Friday, 3 February 2012

On the Scarp

Dru and I went off on another business trip last weekend to see if we could persuade any local-ish independent bookshops to take our wares.  We were hoping for more success than the last time we tried in Clevedon.  In the meantime, I'd acquired a nifty grey portfolio with pockets to hold my packs (consisting of my poetry collection, Communion;  ordering information; a photocopied review; and a large postcard with contact details) rather than stuffing them haphazardly into my trusty brown bag.  I felt almost professional.

First stop, Sodding Chipbury (as it is affectionately known in these parts).  An inordinate number of gift shops but no book emporium.  Dru and I got the feeling that it was trying to slip under the radar and into the Cotswolds, but it would need A LOT MORE antiques shops to do that.  And at least some of those wonderful slate tiles like fish scales instead of ridged clay ones.


On then to Wotton-under Edge, stopping off en route at Hawkesbury Upton.  We liked the look of the Church there with its solid fortified tower but we couldn't get inside because it was locked.  Never mind, the churchyard was interesting.  I loved the grave above, with new life and the Shadow of Death.  Or rather Dru.  And the Morris Traveller looking oh so picturesque.  (There - in front of the church, cunningly disguising itself as a yew hedge.)


Joy of joys - a bookshop in Wotton (which, incidentally, is one of my favourite small towns in the area - a proper place with proper shops, the only blot on the landscape being the inevitable Tesco Express on the high street.  If I never get to move to Dartmoor, a cottage in Wotton would soften the blow a little).  Only the bookshop was shut for lunch from 1pm to 2pm.  We looked at our watches.  Five past one.  We would have to return later.  


Our next stop was Nailsworth, en route to which we passed more snowdrops, these as tall as wild daffodils.  We knew there was definitely a bookshop in this pleasant little town and yessssss, it was open.  The woman inside was very friendly.  She told us that Jenny Joseph lived locally and was a frequent visitor - definitely old enough now to wear purple, but in fact she generally dressed in tweed.  And she was interested in my poems except the shop owner, a man called Hereward Corbett, was in the sister shop (also called The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop)  in Tetbury and maybe we should go up there.  'He's very nice,' she added, as I lugged my still heavy portfolio back out to the car.


Tetbury had been on our list of places to visit anyway, so it was back into the Moggy and off south-east to Poshville.  Once there, one of the first things we saw, parked outside the ladies, was a four-wheel drive belonging to a window-cleaning business.  It was  emblazoned with the name 'Suty and Sweep', with the addition of a picture of a black man with a white ring around his mouth, like on the Black and White Minstrel Show.  Dru and I were naturally affronted and appalled, especially since someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to paint so offensive a logo, and we made a lot of sweeping generalisations about rich bigots in the countryside.


But the shop was lovely with wooden shelving and a squashy sofa to read on and no Costa Coffee outlet at the back, just more books.  Hereward was indeed very friendly and he took two of my packs, one for Tetbury and one for Nailsworth, and said he would display the postcard prominently, which was very kind of him.  (I reckon it was the commendation from Hugo Williams on the back cover that swung it.)  Unfortunately he didn't feel that there was a market for the books Dru had brought with her, which were all to do with Bristol.  Seems Tetbury isn't that local after all, in their minds anyway.

We had time to spare so we popped into the church, a 18th century rebuild on the site of an earlier mediaeval church.  It felt very light and airy inside, thanks to the large expanses of window and the incredibly slender steel coloumns clad in painted wood.  It had no soul, though, mainly because it was an entirely quirk-free zone.    


Outside, however, we saw this amazing grave slab.  I've poeticised headstones that are 'written in lichen, blotted with moss' but the lettering on this one was inlaid with the latter, as precisely as marquetry.  Can't quite believe it didn't have a helping hand from a member of the congregation.  Very beautiful, though.


Returning to the car park, we saw the owner of the offensive window-cleaning vehicle clambering back in, looking very cheerful.  He was black.


Back, then, to Wotton and the Cotswold Book Room, which was now open.  Again the woman behind the counter took a pack, although she said it was her sister who decided which books to stock and they didn't sell much poetry.  'Not even U A?' I asked, aware that the late and much lamented U A Fanthorpe had lived in the town.  'Oh, we do stock her,' the woman conceded.  'In fact, we sell a fair bit.'  I should think so too.


Then the drive home via Charfield and Winterbourne.  An altogether more successful day for me than the last time we ventured forth.  I'm really looking forward to when Dru has drawn her map of the three hares churches on and around Dartmoor - what a perfect excuse for more and rather longer jaunts in my favourite landscape ...


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