A Town Open Day

My town decided to have an open day. I don’t know who had the idea originally, but it was suggested on our town Facebook group (the one that usually moans about broken traffic lights and daft planning laws). The idea was simple: People could sell things at the end of their garden.

Enthusiasm grew, and people offered their services. Someone produced a map, showing where all the stalls would be. People shared advice about how they were ensuring their pitch was covid-safe—some provided hand sanitiser, some made a one-way system, some invested in a card machine for cash-free payment.

We were all responsible for our own area, and we were sent links to government websites with the latest advice (always a scintillating read!) The date was planned for 3rd October, between 10am and 4 pm, and the enthusiasm grew.

Some businesses offered space outside their shop, or in their pub garden for people who didn’t want to use their own garden. Shops joined in, with special offers for people who popped in during the day. An artist designed a poster, which was emailed to everyone who signed up, and we could print copies to advertise the event. Photos appeared on the Facebook page: painted stones, Christmas decorations, homemade soap, freshly baked cakes, greetings cards—all the things you might find in a craft fair (which have all been cancelled this year) plus some people were selling second-hand items. The enthusiasm grew…but would anyone actually come to buy?

I was very keen to take part, mainly because absolutely every event I have planned this year has been cancelled. Here was an event which couldn’t be cancelled because each stall was responsible for their own pitch, no one could suddenly deem it was unsafe (unless, of course, the government introduced another lockdown in our area, and 2020 being what it is, that was far from impossible!)

Then the ‘rule of 6’ was introduced. Would this affect the event? I thought it extremely unlikely that I would have more than six people vying to buy books all at the same time, so decided that it wouldn’t affect me. Some people made signs, telling people to queue sensibly if they needed to wait before approaching the stall.

My house isn’t near the centre of town, so I asked Mum if I could use her garden (it’s prettier than my garden too—has fewer weeds and scary animals wandering around). Mum kindly agreed and suggested I put up posters. My only posters are quite large—ideal for book-signings in big shops, not so good for sitting-room windows. Mum said they were fine, I placed them in the window, she lived in semi-darkness for a few days.

I printed some fliers from the poster we were sent, and Mum delivered them to her neighbours. I bought some ziplock bags, and placed each book into a bag, making them covid-safe. Husband printed copies of the back page, so that people could read them without handling the books. I considered printing off some sample pages, because most people like to read some of the book before buying—but if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure whether anyone would actually come so I didn’t want to waste too much time.

Now, I live in England. In England, it rains and it’s daft to assume that any day in the year won’t have rain. I watched the forecast, and the tail-end of a storm was predicted. Super. I decided that I could sit in the lounge, next to my over-sized posters, and run to the door if anyone braved the weather to visit. It was disappointing, but at worst I would be spending the day chatting to Mum, so the day would be fun anyway.

The day arrived. As I drove down to Mum’s house, I passed several houses setting up stalls at the end of their gardens. Most seemed to be whole-family affairs, with parents and children setting up gazebos and carrying boxes of items, ready to sell. There were balloons and posters and a general air of excited expectation that was weirdly infectious. I began to feel excited!

We set up our stall, and I decided to leave most of the books inside the house, as although it wasn’t actually raining there were a lot of black clouds. Then I snuggled into my big coat, and waited. Would anyone come?

Well, yes! Despite the awful weather, people did come. Some people drove round, obviously following the map that had been put on the town Facebook page, slowly touring all the stalls. Sometimes they waved as they passed, sometimes they parked and bought a book. Other people walked round, mothers with pushchairs and old men with shopping bags and young people with their friends. Sometimes they showed me the soap or painted stones they had bought, or told me they were on their way to look at the stalls in the pub garden or the churchyard. People were happy, entering into the spirit of the event, glad of something to do on a wet October day in a year of cancelled plans. Some people wore masks, but we were outside, it was easy to keep a sensible distance—as long as we washed our hands afterwards it was very safe.

The day, for me, was brilliant. I sold 20 books, but more importantly, I spoke to a whole range of people who live in my town (I have to say, I think my mother possibly knowns everyone who lives in town, and if she doesn’t know them, she knows their aunty/sister/cousin). I felt very proud of my town, of the community spirit, the number of people who wanted the day to work. All it takes is a little enthusiasm, a few people prepared to take the risk, and something very positive is produced. In a year of disappointments, this was a very good day.

I hope you have a good day too. Thanks for reading.

Take care.

Love, Anne x

PS. If you weren’t able to visit my town in Kent on 3rd October, all my books are available in bookshops and from Amazon. Here is a selection:

You can order through my Facebook page, or Amazon link here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/kindle-dbs/entity/author/B07CL8HV95?_encoding=UTF8&node=266239&offset=0&pageSize=12&searchAlias=stripbooks&sort=author-sidecar-rank&page=1&langFilter=default#formatSelectorHeader

Anne E. Thompson
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