I did not jump out of bed with joy in my heart yesterday morning. In fact as my husband and son left the house for a football match, I contemplated faking a migraine so I could stay in bed for the rest of the day.
‘Will you get up!’ The Nymph eventually pulled the duvet away from me. ‘The taxi will be here in half an hour.’
If I want to glamorise my condition yesterday morning, I’d say I suffered from stage- fright. However, if I want to be honest, I’d have to admit that the source of my attitude was slightly less admirable. I am the CEO of this publishing house. I ought not to stand in the freezing cold selling books at market stalls. Such were my thoughts as I tried to hold on to the duvet.
‘Yes, you certainly ought to sell books at market stalls.’ The Nymph stood next to my bed tapping her foot impatiently, her arms crossed in front of her chest. ‘A good boss leads by example,’ she stated. ‘ Jen and Clara – plus a number of interns – run stalls throughout the year – in the rain, the heat, the cold. When did you last work on the stall? I think it was Christmas a year ago.’
‘That is precisely my worry.’ I moaned as I dragged myself out of bed. ‘I don’t know any longer how to set up the stall. I can’t think of what to say to people. And I have forgotten how to keep smiling when they treat me like thin air.’
Peirene showed no mercy. ‘I’ll be waiting downstairs for you. And,’ she turned around in the door, ‘if you continue whining I’ll join Clara today at Richmond market and will leave you alone at the Ally Pally Farmer’s market.’
I stopped. I wanted the Nymph by my side after all.
My worries, though, were justified. I was rusty at the beginning. As we were setting up the stall, I didn’t know how best to display the books and took a lot of time shifting them around. I also lost a couple of sales straight away because I just didn’t hit the right note with the customers. I was too eager to sell, rather than sharing my enthusiasm for our books.
Still, as the hours went passed, I got back into my stride. I made eye contact with passers-by. They approached the stand. We chatted about Peirene, foreign literature and the novella.
I was yet again reminded what contradictory emotions go through me when I look after our bookstall. It is hard work – both physically and mentally, and the prospect of a day’s market duty often feels daunting. However, selling books next to cheese and fruits and vegetables makes so much sense – one is nourishment for the body, the other for the mind. And there was a moment in the afternoon when suddenly I was overcome by a beautiful calmness. I knew I was doing just what I meant to do.
And I managed to sell a fair amount of books, too.
‘Not at many as Jen usually sells at this market,’ the Nymph mumbled as I was cashing up at the end of the day.
‘Jen is our star bookseller. Hard to beat her, ‘I replied.
Not even my ancient Greek Nymph could disturb my inner peace.
Image by Holiday Gems.