Completely unnecessary greed…

Cornish mussels at the #Firehouse Bar and Grill, #St Ives. #Christmas icecream at #WillyWaller\’s, St Ives. Did I really need to brave the perilous birdlife of St Ives? No. I\’ve eaten far more than three bodies could possibly need in the past three days and all my skirts are tight. I go for a wander round a local beauty-spot with my brilliant daughter and…
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Did I mention the chips? I hate chips. But these were really truly homemade and they even found some spare homemade tartare sauce to dunk them in… Can\’t tell you how often I\’ve been disappointed by mass-produced \”homestyle\” chips in restaurants, but these were Real. The mussels were plump. The wine and cream yummy.
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Waddling along the little harbour where the mugger-seagulls lurk, we found an icecream parlour with Christmas ices: christmas pud icecream, stollen icecream and… mulled wine sorbet. Omigod.
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Except we didn\’t have cones. No, you must never have an icecream cone in St Ives harbour. Flying about there are large white birds with large flick-knife beaks, going Aark, Aark! You may think these are simply the European herring gull or Larus argentatus as they\’re known to the cognoscenti or indeed Wikipedia, protected because they are becoming rare.
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They are in fact a vicious subspecies, soon to be dubbed Larus icecreamnicka StIvesiensis. If you dare the harbour with an icecream cone, two large white bastards will divebomb your head so you drop your cone and their bloody chick catches it and gobbles it down.
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But we foiled \’em. We ate our icecreams in cups in the shop and blagged lots of samples as well. Ha! Starve, you evil avian pirates!
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And then we got some chocolate.

\”#Box\’s of sandwiches\” – aargh!

OK, so perhaps I was the hundredth person in her newly opened deli that morning who told her she\’d got an apostrophe wrong on her large prominently-placed notice. And probably she\’s never seen the hysterical episode of \”Open All Hours\” where Ronnie Barker teaches the true meaning and use of the most dangerous punctuation mark of them all (I couldn\’t find it, by the way – what was it called?).
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Snarling that \”Actually, I\’m seriously dyslexic and I\’ve got a hundred other things to do and you don\’t have to buy my food…\” may not have been the ideal way to go. I offered to proof-read her notices for free and got a withering \”No!\”
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Perhaps she isn\’t actually dyslexic, but just lazy – most of the real dyslexic people I know, including someone who\’s normally near the top of the Rich List, are immensely hard-working and always check these things out.
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Leaving that aside, maybe she is dyslexic – but we all make spelling and punctuation mistakes. I\’ve made crashingly horribly public ones myself. The front cover of my latest book \”The Poetry Diet\” featured a beauty which was missed by the editor, designer, an experienced journalist and me despite repeated proof-reading. I only saw it by accident in the nick of time. Usually when people point out a stupid mistake I\’ve made, I grit my teeth and say thankyou because they\’re actually saving me from my sloppy self. And, yes, it matters.
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It matters because until the apostrophe finally dies, using it correctly shows you pay attention to detail. It\’s basic, obvious and easy to check. It\’s the orthographical equivalent of washing your hands before preparing food.
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Unconsciously, when we\’re looking at your random flying comma, we\’re thinking: If you can\’t be bothered to get that right, what else can\’t you be bothered to do?

Christmas hotting up at #Waterstones…

… Means lots of beautiful #Christmas books going out the door. The #cookery books are mouthwatering (though I don\’t buy pretty ones for myself because all the lovely pictures get scunged up with garlic and wine and chocolate). The gardening books make me think I\’ll be able to grow my own veg one day. The art books convince me that all I need is one of them to metamorphose magically into a proper artist.
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Despite the horrors of Christmas shopping, most of the customers are patient and lovely and thoughtful. So far I\’ve only come across one example of what I call the PPP – the Pearl-Phobic-Pig.
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She was buying a very nice 365 Buddhist offerings book. \”Of course,\” she said proudly, \”I never read books. I just don\’t read!\”
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I\’ve talked to customers looking for books for their relatives who sadly tell me how they\’re dyslexic and long to be able to enjoy the stories around them. They tell me how hard they\’ve worked to crack reading.
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This Pearl-Phobic-Pig didn\’t have that problem. She was simply one of those people who think of book-reading as a strange lazy vice. Lord knows what she thinks of the wierdos who write them: maybe she believes that books grow on trees.
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I\’m very pleased that I managed to smile sweetly and say nothing. Nobody said anything to her, probably because they couldn\’t think of anything to say. I\’d like to think the sudden deafening silence surrounding her made her slightly less proud of her anti-literacy as she paid and left.

One Wierd Thing about Working at #Waterstones…

… Is the way customers say things like \”Oh, I don\’t want to waste your time, it\’s really not important…\” I used to think they were just telling me to get lost in a typically British unassuming way, but then I found when I persist, they tell me about this book they\’re hunting for and they can\’t find it and do I have any idea…? And sometimes I do (or I can find it on the dreaded #database) and then they\’re really happy and they buy it.
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Which is something I thoroughly enjoy doing. Of course, sometimes it\’s frustrating because of the peculiar way human brains remember things: a few days ago a customer was looking for a book called \”Lost Nations\” by someone with a name like Davis. I knew I\’d seen it somewhere in the shop and I spent ages trying to track it down in the World History section and on the database and couldn\’t find it…
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Then another customer wanted it and one of my colleagues found it… On a display table at the front of the shop. Where I probably passed it dozens of times a day.
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Only it was \”Vanished Kingdoms\” by Norman Davies
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Aargh!
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But it\’s just so satisfying to be able to do that for someone even if they then decide that it\’s not the book they wanted after all.
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So what else could I possibly be doing in a bookshop that\’s more important than finding the right book for a person and then selling it to them? How is that wasting my time? I don\’t understand.