afford mirrors and loved the inspirational trees in the cathedral. How beautiful were they!? Their tall towering columns were radiant against the marble columns of the cathedral, I thought it was inspired. I don’t think some potted plants in Hurley Books would have the same affect but it did make me want to transform the shop into an arboretum. From trees to books – a perfect match.
I didn’t expect the boys to like it but they were equally taken with the whole affair, they were most impressed with the regimented marching and had lots of questions “Did the Queen have a gun in her bag?” What if Katherine said no?” “If Harry shot William would the police shoot Harry?” “Were the Royal Lifeguards from Newquay?” “Can we have an Aston Martin” and so on.
It just made me realise how great the Olympics are going to be. Now they ARE people who are “better” than me and I’ll really be pleased and proud to cheer them on. I tried to buy tickets but found the whole procedure so hit and miss and rather expensive that I’ll wait until the autumn when they offer up the spares. I’d love to take the boys to the opening or closing ceremonies and a medals day, I’m not sure about sailing because as much as they love it, it is a rather difficult spectator sport. Steve’s concerned that numbers for beach volleyball may be low so feels that we should go and support that event. Steve also thinks I was born yesterday.
Even if we don’t get to see anything live we can still watch on television and enjoy all that will be going on. I can’t wait and I just know what a success it will be because my god the wedding was perfect so we know we can pull off huge events and have the entire world look at us and cheer.
I was grumbling last week about poor customer service so I’d like to right the balance and talk about good customer service this week. It only seems fair and I’d like to start with the same company that caused me all the grief in the first place. I’m still not going to name them because I don’t want to draw attention to the initial issue but they must have recognised themselves because on Saturday morning there was a knock on the door. I wasn’t home, (will the rugby season ever end?) but Steve answered it to the owner of the company. Not a man that either of us had spoken to when trying to sort out the bill. He had seen the article, realised we were talking about his company and was horrified at the charging policy. He came with an apology, a cheque and a lovely attitude. At no point did he ask for a retraction or for me to write something about the refund. The refund was not for the full amount but for the excess which seemed right and proper, I had no objection to paying something for the service and as he said, for such a small job so close to home you use your commonsense and charge accordingly.
When I got home Steve told me about what had happened and I was thrilled. Not about the money and not about the apology but about the fact that there’s a really nice bloke out there that cares about his business and cares about his customers and that he’s prepared to take responsibility for when things go wrong in his name. I didn’t write the article to get my money back, that’s not what I’m about and so I’m going to give the money to the RNLI, as I’ve mentioned in the past my sister is RNLI crew so it’s close to home and of course me and my family seem to spend half our lives in the water so it makes sense.
Good customer service always hits the right spot. Sometimes it’s about going the extra mile, popping in to a customer’s house after work to drop off the umbrella they left behind. Sometimes it means taking a financial hit; it might not be your fault that Royal Mail lost your consignment but it’s not your customer’s either, so refund them straightaway and then undertake the claim on their behalf. Other times it’s just thinking about what your customer might appreciate; providing wellies when they stay at your cottage or presenting them with a birthday cake at the end of their meal. Recently on Facebook Finisterre, a local outdoor clothing company, asked for dogs to join their “wolf pack” it was a silly thing but lots of us had fun posting up photos of our dogs. The next thing I knew they’d sent Harry a dog biscuit in the post. A small thing but what a clever thing to do. I was pleased at such a friendly gesture and they now have my mailing details and someone who is well disposed towards them.
Even when times are tough we take more than just the price into account when we shop. A smile costs nothing and can be the difference between a repeat sale and a lost customer. So now I’m going to have to practice what I preach and starts getting my grins ready for the hundredth person who tells me someone needs to tarmac over the cobbles in Mevagissey.
So there I was at the level crossing, gates downs, clay train nowhere in sight so I thought I’d switch the engine off and listen to the radio. Eventually the train arrives and passes the gates are raised and my battery is dead. No phone, no wallet, loads of traffic that I’m holding up even more but thankfully there was a garage right on the other side of the crossing. In fact of all the places I could have broken down at least I was right near help. So I nipped over the line popped in and asked for help. I explained I couldn’t pay straight away but would call later. Less than five minutes later engine running again following a great jump start. Excellent, or it was until I got home and found that that had cost me £58. Standard call out charge apparently.
Now I know I should have asked first, I know that they are trying to run a business, but nearly £60 for a drive of less than 100 yards and 2 minutes labour? I doubt that they made any easier money than me that day. So I’m fed up, I’ll never use them again and if anyone asks me my opinion of local garages I’ll not be adding them to my list of good guys.
Which makes me wonder about good customer service. Maybe I’m being unfair, after all they came out and fixed my car, but if they had told me in advance what the cost had been, I’d have declined, found a phone and called Steve out. In straightened times, a smile goes a long way and costs nothing. Keeping your customers in the loop, giving them options, even if it might mean you lose the sale, will mean you’ll gain their gratitude. Hopefully, they’ll come back to you for something else or maybe they’ll just tell others how good you are.
