Suspicious minds

A funny thing happened this week.

I volunteer at a charity shop raising funds for abandoned and abused animals. Mostly I am in the book department, where we have a vast quantity of both hardback and paperback books donated by well-wishers and which are sold for 1 euro each.


The ‘shop’ isn’t exactly a shop in the conventional sense. It’s a collection of barns and outbuildings selling quality bric-a-brac, furniture, linens, clothing, children’s games and toys, electrical goods, DVDs, CDs and the aforesaid books. There is also a tea shop where shoppers can spoil themselves with the very best of home-baked cakes and pastries.

Anyway, a lady came in on Tuesday and selected a number of books, and when she came to pay I noticed that a couple of them were written by me.

I said to her, “Oh, I hope you’ll enjoy these – I’m the author.”

She stared at me and said, “What?”

“I wrote these two books.” I tapped the covers. She looked at the books and then back at me, and didn’t seem convinced.

She turned her attention to my apparel, which was suited to mid-February in rural France. Fleecy trousers and tops, scarf, boots and woolly gloves all topped off with a red nose.

“Then what are you doing working here,” she asked. “I thought writers were rich.” πŸ˜€

Contrast that with what happened many years ago in the Brighton branch of the greatly missed and much-lamented Borders Bookshop, where you could sit and read for as long as you wished on a comfy sofa, and drink coffee and eat cakes, when one of my titles was newly-released and piled up on a table at the front of the shop. The friend I was with walked up to the person behind the counter and said: “This lady is the author of that book – she’ll sign some copies if you like.”

So the man came from behind the counter, found me a chair, and not only did I sign every copy, he found other titles of mine on the shelves and asked me to sign those too.

Without asking for any proof that I was the author!

Looking back I suspect he must have been relatively new or very confident that the books would sell, because bookshops cannot return unsold books to the publisher once they’ve been signed. My agent, the lovely Maggie Noach had told me that. Luckily for that man the title sold well and I don’t recall thatΒ there were ever any returns.

Here’s the King, never been equalled.


15 thoughts on “Suspicious minds

  1. Appearances are everything.

    While we were in France a friend brought over a visiting friend of hers. It was winter, icy, and I was doing the chicken houses clad in the full Arctic convoy gear with Peruvian hat with ear flaps to top off the ensemble. You have met me…you can imagine the sight, An ambulating overstuffed tea cosy.

    It was not the ideal moment, but I heaved myself up the slope to the house: we had coffee, chatted, and they departed.
    My friend later reported that her friend had asked if she were sure that I had been a lawyer…as ‘she didn’t look like one…’

    Made mental note to self to replace Peruvian hat with wig when mucking out the hens in winter in case anyone should call.

    Echoes of the Diary of a Provincial Lady…

    Now there’s an idea for a book for you…the Provincial Lady in France!

    • I think that if you live in rural France and keep animals, sartorial elegance in mid-winter is the last thing that preoccupies the mind. πŸ™‚

      There was an occasion when I was doing a book signing for a ladies’ club, and I thought I had dressed rather nicely in a little cotton suit and high heels. However, I heard one woman in the queue saying to her neighbour: “She doesn’t LOOK LIKE A WRITER.”

      I never did know what she had expected. Possibly Molly Parkin with bejewelled turban and the full slap? πŸ˜€

      • It does make you wonder about their expectations…but doing the Molly Parkin is too much to ask of anyone…one hour plastering the stuff on with a trowel to start the day, another hour removing it with a chipping hammer in the evening…I think not.

  2. ho hum, poor you what a shame!!! It was ever thus. I was appalled at Vanessa Whytes book launch, a whole crow of very noisey English arrived for dinner, she had a small table in the corner, they ignored her!!! not even a good evening what are you promoting, no interest what so ever.

    oh well!!!

    On Sun, Feb 12, 2017 at 3:56 PM, Susie Kelly – Writer wrote:

    > merewoman posted: “A funny thing happened this week. I volunteer at a > charity shop raising funds for abandoned and abused animals. Mostly I am in > the book department, where we have a vast quantity of both hardback and > paperback books donated by well-wishers and which are s” >

    • I didn’t mind, I was amused. πŸ™‚

      So sorry to hear how rude those people were at Vanessa’s launch. People can be very ignorant, but it’s part of the game. I can’t remember how many times I’ve sat at a table with a pile of books and people have walked up, grabbed a book, flicked through a few pages and then dropped it back on the table and walked away without even looking at me.

  3. Don’t real authors wear pink and lounge on chaise longues sipping tea and stuffing grapes peeled by their long-suffering assistants’ who take down their dictated copy and type it up in a jiffy – aren’t real writers called Barbara Cartland? This made me guffaw ….

      • She was a one-woman bodice-ripping machine (The Bean by the way absolutely detests white fluffy dogs on account of a rude Bichon Frise when we first moved to Cantal who fired French expletives at her in the market when she was minding her own business making cow eyes at the fromagerie. She has recently had to adjust her agressive stance as there is an extremely large and bouncy Snow White standard poodle round the corner from where we are installed in Grenoble …. its extremely comic as she mutters foul insults under her breath whilst trotting perfectly at heel as we pass it and it’s owner and I dit one another our bonjours) … πŸ©πŸ˜ƒ

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