Lockdown Newsletter 1
We hope that you are all well and sane. I must first beg everyone’s apology. But about a week ago I said that I would be writing soon. Like everyone else however, these strange circumstances have played tricks upon our minds, turning such keenly edged, quick witted instruments from once valuable, to now rather flabby, cabbages. Please forgive us!
Rather than try and be interesting about books we thought that we would each send a message to give a picture of how we are. I know that we all miss you all terribly, as well as missing each other. I know that we are a bookshop and an art shop and a gallery and an art studio but, above all, I think we are a people shop and a people shop will miss its people most. My goodness we’ll have a giggle when we are back together.
Should you be absolutely desperate for a particular book then there is a chance that we can still get it for you. The Hive website is now no longer in operation but we are able to take single item orders which can be sent straight to you from the supplier. Should you have such a request then please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org stating the book, the address to send it to, and a phone number to contact you on to take payment. I envisage that the delivery times will not be as prompt as before but there is no rush really, is there?!
A Message from Ms Pearce and Freddie
Two weeks ago I was in the art shop debating with a customer, what colour paint she should use to freshen up her garden gnomes. Off she happily went with a handful of bright colours, afterwards I thought, she didn’t buy a brush ? That was life back then, when Waitrose had loo rolls and pasta wasn’t a trading commodity. Now, here I sit with Freddie beside me, hoping that lady did have a paint brush at home. Like most people I’ve cut the lawn, cleaned out cupboards and found a new friend in my E-Cloth. How have I ever managed before without one of these wonder cloths, my windows are clean, I even cleaned the glass light fittings. Definitely not recommended on mirrors though as after giving the hall mirror a good wipe, an old lady appeared, staring right back at me. That was when I realised, you shouldn’t clean mirrors.
I had to pick up my prescription in Boots, five people at a time allowed in the shop and you must stand on the crosses. It was like playing a weird game of Twister without touching. I felt like a naughty child having to stand still, I kept fidgeting and the man in front of me jokingly told me off as I had moved about one centimetre from my cross, he then said 'you're Freddie's Mum aren’t you?' He then asked how he was and hoped he was OK. Feeling a bit miffed, he was inquiring about Freddie, my 8 month old Westie, and not me. I decided to explain how Freddie had just had his 'Little Boy operation' and was sporting a cone of shame at the moment. Now when you tell a man this, he wriggles and turns his knees inwards, whereas you tell a woman and she will say, 'it’s for his own good.' Needless to say the man moved off his marker.
So I’ve had a week looking after the little chap, making sure he doesn’t attempt to jump on the settee and giving him plenty of cuddles. That’s Freddie I mean, not the man from Boots!
With love from Edwina and Freddie
Thoughts from Ms Guest
'No plan, no foresight, no industry could have ranged or accomplished what mere chance has effected.' Horace Walpole wrote that in 1782. He was referring to a vague family connection with King George II, but it struck a chord. Chance has effected what is surely the strangest time any of us have known – though I'm willing to be contradicted, do write in with your tales of the Stranger.
Several people have said to me (on the phone, or email, of course) 'oh, you must be reading so much', and I mumble in a shifty and non-committal fashion, because the truth is that really I'm not doing any such thing. I've been dipping into H Walpole's letters, because they're so entertaining, gossipy, funny and informative. And I'm finally making inroads into Tom Holland's Dominion, which I bought after his LitFest appearance last year, and which has been shoring up my TBR pile since then. I'm finding myself pleased at the amount I know, and appalled at my ignorance. I had, improbably, heard of Origen, though I couldn't have placed him on the map, or known what ingredients I needed, so to speak, and don't ask me to discuss him in relation to Aristotle. I mean it, please don't. On the other hand I'm horrified to find how little I know about the Thirty Years War, which I studied for A level History over 40 years ago. I did pass, though only just, not nearly as well as I could and should have done. I was a lazy little so-and-so, but I've been punished with anxiety dreams about it ever since! I should get over it really.
Otherwise it's been quiet routine of sitting in the garden thinking about mowing, weeding and planting, and doing regular sessions of YouTube yoga. In the privacy of my own home no-one can hear the terrible crunching sounds my neck makes, like hob-nailed boots on gravel, or the intermittent bangs, like a rook-scarer, which are my knees registering protest. It must be doing me good. I also go out daily for a half-hour Government mandated healthy walk around the fields. This morning I met a neighbour, and we stood ten feet apart and had a bellowed conversation about The Situation, government (ours and the Chinese), wood-cutting, bereavement, DIY, the complications of winding up a small limited company, store-cupboard cookery and schadenfreude. I'm trying not to go out more than once a week, to Waitrose, for flea powder (for the cats, not me!), eggs if available, and fresh produce, scurvy, for the prevention of. If you see me, please do wave.
I'm very happy with my own company, though as in all things, there's a big difference between choosing solitude and having it imposed. Hurrah for the telephone and the internet. I miss everyone, colleagues and customers. I worry about the dogs who come into the shop for biscuits – will they think we don't love them any more? Overall though I'm very conscious that I'm extremely lucky, and I feel that I should try to use this unexpected time productively. Quite how is less clear. Watch this space. (Not too closely....)
A Note from Miss Venus
How strange it is to be living through a global pandemic that will reshape everything and, in my case, is having a direct personal affect. Self-isolation hasn’t been totally doom and gloom - there have been moments of lightness.
(Re-watching Ashes to Ashes has rather a lot to do with this.)
