Convalescent Homes

I know someone who has left hospital about 10 days after he had a major operation – losing quite a lot of his internal ‘stuff.’

He is going home to a small house with his wife and four kids – two of them under two.

He should be in a convalescent home, looked after by nuns and nurses who feed him chicken broth and get him to sit outside in the sunshine.

But they don’t exist any longer – maybe they do for those who have Swiss accounts with HSBC but not for the likes of us.

Surely the re-introduction of convalescent homes would ease the bed-blocking crises, the failure of getting the right social care support.

Surely, a convalescent home would be a cheaper option for the state than a high-cost hospital bed. Maybe we could even be asked, heresy of heresy for someone of my political views, to pay a bit towards it.

I thought I’d better check whether I was right and there were no convalescent homes around – and indeed I was wrong.

There is one on the Sussex coast and very nice it looks too but it costs a minimum of £650 a week.

In Belgium it is part of the deal when you have a big operation and I know they have a different system but it surely (yes I know I have said ‘surely’ quite a lot) would be something the Government should consider.

So, if any parliamentary candidate makes it to this small out of the way corner, I shall raise the issue as they say.

Unlikely though.

We don’t even get Jehovah’s Witnesses here. Actually, our window cleaner turns out be a JW but he has never done more than discuss the recipe for the large piece of banana cake he had.


Katharine Adams

So, I was tracking down a book-binder in the hope that I had lit upon a book-binding treasure.

I contacted the Society of Bookbinders and asked them, and a very nice man called Mel emailed back to say he thought he recognised the signature, but would consult with a man who would know.

It turns out the lovely little book (see below) that I wanted to take home and stroke, was bound by Katharine Adams.

She was born in 1862 and her childhood friends included the daughters of William Morris and she moved in the Arts and Crafts movement circles.

Eventually she established the Eadburgh Bindery in Gloucestershire and employed two women assistants. (Apparently it was difficult for women to get into book-binding in those days because male book-binders were not keen to apprentice them.)

Not surprisingly then, she was largely self-taught and made her own tools to make her bindings which were usually intricate, with fine gold details.

She exhibited around the world and became president of the Women’s Guild of Art and she died in 1952 having completed about 300 bindings.

And we have one of them in the shop. It is not intricate and detailed, but it is lovely.

The man who identified her mark, might be interested in buying it but I can’t ask a potential seller to value it, so now I have to find out what it is worth and sell it.

According to the UNHCR, about nine million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war, taking refuge in neighbouring countries or within Syria itself. More than three million have fled to Syria’s immediate neighbours – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq and more than six million are internally displaced within Syria.

Here is a link to some of their stories

IMG_1135 So, we need Katharine Adams to raise as much money as possible.

A Small Chance of Work

I have a small amount of work to do. At least I have some irons in the fire. Or at the very least, I have a paper clip and a couple of twigs to rub together.

It has so far necessitated getting up, dressing up a bit, looking professional and going to a meeting – and that hasn’t happened in a while I can tell you.

It has also required some very rusty mental cogs to work again and as things stand, it has been gratifying to realise that they can get into action, albeit a bit slowly and after some significant displacement activity.

Yes, yes I did need to go for a very long walk and make a chicken pie, but eventually I got down to it.

And indeed it felt good.

All I need now is the go ahead to do the full piece of work, some promise of money and someone to do it with me.

It is not that I cannot write an interactive case study for 100 PhDs, I have done it before, many times and with some success I can modestly assert.

But I am someone who works and thinks and gets energised into action so much better in a group of people than one my own.

This of course, has a direct bearing on the fact that I have not generated much at all in the way of work – I need some workmates and that isn’t what happens when you are self-employed, on your own, in Deepest Sussex.

Oxfam Bumper Week Part II

As I had the Old Book Expert in the shop with me – checking the value of the £700 book ( see previous blog if you are interested) – he said we could together go through the teetering pile of books that I could not value.

Of course, most were nowhere near as valuable or exciting as I had thought, but one was really interesting.

