It was Thursday and, honestly, I was missing home and ready for a rest! But my list didn’t agree.
So, my first stop was a return visit to the Little Apple Bookshop on High Petergate, in York. But the news was disappointing. The owner was friendly enough but his reluctance to stock Oranges and Lemons was clear, although he said he’d keep the publisher information sheet in case anyone asked him to order the book, which, I suppose, was a fair concession. My feeling was, he’d have liked the reassurance of a mainstream publisher and, of course, I accept, booksellers must make their own shrewd business decisions. Therefore, mildly miffed, it was time to move on.
The Castle Museum was the next stop but on impulse I decided to go into Mulberry Hall. You may remember that Mulberry Hall forms part of the setting for Oranges and Lemons. In the story, it’s where the little Victorian, Adeline, lives, in 1863. The former china shop now houses the German Christmas store, Kathe Wohlfahrt, where every decorative yuletide item you could dream of is artfully arranged throughout a series of cavern-like, squinty rooms, each with a theme. Entering the shop in March feels odd but, with a weird sense of empathy for temporarily abandoned goods and some relief that Christmas shopping could be forgotten for a while, I strolled through, following the clear pathway to the till point, where I found a friendly young redhead. I chatted with her and her manager and we exchanged our knowledge of some of the ghost stories of York. The assistant said she’d love to read Oranges and Lemons but the manager said all stock decisions were made in Germany. She took my publisher information sheet and promised she’d email Head Office, warning me to expect a slow response time, and wishing me success all the same. Something struck me at that moment. Throughout the week, I’d had numerous conversations with people about the book. Surely, that meant, if nothing else, awareness of its existence was growing.
Slowly. Very slowly.
The Castle Museum, a long-established folk history museum in York, would be my last car-free destination that day. It was a childhood favourite of mine and I even went to a concert there once, held in Kirkgate, a mocked-up Victorian street with shops and costumes, a jail and a horse and carriage. The museum shop has a good range of books, many with a Victorian theme, but sadly, there was no one available to speak to, so an email would have to follow later. Another item for my to-do list when I got home.
I was in the car by midday and headed north-west for Ripon, a small market town near Harrogate. There, at The Little Ripon Bookshop, I was once again unable to speak to the owner, so I left my information sheet and said I’d call the following week. (I’ve since done so and the owner has said she will look into my book. Yay and fingers crossed!) I couldn’t resist a photograph of yet another sweet little bookshop, just for the collection.
I was walking back to the car when I stumbled on another shop, one I hadn’t known about. It would be crazy not to try it. And, there, at the Henry Roberts Bookshop, I found a semi-retired manager whose first reaction to Oranges and Lemons was, “I’d stock this on the cover alone!” A conversation ensued in which it turned out we’d both had relatives living in the same various parts of North and West Yorkshire, right down to knowing the same districts and street names!
Subsequently, the visit led to Oranges and Lemons being vetted by the new, incoming manager of the shop. We talked on the phone two days ago. Apparently, she is loving the story, is desperate to know how it will end and. . . it’s likely that she’ll buy a number of copies! I was glad I’d taken a different route back to the car, otherwise I wouldn’t have known of the shop’s existence.
After a hasty packed-lunch, I left Ripon and drove to Harrogate. I hadn’t been there since I was around eleven or twelve and other than knowing it had the largest and first of Yorkshire’s six Bettys Café Tea Rooms, the town was mostly unfamiliar to me. Whereas, I’d known Bettys all my life. There is a large branch in York. But this one, larger still, sat proudly on Parliament Street in Harrogate, its shining windows revealing a dark interior packed with tables of smart customers having afternoon tea. If you don’t know Bettys, imagine an upmarket cake and coffee shop, with waitresses in white broderie anglaise blouses and waiters in black waistcoats, weaving between the tables carrying loaded cake stands and steaming coffee pots. Imagine oak panelling, leather and linen upholstery and silver-plated teapots; and imagine a cake counter several metres in length where glass shelves bulge with the prettiest cakes, pastries and chocolates waiting to be boxed and the boxes tied with ribbon. . . and that’s Bettys! And finally, if you can imagine a large, indulgent concoction somewhere between a rock cake and a scone, decorated with two plump cherries for eyes and a curve of almonds for a mouth, you have one of my all-time favourite treats: the Fat Rascal!
Once I was able to peel myself off the window, I went over the road and into the bookshop called Imagined Things, possibly the smallest I’ve ever seen, but again, the owner was absent and I left information with the assistant. I didn’t feel much confidence about that one. It was so small and would be very limited in terms of stock, but at least I’d tried.
I craved a cup of tea but I wanted to reach Skipton, my next stop, before dark, and the weather was turning squally, so I returned to the car and drove west along the A59 as the snow began. I settled on the first public car park I reached and handed over some coins to the attendant in his cabin at the entrance. Then I looked up the bookshop only to find that, although it had a Skipton address, it was about ten miles away in Grassington! I got out of the car anyway, ever the Yorkshire lass (I’d paid for my parking; I wasn’t going to leave without seeing something of the town), and trudged along the pedestrian walkway through sharp, spitting sleet. I scrutinized the shopfronts feeling certain such a quaint town would spring another surprise bookstore on me, but none was there, so, disappointed, I spun around, with my head down into the wind, and scuttled back to the car.
As I drove north, the shower fizzled out and was replaced with a peep of sunshine. My desire to be a tourist – but not having the time – was achingly acute as I arrived in the tiny and exquisite little Yorkshire Dales town of Grassington. All the dwellings, in their uniform of ubiquitous sandstone, were now the colour of butter, bathed as they were in late afternoon brightness. And there at the bottom of The Square, which was more like a triangle, was my destination, The Stripy Badger Bookshop. And it was 5pm and the sales assistant had just flipped over the closed sign and locked the door. But the door of the Stripey Badger Café next door was still open, so, armed with my ever-growing opportunism, I stepped inside and found that the bookshop and café were interconnected. A friendly gent greeted me as a woman cleaned the café counters ready for closing, and, guess what, I’d just missed the owner by about five minutes!
It seemed that narrowly missing people was the main theme running through my week. Perhaps that’s one good reason for arranging meetings in advance with booksellers; maybe I should have planned ahead more rigorously. Even so, I’d achieved a lot. But right then, I still had the drive back across the dales and I knew I’d be hitting some heavy traffic as well as various roadworks. I was aware I was beginning to mentally dilute my grand plans for the next day, my last in Yorkshire. I was pretty tired and I wanted to get back to my sister’s to eat and sleep. But there’s always time for one more photograph, isn’t there. . .
Just one day to go then, in my hectic week. My head and my notebook were full of thoughts, names and further actions to take. I'd given out lots of information sheets, some books and my own contact details.
Would I be able to drive back to Glasgow on Saturday content that I'd done my best to get my book sales off to a decent start?
And how would it feel to do the same all over again, but in Scotland?
Once again, thanks for reading. I'll post the last day of my tour today, along with this one, and then I'll be having a break from blogging for a few weeks but I'll let you know when I'm up and running again, and hopefully by then, we'll have some lovely spring weather to enjoy!
Until then. . . be well and happy!