It began with a message from my boyfriend who (still holds the record for being Marlborough’s 13th strongest man I’ll have you know) had his masculinity reduced, in Waitrose of all places, when he had no choice but to buy Peppa Pig yogurts. This was quickly followed by my mum and I joining in with Gok Wan’s virtual disco on Instagram and my dog (despite the reported food shortages) still demanding an amuse-bouche with each meal. Patê, sardines, corned beef…
Time feels different, and the pace of life is different. It’s actually rather lovely sitting in the garden when the sun is shining and thinking, ‘well, this is all I can do, so I might as well enjoy it.’ The phrase that seems to be floating around is ‘we’re all in this together.’ I’m not entirely sure that’s true. We’re all in the same boat, certainly. And some boats have a whacking great big hole in. But are we all in this together? I don’t know. I’m quite happy to have my pessimistic views scrapped and re-arranged, all in good time.
In the meantime, I’m actually here to spread good news so, ‘friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…’ Below is a list of some things happening online that are all rather splendid. If ever there was a time to browse the internet…
- The National Theatre – The National Theatre are going to be broadcasting via YouTube productions of One Man, Two Guvnors; Jane Eyre, Treasure Island and Twelfth Night. https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/nt-at-home
- The Victoria and Albert Museum – Take time to look through their incredible online collections. https://www.vam.ac.uk/
- RSC – Online resources for students and everyone. https://www.rsc.org.uk/education/about-rsc-education/home-learning-with-the-rsc
- Shakespeare’s Globe – More streaming! Do keep an eye on their website for further details. (I saw an announcement in the paper about it.) https://www.shakespearesglobe.com/
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Online collections available to wander through from the Big Apple. https://www.metmuseum.org/
- The Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) – Home to an amazing online collection. You can also take a virtual tour around some fantastic exhibitions including Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse. https://www.fitnyc.edu/museum/index.php
- The British Library – ‘For research, inspiration and enjoyment.’ https://www.bl.uk/
- The National Archives – So much to see, read and do. https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
- London Transport Museum – Fascinating online collections. https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/
- Fashion and Textile Museum – Blogs and exhibition archives. A personal favourite. https://www.ftmlondon.org/
- David Hockney’s Spring Collection from Normandy – BBC article. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52109901
Also – please watch The Repair Shop. If you don’t, Debby and I will personally come round to your house and make you eat Spam.
Observations from Mrs Fry
Last week I was extremely grumpy. Never mind all these silver linings about enjoying being with your family and having no pressure - homeschooling is very hard labour in my experience. True, of my three children, one is very independent and is managing her own work and sending it off back to the teachers, so I only have to look after the education of the younger two - but on the other hand the eldest seems to spend a LOT of time on her phone during designated 'lesson' time and I don't believe her claim that group discussion is mandated by the teachers.... As for the little ones, after about ten minutes of trying to get my independent and strong willed (a.k.a. naughty) girls to do some maths or writing, I decided life would be much easier as long as I counted anything they did as education. So, Josie's running around the garden doing cartwheels... great, that's definitely PE. And Claudia's fooling about with her lego, super! - science and technology. Now they're both just upstairs getting all their clothes out of their drawers and adding a load of toys to the mess, errmm - performance art?
This week I have stopped worrying about it so much and have cheered up. The children are fine and happy and we are genuinely lucky to live here in the countryside where there is so much outdoor space. I have been cooking and baking and occasionally vaguely cleaning things. I have been listening to The Archers and, rather than being annoyed by the fact that Ambridge has no knowledge of Coronavirus, have decided to revel in its simple tales of explosions, near death and subsequent redemption (they had unlucky timing with that storyline). I have decided that all the family will take part in a board game session every afternoon - and so far we have had three big arguments as a consequence - I hope that will calm down as we continue. And finally I have been reading, not as much as I thought and not new things, but revisiting old favourites, like Diary of a Nobody and Dorothy L Sayers. Escapism rules OK.
I miss the bookshop and everyone connected to it, but it is still there and we'll be back at some point. Looking forward to it.
An Attempt at Being Interesting by Mr MacLennan
‘...time passes more slowly for your feet than it does for your head.’
Carlo Rovelli, The Order of Time
The world feels very different to only a few weeks ago. For me it’s the change from extreme pace - everything happening so quickly, even if we felt back then like we were treading water - to such a sudden stop, which is the most extraordinary change.
We are stuck in the ‘now’. Time has almost stopped and we have nowhere to go. Like the god Janus we can look back and, more than ever, we are incredulous at how different it was; we can look forward but have no idea when the future will start. We are, for once, rooted only in the present, and it feels strange. All because time has slowed.
Driving through where I live, in Farnborough, the past two Saturday evenings, the roads have been so quiet that I felt no need to drive more than 25 mph. It was lovely and it made me realise that for so much of our lives we travel as fast as the things around us: we are pulled along by the speed of others. Without this feeling of being swept along by a current stronger than ourselves we choose our own pace and that pace is invariably slower and undoubtedly more enjoyable.
Time slowing down creates a curious dichotomy though. When there is no hurry I feel pulled in two directions. One is the direction of nothingness; no need to do anything right now, so I don’t do it. But at the same time not having anything pressing to do makes me realise that I can do things right now, as there is no priority to do anything else: no list of tasks which need to be sorted and ordered, no need to rest after a long day before doing what is called for. Things can be done at a pace of my choosing as there is no hurry. This is something to be celebrated and, in an ideal world, remembered for future times.
I have cut the grass, cleaned all the windows, planned meals way ahead of time - using every part of everything - read a bit (mostly Lee Child I have to admit. Goodness me he is good.), watched old sporting events again, some films and many silly things. I have helped, a bit, with Joe’s school-work (his maths is already beyond me and needs no help anyway, thankfully). I have started running, in a desperate attempt/hope that at some point in the near future I will be conditioned enough to start enjoying it. With the days stretching out in front of us, without any pattern or clue as to when our circumstances may change, my tiny, modest plan of little and often will, I hope, give me some sense of achievement.
Only time will tell and my head will know the answer before my feet.