Another thing you may not know about books, is that sometimes it is the binding that matters – not the book.

There are very famous binders and they leave a very tiny mark on the book – so small you can easily miss it.

It is one of the many interesting things I have learned from the Old Book Expert and here was a lovely little book.

It was something you wanted to hold in your hand. It was soft and smooth and it had a binder’s mark.

The book, he said, was of no interest but that didn’t mean much. Often bookbinders will just take a book and bind it for the sake of having a nice bound book.

The mark looks like it is Arts and Crafts style and the date is right but is it the work of an amateur who has created something very nice indeed, or is it the work of someone well known in that period and worth a lot?

We don’t know.

So, I have contacted The Society of Bookbinders in the hope they can enlighten me but it seems they are not people who feel the need to read or reply to emails with any great speed. That, no doubt is because they practice a craft which is slow, carefully done, craftsmanship – and they don’t feel the need to respond to some woman from an Oxfam shop.

We will have to wait and one day I shall find out if this delightful, gorgeous little book is worth a lot or a little.

If it is a little, it will be bought by me and stroked of an evening.IMG_1127

Finally, of this bumper week of Oxfam excitement a signed copy.

I am not sure I really understand the interest in signed copies of books if they are not dedicated to you or someone really famous like Dickens, but they do sell so I have one of my many boxes dotted around the upstairs rooms of the shop assigned to signed copies.

I found The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald which was signed. I am a huge Fitzgerald fan and she didn’t write a lot of books – but each one is a jewel as far as I am concerned.

So, for the first time, I was interested in a signed book even though I had never met her and she had certainly not signed it for me.

I was going to push the boat out and pay the £10 I thought it might be worth.

There is currently only one for sale on the internet – hardback and first edition – and it is nearly £700.

Now, before we all get too excited, it is from an American seller and they always inflate the prices and I think s/he may also have inflated the price because s/he has the only one for sale.

Even so, it won’t be coming home with me anytime soon.

So, if you know the bookbinder with the mark in the picture, please let me know and if you want to buy

The Gate of Angels for, let’s be generous, £500, do let me know.

The Sopranos and Square Book of Animals

This week in Oxfam has been rather a bumper one.

I think I may mentioned the very nice woman who donated some art books – well they boosted our sales nicely – and that is not a phrase which is usually on the lips in January.

Then there was the complete set of the Sopranos – all 28 DVDs in a box set. But we couldn’t sell them in the shop because they were not properly certificated for sale in the UK. No PG or whatever.

But it happened that Rosemary who ‘does’ the DVDs was in at the same time as me and asked if I wanted them.

(I like the Sopranos but stuck with French telly – hopeless – we rather got into box sets and had done the whole series more than once and back here of course there are the delights of Antiques Roadshow and Broadchurch.)

Anyway, I thought maybe I could sell them on ebay under my name and put the proceeds through the shop. So I brought them home, stuck them on for thirty quid and sold them within half an hour. Not bad.

All good things come in threes, as another volunteer told me, and she was right.

I had put to one side a children’s book which had been one of the few things rescued from a less than enticing donation and on Thursday I got round to rootling it out from under a pile to have a look online.

Now, what you may not know, is that books with nice illustrations are often valuable and this one had a series of rather lovely simple paintings of animals. (It is called The Square Book of Animals, which pretty much sums it up.)

But we have strict rules in the shop about childrens’ books being of very good quality in terms of their condition so a book like this – aged and a bit battered – could easily have got thrown away.

I was expecting say £20 and would have been happy with £10. So imagine my surprise when the cheapest one on the net was £800.

I rang our Old Book Expert and he duly came post haste and confirmed what I had found. (Most of the time, I get very excited about something and he has to dampen my enthusiasm and tell me it is worth £4.99.)

It turns out William Nicholson went on to be a significant artist and this was an early work and there are not many around.

So, here we are with a treasure and as I suspect there are not many people in Petersfield with the inclination to pay £700 for a book, it will go online.

And now I have to fess up to something.

