You can’t judge a book by its cover

Once I realised that heady amounts of freelance work were not going to come my way in Deepest Sussex, I decided to make myself useful.

I looked around and saw the Oxfam bookshop was looking for volunteers.

I had always liked the idea of working in a bookshop but I thought more in terms of a venerable shop, owned and run by a venerable white-haired man with wonky venerable floorboard and lots of rare volumes.

Oxfam, I thought, would be more John Grisham (who actually is a great writer) at one end of the shelf and Joanna Trollope at the other.

I know that sounds snobbish but, be honest, what do you think when you think ‘charity bookshop’?

Anyway, we were both wrong.

It is fascinating – a whole lot more complex and interesting than I had thought.

If you become my regular reader, you will hear more about the Oxfam bookshop but here is just a taster.

Somewhere in the not too distant geography, there must be a retirement home for clergymen ( and perhaps some women) and they die. This means that every now and then we get a large donation of religious books: A Prayer for Every Day for Young Folk; Where Jesus Lived – 100 Images of the Holy Land; Finding God in the Countryside……

About one in three of these collections has a copy of the Karma Sutra ( with illustrations.)

At first I was surprised, now I look for it.

On that note, I found a book the other week called ‘A Fanfare of Strumpets.” Isn’t that a brilliant book title?

Whilst we are on the subject, we have a collection ( gathered from various donations) of 19th and early 20th century (mild) erotica. We have been wondering whether we could contact the other Oxfam bookshops in the area and ask them to send us what they get – they cannot , obviously, sell them in their shop – so we can amass a collection and sell to a dealer.

Petersfield Porn Emporia………….


Politics and Recipes

These days writing more than a shopping list or scrawled note of things to do seems to belong to another life.

One in which I managed to work, earn, create things, have an interesting social life and mix with people who voted Labour.

That was Peckham for you.

This is deepest Sussex and things look a bit different.

(Between Peckham and Sussex were Brussels and Paris so I can’t complain, and Sussex was a choice.)

But I hadn’t quite realised the extent to which the UKIP placards littering the countryside were not a post-modernist joke but heartily meant and deeply felt indications of what a lot of people round here think.

Just after we arrived here we went to a local open garden and met someone who told us,”I am the local UKIP honcho round here, don’t you know. You would be very welcome to join.”  My jaw dropped and my partner said, “Not really? Are you joking?” Coming from Brussels, we hadn’t realised UKIP activists were not mythological creatures. We beat a hasty retreat to the warm white wine on offer.

Nowadays, we think that someone who votes Tory is at least leaning a little to the left.

After a while of being here, I said to Peter who runs the village shop, that I was going to stand outside and accost everyone who walked out with The Guardian, begging them to be my friend.

“You won’t have many friends then,” he said.

You get used to it after a while – skirting round conversations in the pub and only occasionally tackling the more outrageous stances.

I do raise to the bait of immigration which seems to worry and annoy many of my neighbours to an unreasonable extent.

Considering there is no one, not one person of an ethnic minority living in the whole village and surrounding area, this seems a bit extreme.

According to the last census less than 1% of the population in Petersfield and surrounding villages were of an ethnic minority.

No amount of arguing that without immigrants the NHS would collapse, that the vast majority of immigrants want to earn a living (some doing jobs no one else wants to do) and bring up their family just like the rest of us, and that a considerable number of ‘Brits’ settle in a range of other countries, seems to make any difference.

So, we swim for safer conversational shores and talk about how to make a bug house, who is going for a dog walk in the morning and recipes for fennel salad….

(Use a mandolin if you have one, and finely slice a fennel bulb. Best if you remove any brown bits and the fronds first. Mix the juice of a lemon, some nice olive oil, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt and mix the fennel and dressing together. Sprinkle with parsley and some parmesan. Not much to it but a handy thing to have around and a darn sight safer to talk about.)

Anyway, back the beginning and this is longer than a shopping list and was quite nice to do, so I might do some more.