Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Nearly there!

Two weeks on and the pressure is easing. Saturday was the last day of the sale, people went on buying till the very last, reinforcing my belief that there was not a single rubbish book, DVD or CD in the shop. Monday and the bookcases were moved: I could probably have sold the lot several times over. Tuesday and the only two people who asked about the leftover stock came and helped themselves: Finstock parish church and the Friends of Wychwood expect to raise a couple of thousand pounds between them from what they took away. Better than dumping the books in a skip!

There's more pressure closing a shop than keeping it open. What is in many ways a desultory experience has been transformed by many really kind and grateful emails from customers (I was only doing a job of work and trying to scrape a living!), and two alcoholic bottles left for me on Saturday. Quite moving. I get some things right, it seems. 

Two weeks and we fly to South Africa. Friends will be looking after the house and people will be staying here too. Reassuring. 

Then back to England in the spring and a whole new life. Wonderful. And nicely brown when everyone here is pale and wan. Ha! And I shall enjoy seeing some of my customers as friends, a whole new category of relationship. That will be nice. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Sale day

The sale has begun! Five people in here by 9.30, by 9.35 I can't see to the front of the shop.

A woman has gone off in a temper because she can't read the location maps on the backs of the OS maps to work out where Charlbury is. Two customers tried to help but she has thrown the maps down and left. Perhaps she will bring her reading glasses next time she comes to a bookshop.

I pour myself a coffee while customers try and resolve the gridlock in front of me. "Are you in the queue?" "No, just trying to get past." Short of standing on my chair, I can't count the number of people in here. If one breathes in, another has to breathe out.

Have taken £400 in 40 minutes. Wish that had been a typical day's takings in the past!

Not long before I spot a friend who has studiously avoided the shop for years. She's here for the pickings. There will be more.

Made two mistakes with change so far! Atypical. It's not that I feel tired at the end of a week's work, it's feeling tired at the end of 45 years' work!

Can't help noticing that after 100 minutes and perhaps £800 I've sold perhaps one children's book. Confirms all my prejudices. Bother.

125 minutes in and sold two children's books to an 80-year-old. Hooray!

Closed at 1. What a lot there is to sell next week!!

Friday, 3 January 2014

'One of the lowest priced theatres and cinemas in the region.'

'Every penny of the booking fee goes towards the charitable aims of the theatre, and we will endeavour to remain one of the lowest priced theatres and cinemas in the region.'

So writes John Terry, director of the excellent little theatre in Chipping Norton, explaining why the theatre adds a £1 booking fee to all tickets whether bought online or at the box office. Unfortunately, for an audience member, things are not so simple. Charlbury is halfway between Chippy and Witney, so when the National Theatre does a live stream of one of its performances, people have a choice.

Because the Cineworld cinema in Witney carries the same performances. They are showing Coriolanus, a National Theatre production streamed live from the Donmar Warehouse, on Thursday January 30. Luxurious seats, perfect sight lines without a head in front of you, big screen and perfect sound. I can reserve tickets online and for 'seniors' they are £12.10 each.

Or I can go to 'one of the lowest priced theatres and cinemas in the region'. Here the sightlines are often obscured, many seats (as well as being not terribly comfortable) are directly behind the one in front, the floor is not raked, and the screen and the sound are good but not up to the same standard. So the tickets will be a real bargain? No. £16 per ticket, no concessions, and a compulsory £1 'booking fee' per ticket. So £17 in all. I won't be paying £4.90 for the privilege of going to Chippy.

But lest this is interpreted as an attack on the little theatre at Chippy, it isn't meant to be. The theatre is great, innovative, a regional focus, and puts on a wide variety of often excellent entertainment. I enjoy my visits there. But it shouldn't try to appeal on price. Just as local bookshops shouldn't be claiming to be cheaper than Amazon. Because they can't!

What's more, the theatre at Chippy has an exceptionally well-heeled audience rooted in an extremely affluent corner of the Cotswolds. It doesn't even need to be cheap!