Oxfam have decided to up our online sales targets by 10% in the next financial year. This is a lot when you are dependent on what people give you, and that is never certain.

Our financial year ends of March 31st. £700 is the most expensive book we have ever found. And do you know what, I simply won’t find the time to put it on the internet until Wednesday April 1st.

Observant readers will have noticed that this is only the second of the three good things but I must break off to feed the dog and man so the next installment will follow.IMG_1126

Town Planning with Birds

Last week was freezing and the birds were lined up pleadingly. I suspect they got together and asked the robin to sing its heart out on top of the arch over the gate to get us to break out with another round of fat balls.

Today, there is just a touch of spring in the air – not to be relied on of course – but it does remind you that it won’t be long before they are dashing about with estate agent prospectuses in their beaks looking for a nice place to build starter homes.

The Virginia creeper was a fave with the blackbirds and one year we woke up to find that the bit near our bedroom window had collapsed, exposing a nest of startled blackbird fledglings. Nick propped it back up, and all was well.

The following year though, we had building work done and they had to make do with the climbing Hydrangea – but everyone has to downsize now and then.

We put one of those nest boxes with a camera in it (a nice Christmas present from the son) in just the place they used.

Not a dicky bird as they say.

Nests built above and below it, but an assiduous avoidance of being watched.

The back hedge though is the garden’s housing estate with numerous sparrows and tits in residence.

They make a great racket so I presume there are neighbour boundary disputes and the avian equivalent of kids of bikes and BBQs in the back garden.

The only time it is ever quiet is when the Sparrow Hawk comes over. It is an impressive sight to see every little sparrow face clamp its beak shut and dive for cover.

The Sparrow Hawk uses the back hedge like a tapas bar  – but then its name is rather a give away.

Anyway, all this is leading to the fact that we have to cut a significant section out of that back hedge if we are to build the platform which will be the basis of our George Clark style Amazing Space.

We have a fabulous view from a ladder perched against that hedge but want something a little more stable and able to accommodate more than one person at once.

I have visions of something which will act as a spare bedroom-cum- study-cum- place to sit on a small verandah watching the Downs.

The man himself is starting out with a platform and a couple of deck chairs.

Either way, if we are to build it, the hedge needs to come down and before the residents start re-building their nests.

I hasten to add , there are plenty of other hedges all round the garden but persuading someone to reduce their recreational space so you can squeeze in a three-chick home next twig, may take some negotiating.

Black Sacks

January seems to be a good time to clear out all your old books. Some of course come brown and damp direct from a garage to our shop and thence, very quickly, to a re-cycling dump.

Some come carefully packed in boxes and then I feel more sad about putting them into white sacks and sending them off to the dump – but we really cannot sell the AA Road Atlas of Great Britain published in 1972.

Others bring in say 10 boxes and ask for the boxes back so we have to de-box all the books there and then – never much fun and they usually arrive five minutes before closing time.

Some come in black bags and when someone rings to say they have a lot of books and will we take them and then say they are in black bags, your heart sinks just as you say, ‘Brilliant, thank you, how many is a lot?’ And you are told, ‘ About forty or more feet of them.’

Well the bags came in and there were a lot. But, and this dear reader is a very rare occurrence, they were absolutely brilliant.

Art books. Lots of art books. All in pristine condition and all interesting – and all very saleable. And even more delightful, the woman who brought them in – clearing out her parents’ house – said she had been directed by them to only bring them to the Oxfam bookshop in Petersfield and be sure to sign up for Gift Aid (which means we get 25% more on every sale from the Government.)

So, having looked them all up and pricing them, we decided to do a window full of art books and as we were piling them up on the table ready to put in the window, people were buying them left, right and centre.

Usually, January in the bookshop is a quiet month – no one has any money left and books – even second hand ones are not high on the priority list.

This amazing gift to our shop has meant we have had a better January than anyone can remember.

So thank you, whoever you are, for getting the books to us. Thank you to your parents for loving art books, caring for them and making sure they got to us. We are never again going to be as despondent when we get a load of black plastic bags.