It’s funny isn’t it? I can’t tell you which garage it was because that wouldn’t be “fair”, I can tell you about good service but not tell you when I feel let down. It’s all part of our sense of fair play. I made a mistake by not asking the price, they gave me a service so to complain would be churlish. And yet… Still I’m glad that it’s this way. I’d rather we all praised people to the hilt and named them but kept quiet about those we were less impressed with. But there’s lots of companies out there, that play exactly by the letter of the law, 90 day warranty means just that if your washing machine dies at 91 days then tough. Or that the excess charge was clearly laid out on page 14 of the small print. I’m sure we’ve all been caught out and left to feel stupid about it but it does rankle.
Incidently, just to make clear I am not talking about the garage at Twydreath Highway by the railway line. They are lovely chaps and I’d recommend them in a heartbeat.
I’ve had a great weekend but it became obvious to me that it’s been a while since I’ve been out to play. I’m exhausted now and wondering if maybe age is more than just a state of mind. I got my first reminder of how long I’ve been out of circulation when I went to buy Steve and I a drink and the total came to £6 something. I say six pounds something because quite frankly when the barman said 6 my brain went into paralysis and a weird buzzing noise filled my ears, with a sort of dumb shock I handed over my £10 note and left with change that did indeed only include 3 shiny coins plus shrapnel. Sitting down with Steve I studied my small glass of wine, I deliberately chose the small option in case it wasn’t nice and at Steve’s pint of Doom Bar, with a certain amount of awe. We were in a nice country pub (I won’t name names) but it wasn’t somewhere where I expected city prices. In fact I had better not go to a city pub now without my cards, cash probably won’t be enough.
We were gradually joined by other friends who had all come out for a friend’s birthday party. It was great to see so many of us in a pub, in the evening, with no children, that in itself was a celebration and we all made the most of it. We also met some new people who were great company; it’s always such fun to discover new conversations and ways of looking at the world. A loud and happy evening eventually came to an end to be naturally followed by a delicate morning. Of course in the past I would spend such mornings being quiet and gentle, no sudden movements and the only strenuous exercise being to switch the kettle on. But not now. Not now that my boys play rugby and I have a dog that needs a walk. So dodging showers and it really lashed it down this morning we got Harry walked, the children suited and booted and made it to Truro – (it would be an away match) with only minutes to spare. The ground was very soft in fact the lower field had clover and reeds growing in it – not good signs! Our U12s were beaten by, I’m afraid to say, a very good team, but if you’re going to be beaten at least let it be by the best. Our U10s however won their match as convincingly as the U12s lost theirs so balance was restored and as both of my boys scored a try there was peace on the drive home.
Of course returning home still meant no rest for us as it’s back to school tomorrow so uniforms to be ironed kit to be scrapped down then washed, bags to be packed, homework to be checked, projects finished off all done at full volume. And in the middle of all this I’m trying to finish off my VAT return. Well I’ve done it now or else I wouldn’t be typing this. So a nice hectic weekend to round off an enjoyable half term, I hope everyone had a s good a weekend.
Doing battle with the green eyed monster at the moment. I think I’m winning but every now and then it grabs me by the ankles and trips me up. Whilst I’m lucky in so many ways and have so many things that half the world might be grateful for I can’t help but look at those with more than me and think envious thoughts. Which is silly because I already have so much. But the start of the holiday season always seems to kick it off as I look at those lovely brand news cars towing jet skis and the like as they overtake me on the A30. Wandering around Truro in my walking boots and dog walking coat I look at families dressed to the absolute nines and think that it would be nice to dress my children in the latest styles (well it wouldn’t because they’d either rip them, stain them or grow out of them before I could blink an eye) but it’s nice to fantasize!
The problem with living in a tourist area is the sudden influx of people who view our home as a holiday resort, so of course they’re dressed up to the nines, they have literally pushed the boat out and like all of us on holiday they spend money with ease. This doesn’t mean they have lots of money on a day to day basis just that they have saved up and are now spending. They probably don’t behave with such financial abandon at home but that’s not the image I see. I just see the “what the hell, let’s have another one…” and so I get a little green.
Of course the thing that makes me really green are the second homes. Now let me make things really clear, I have nothing against second homes in principle, good grief if I had the money I’d have a second home in a heartbeat. My second home would be on the Lizard, oh and one up on the north coast, and one on the Norfolk Boards and one near Cley. The point is, oh I forgot and one up in the Hebrides, and finally one on St. Martins; that’s St. Martins on the Isles of Scilly not the one in the Caribbean. Oh what the hell, I’ll have one there too. Whoops less of a second home more of a holiday portfolio. I guess my point is that those with second homes really do have more money than me and every so often I have little human moments and think “not fair.” I think it in a very small voice but I still think it. It’s then that I have to get a grip and remember what I say to the boys, we are happy and we are healthy, if we had to drop one of those to be wealthy which would it be? Of course my boys are smart and point out that you can be wealthy, happy and healthy, at which point we all sigh.
And as we sigh, we collect the boys from school and head to the beach to catch some waves and have a barbeque tea. Or we scramble over the moors, not caring what we look like as we explore waterfalls and stone structures. Or we breathe deeply enjoying the sun above us or the wind in our face and the glorious surroundings that we live in every day and our sighs get a little less envious and a little more contented.
Of course if anyone out there reading this has a spare second home they no longer want, I’ll happily take it off their hands.