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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Are you a Country Bumpkin or a Townie?

Yesterday, Husband told me he was bringing home a team from work for a planning meeting. Something of a shock. He had asked, ages ago, if it would be okay, and I assured him that was fine. But I never actually wrote a date in the diary, and I had assumed he would remind me about a week in advance. I had assumed wrong. Which means the last few hours have been a frenzy of cleaning. Don’t tell anyone, but I really hate doing housework, and my house, whilst hygienic, is not the cleanest house in the world. Which is fine – I don’t think a dirty floor will kill anyone – until we have visitors who are Townies.

So, what is a Townie – and are you one?

I first heard the term many many years ago, soon after meeting husband for the first time. He was this tall, blond, slim boy with very tight jeans. I kinda liked him. So when he invited me for a drive (in battered old Beetle) I was keen to accept. I wasn’t expecting we would stop for a walk. And I wasn’t expecting that the unplanned walk would be through woods. We had recently moved south from Letchworth. They don’t really have woods in Letchworth. My (very pretty) stiletto heels weren’t really up to a hike through a muddy wood. Tall slim blond boy told me I should’ve worn wellies. I told him I didn’t own any wellies. He was flabbergasted. And called me a Townie. I took it as a compliment.

So, the first question has to be, do you own wellies? If so, are they expensive, designer wellies or ones with a pattern on? A true Country Bumpkin would never own such things – where’s the point in wellies covered in dots when said dots will be covered in duck poo within a day? I now pretty much live in wellies. They are extremely dirty, but essential for how I live.

Next question is, when it’s hot, do you open windows? When you live in the country, you can only open windows if the fields nearby don’t have cows in them. A field full of cows is also a field full of flies, so if you open windows, your house will also be full of flies. It also means you will wake at dawn every morning, because the cockerels are extremely loud at that time.

Does your house have carpets throughout? If so, they will either be grubby, or you live in a town. People who live in the country tend to have animals. Animals tend to bring a lot of the countryside inside with them. So carpets are not terribly practical. You need at least some areas with hard floors that can be washed occasionally. My house has mostly floor tiles (and dog hairs and the odd lump of mud). People have been known to walk through my house in wellies, which I don’t encourage, but when they do it doesn’t ruin anything, it just means I have to wash the floor.

Do you notice poo smells? People tend to think of the countryside as far reaching views across fields, birds singing, lots of green. Which it is. But it also smells of poo much of the time. Cows and horses smell like – cows and horses. Sheep are possibly the smelliest animals alive. Fields of wheat are spread with muck, and said muck tends to travel, especially on windy days, into gardens and lanes and open windows….I can’t say I’m keen on poo smells, but I am sort of used to them.

Do you drive a low profile car? When we moved here, I had a very beautiful Mercedes Coupe. It was lovely to drive on roads, not so great in country lanes. Lanes are narrow, so if another vehicle comes you have to drive up onto the verge. They also get really muddy when the tractors use them. In the Winter, if there’s too much rain, the streams flood them. If there’s snow, the lanes are the last to be cleared and are never salted. I now drive something a bit higher, so I get stuck less often.

When you go for an evening stroll, can you see the stars? Country lanes don’t have street lamps. You don’t need them, it is rarely too dark to see where the hedges are, and I love to walk through the black of night, listening to the owls, watching the stars. Whenever we stay in towns and cities, the thing I notice most is the yellow nights, when street lamps colour everything. Night isn’t scary unless you’re not used to it.
So, Townie or Bumpkin? Or maybe something inbetween. I think my husband still thinks I am a Townie, though I can’t remember the last time I wore stilettos (and the whole world is thankful he no longer wears tight jeans!) I guess the important thing is to be happy wherever you live. I know I am.


Thank you for reading.

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