Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The List of Amazing

There is a TYPE of book that exists, but is by no means common or easy to find or even describe, that just gives me joy and delight.

I am a total fusspot, and a sensitive one. I don't want to read about murderers or too much dark and dreariness. When I read for pleasure, I want it to be just that. The world is full of shocking headlines and dark deeds, that are REAL. I have never been able to understand the appetite people have for reading about more of it, that somebody, somewhere has sat down, and MADE UP.

So, although I read an array of varying books, for varying age groups, these books here are written just for me and my smile. They cause me to celebrate and whoop, and they bless my heart.

It is very hard to describe what shape these books take, or how I know when I've found one, as there is no labelled genre, exactly. But I will give a few examples, and if you have read any of them, you will understand the brilliant gold that they are. And if you haven't, perhaps you will consider trying one.

The one which I have just, this moment finished and is still warming the inner recesses of said heart, is named The Girl Savage. And it was crafted by a lady called Katherine Rundell. It follows the happenings of a girl named Will (Wilhelmina Silver) who has only ever known the joy and freedom of her wild, precious Africa. Her life is one of tumbles from trees and horses, racing through long grass and red dust, which gets into everything, including her hair, which is a trailing mass of knots. Will is wild but true, and good, and full of courage and love. But when she is uprooted and sent to a boarding school in London, the world she knows is torn and lost. How can courage help her now, when everything she does brandishes her with the name "Filthy Savage?"

Katherine Rundell's words form into the most glorious sentences that leave you wondering why you've never expressed something in that way before. Her experience of Africa shines through in all of Will's fierce love of it, and in all her descriptions and speech.

I am so glad to have discovered this book, which occurred because I had bought Katherine's second book, Rooftoppers, a novel all of its own. The story begins with a baby girl found in a floating cello case after a shipwreck. Each is its own complete and unique adventure, but with the same delicious flavour and exquisite writing. Both follow a young girl who is threatened with everything they hold most dear, and how they deal with the challenges, and people, they face. Both are utterly wonderful and perfect.
"Binny for Short" by Hilary Mckay is another book that I fully love; a treasure of a read, just full of quirk and character and family love, with a blast of sea air and homeliness, mystery and hope  about it that kept me galloping through whilst also wanting to savour every sweet sentence. I will need to read it again more slowly soon, which is why I had to buy my own copy, now, while it's in hardback because it is very beautiful too.

"Dear Scarlett," by Fleur Hitchcock has definitely earned its place on my list of excellence. And this is not a long list. I am a fusspot, after all, and I'm not looking for any old thing. I want real beauty, the deep, heartfelt kind. I want love and quirks, fun and thrills. I want intrigue and I want brilliant characterisation. And I want gorgeous, better-than-a-picture sentences that make me melt. And they are not found in most places. They are found in a few books, here and there, which I discover every now and then, by some magic route or another. And then I say, "YES!" And, "Thank you, very much."

There are lots and lots of other books which I really really like and some that I love, books that I find fun, or interesting, books that I'd happily recommend and review most earnestly and full of praise. But not many who fall into THIS category of wondrous, precious, brilliance. So don't sneeze at this list. It's quality, not quantity. And I hope it will grow. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Gardeners' Nursery

Just outside of Uffculme, Devon, there is a charming and excellent, newly-adopted business: The Gardeners' Nursery

I love it there. The nursery is well stocked with a wide variety of healthy, reasonably-priced plants and the couple who look after it all are knowledgable, helpful and friendly. Which is just want you want if you're buying a rose and not sure when to prune it, or what compost it would like the most. 
But on top of that, the large shed that they use as a pay-point is laid out as a teashop, with pretty bunting, dotty tablecloths, comfy cushions and cottagey curtains. They serve teas and coffees and tasty, homemade cakes and display a selection of locally made gifts on a dresser, including some of my greetings cards, (plug, plug!)

On my most recent trip there, I was delighted by their latest addition. A brand new little shed has taken root and been transformed into the most enchanting mini fruit and veg shop. Beautifully arranged and labelled with smart chalks on black-painted surrounds, the little shop is stocked with a good variety of fruit and vegetables, with fresh deliveries every day. 

It's such an appealing place, all round. I love that Tina and her husband Paul are thinking beyond just plants, but also keeping it small and darlingish, with impeccable taste and flair; developing what they can offer their customers but not letting it run away with them.

Please do think carefully about where you buy your plants, compost, logs, fruit and veg, because it is places and people like these that truly deserve our pounds and pennies, over superstores and supermarkets who couldn't care less whether your roses bloomed beautifully all summer despite being aphid-ridden.

It's places like these that enrich a shopping experience and turn it into a treat and an adventure instead of a chore to tick off a list. If you live in Uffculme, it's on the way out of the village, past the secondary school, so easy to pop in on your way to somewhere else. If you live in Cullompton or somewhere nearby, plan a visit to come and eat cake and buy your groceries. It's just sweet and wonderful and I really want a little shed-shop of my own! So cute! 

Friday, 5 July 2013

A Window of Opportunity.

After a fun day creating playful kittens on the glass of the shop window at Inside Out today, I have come home to our two darling kitties, who are slightly less full of beans! (Thank goodness they don't climb the curtains anymore ... much.) 

Inside Out is a very excellent shop in Exeter that sells delightful gifty, homey things, kids toys, jewellry, art, scarves and dresses, cards, jugs, mugs, and a plethora more, including my
animal cards and prints. The jolly lovely staff asked me to decorate their window, to enhance a new display of stock. 

Despite being slightly awed by the request I did not hesitate and today was the day to carry it out. All the stock had been cleared from the platform behind the glass and the previous design had been (sadly) erased with plently of hot soapy water and a lot of determined scrubbing from Amanda. 

So set before me was a blank canvas, all ready and waiting.

My design had to act as a frame to the stock so it couldn't obstruct the view or have anything too high in the middle.  Hence, true to form, I chose kittens. 

Many of my cards feature cats and I know I have a sympathetic supporter in all the staff at the shop, and I chose a tall lamp and a curtain to add context to the kitten's playtime. This also tied in with the type of items Inside Out sell for the home, including very striking lampshades.  I went for a pale palette, as, from experience, Amanda advised that it shows up best against the shaded interior of the shop. With the kittens in white, and the lamp and curtain in pale blue and pink it compliments the colours of the lovely objects that will be gathered together upon the platform. 

It took a while to get used to the pens and their ways, but eventually got comfortable with them and knew what to expect from them. I would definitely love to do this kind of thing again, I thoroughly enjoyed it all. It's a shame I'm not allowed to draw on the windows at work, maybe Andy will let me have a go in our house?

Another bonus of today was that Inside Out had arranged for some PR to promote the work of the shop and their encouragement of and keeness for 'Handmade Partners'. It is the label given to individuals like me, who supply them with stock to sell, usually on a Sale or Return basis. I can honestly say that Inside Out have proved to be the most hassle free and smooth of all the shops I supply to. I have never had to chase an invoice as they pay automatically without me having to lift a finger. If any of you creative lovelies are looking for an outlet, I urge you to approach them. The PR has been organised through an Exeter based company called One Voice, so their very charming Rachael came along to Inside Out while I was drawing, to see how I was getting on. She asked me lots of very good questions and we had a nice chat and a bit of a photo-session. (My least favourite part.)  

So hopefully, the combination of my efforts today, with the vision of Inside Out and the wider Princesshay development, along with some magic from One Voice, will show everyone how excellent it is to be involved with an inspiring Independent shop who loves to showcase local artists and makers.