Such an early start – we had strict instructions to be at the village hall by 8.30 in order to set up our stall. Well, that was about the only instruction we successfully followed. They were very patient with us, the experienced ladies of the craft section, for though our intention is to sell poetry books, it appears that falls under the category of ‘craft’. Not that I completely disagree…there is craft in writing verse after all. It’s just that I wasn’t sure we sat too comfortably beside the passion pink, crocheted pig tea cosy…However, to resume, the band of craft-ers, each decked becomingly in a green pinny ( ours have yet to be given to us thank goodness), patiently explained the ropes and watched, bemused as we began to lay out our stall, obviously intrigued as to how we were going to display poems.
Our stall would have looked very bare with just the three volumes of poetry – beautiful though they seem to us – so we had decided to use our artistic abilities (Jill is an accomplished water-colourist, while I just about fall in to the category of intermediate dauber) to put together a range of eye-catching greetings cards and other papery things, notebooks, postcards, bookmarks and the like. The idea behind this being to draw people to the stall, then hit them hard with the brilliance of our poetry!
Our ‘look’ was decidedly rustic, with displays artfully arranged in wicker baskets, others on a wonderful bamboo plate and the books having pride of place in a wickerwork display case that seemed perfect for the task. Within minutes, the old hands had informed us that our pricing did not meet ‘standards’ which, it emerged, required everything to be rounded up (or down) to the nearest 10p. With several prices ending in 9 or 5, we were completely out of step. We were forgiven this time, the Treasurer having been consulted and thankfully been found in a good mood.
The next mistake was equally serious – each item , whilst already displaying the ‘Country Market’ logo, should also have declared our ‘trader number’, and worse than that, a blanket price list just would not do. In future, another sticker should be applied – the third by now – with the item price in red.
Heads reeling by this time, and cheeks pinked with embarrassment, we began to assemble our float. All was quiet around us. Something else was wrong. The ‘craft’ organiser quietly took us aside and explained that we could only use their money…the float it seems is provided, all monies collected at the end of the morning and handed over to the… completely flummoxed and realising that my grasp of high finance was nowhere near the required standard, I abandoned Jill to get to grips with the ‘system’ and took myself off to find strong coffee.
To my great surprise and delight, each stall holder is allowed a free cup of coffee, and moreover, a chocolate digestive! Equanimity restored, I carried our goodies back to the stall where Jill looked more than ready for a sugar/caffeine hit. Confident that she now had all the required information at her fingertips, and alerted by the tinkle of a bell signifying that the market was now open for business, I turned my attention to the job in hand…selling our words.
It turns out that many people love the idea of poetry books being on sale at the market – as long as they didn’t have to buy one. Many perused, some even stood for ages reading, but nobody purchased a book. However, we did a roaring trade in cards and notebooks, and even came away with a ‘commission’ for a specific card to be designed and ready for the customer to buy next week.
We left at the end of the morning with a list of things we can do better and rules we must abide by as well as the notion that maybe the way forward is to use our poetic skills to write personalised poems for special occasions – Hallmark, eat your heart out! Still, if nothing else, the village now knows there are two poets in its midst and that is progress of a sort. Who knows, when they get to know us, they may even be tempted to buy a book…