Apparently our application showed weakness in relation to our plans to ‘engage the public’.
‘I don’t believe it?!’ Peirene can hardly breathe when I show her the letter. ‘Weakness to engage the public?!’ Her voice is breaking.
‘Any other reason,’ she paces up and down the office. ‘Any other reason I would have tolerated. But …’ Once again she begins to hyperventilate.
‘Calm down,’ I beg her. She shakes her head.
‘The entire roaming store is a public engagement.’ she cries in between breaths. ‘Standing at markets, convincing people who would never go into a bookshop or look at the review pages to read foreign literature – what precisely do they call this if not public engagement. Our roaming store is the best, most efficient, public engagement tool ever invented.’
She suddenly falls silent, turns to the phone and picks up the receiver. My heart misses a beat. The Nymph is in no fit state to speak to anyone.
‘Who are your calling?’ I ask.
‘The Arts Council.’ Before she can dial the number, I’m next to her and take the receiver out of her hand.
‘You’re a coward,’ she protests.
‘They won’t change their mind.’ I pause. Then I continue: ‘I think the main challenge we have is that they don’t really understand the concept of our stalls. Even though we do our best to explain and send pictures. No other publisher does it, and certainly not in the organized fashion we do.’
Peirene sits down on the sofa. She suddenly looks deflated. ‘But I am so upset that once again we won’t have enough money to take our Roaming Store outside London. It’s such a pity.’
I nod in agreement ‘I wish one of their people would spend just a single day at our Roaming Store and see what we are achieving. I’m sure we’d get the money.’
The Nymph jumps up. ‘You are right. That’s what I am going to tell them.’
I push her gently back onto the sofa. ‘We’re going to take a deep breath.’ I bring my palms together in front of my heart and encourages Peirene to follow my example. ‘We’re going to be calm’. The Nymph half closes her eyes. ‘And then,’ we both look at each other, ‘we’re going to reapply.’
Image by JD Hancock.