Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Special: Shop Girl Competition

There are 5 to give away!

Whether you were the Customer, Sales Assistant or (not so) innocent Bystander – I would love to hear your funny or most unusual shop story! As short as you like but no longer than blog size (400 words):

e-mail your stories to emily@emilybenet.com

by Thursday 27th May

The best five will be published on my blog and win a signed copy of Shop Girl Diaries. Everyone who enters will receive a discount code for books at Salt Publishing.com.

JUDGES: Shop Girl’s Mum – my favourite, most discerning, no-nonsense editor (with a huge sense of humour) and myself, Emily Benet aka Shop Girl.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Shop Girl, the Egg, the Candlestick and the Basket

I can’t sleep.
It’s the effect of winning the Author Blog Award.
I’m too excited and I want to DO stuff.
I want to plot my novel.
I’ve got an idea now I just need a dollop of time.
I thought about writing it in the shop.
I'll start as soon as the two women stop dithering over the brass miniatures, I thought.
It’s three for a pound and I’ve written the offer on a giant label.
For some reason people take longer deciding over these ornaments than over a five hundred pound crystal chandelier.
“A pound for one?” one of them asked.
“No, a pound for three pieces.”
“Which three?”
“Any three.”
Uncertain what to do with the brass eggs they tried balancing them on top of the mini candlestick.
“What about this?” one said, holding up a brass basket.
“Yes, you can have three of those, or mix them up.”
“How much is it?”
“Three for a pound.”
This is more than a £1.00 of my time, I thought. Then realised it probably wasn’t.
Apart from writing my novel, I also want to learn stuff about applications and widgets and embedding.
I’m suddenly bored of saying I’m not technical.
Why can’t I be technical?
I’m the sort of girl that gets excited about a good pair of wire strippers. Surely I can learn this computer stuff.
Furthermore, I’m determined to understand twitter. I wasn’t bothered about it until my blog got short-listed and I suddenly realised the time had come to embrace it.
So far I write a tweet and think what a stupid tweet that was.
Then I wish I could delete the tweet.
But to delete it you have to write a new tweet.
So I do.
Then I think what a stupid tweet that was.
So I tweet again.
Oh look, I have one less follower.
The mistake is to care so much.
It's just the excitement of having my blog noticed by so many people.
I’ll calm down soon enough.
I might even get offline for five minutes and scribble the plot for this new novel on good old pen and paper.
I’ll start when the next lot of women are finished choosing their ornaments.
They’ll be stuck between the egg, the candlestick and the basket.
They won’t realise they can have all three for a pound.
It’s so silly I might even tweet about it.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Shop Girl and The Cloud of Unknowing

The ashy plume of the naughty Icelandic volcano has affected half the shop's staff.
Mum is grounded in Spain.
Being a good daughter I would gladly make the awful sacrifice and swap places with her.
But since that’s not possible I’m stuck in the shop.
On Saturday this is particularly painful because the sun is shining.
I worry that this is the one day of British summer and I’m going to miss it.
As I look longingly towards the door, a man approaches carrying his daughter on his shoulders.
I expect him to get her down but either he has no sense of measure like me or he’s forgotten she’s up there because he walks right in.
Bang goes her head against the door frame.
“SH*T!” I say.
Part of me wants to laugh out loud.
The man gives me a dirty look as he gets her down and she rubs her head looking dazed.
“I’m fine daddy,” she says, walking in circles.
I think he’s more concerned by my swearing than the fact he’s concussed his daughter.
He doesn’t stay long.
A woman charges in after that. She wants a disposable camera.
I make a point of looking around at the chandeliers before telling her we don’t sell them.
“Damn!” she says, and I’m surprised she held so much hope.
Perhaps we should sell them. Good weather is bad for lighting sales.
Who switches on their lights when it’s sunny?
As usual, people pop in to ask about our epic Closing sale.
“Closing?” a man observes. “Can I have something for charity?”
He’s well-dressed and has neither a badge nor a clip board.
He just wants free stuff.
“Not really,” I say.
“I thought this was a nice shop,” he says.
“I can’t just give you stuff. It doesn’t work like that.”
“But you’re closing down.”
“I still need to eat.”
He looks disappointed but manages to muster a blessing before he leaves.
I’d have preferred a tea.
To tell you the truth, a part of me is curious to see how far this volcano can change our lives.
On the other hand, much longer of being alone and I’ll start talking to the chandeliers.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Measure of Shop Girl

When customers come in searching for a light fitting, the question that can often help them decide is:
“How high is your ceiling?”
I ask this even though I know full well that I’ll be confused by their answer.
They squint up at the shop ceiling, “Oh, about 8ft 2.”
I nod knowingly but inside I’m a blank.
I have no sense of measurement.
All I know is that a tall man is about 6ft.
That becomes my starting point.
8ft 2 is taller than a tall man, perhaps even significantly taller depending on how big a foot is, which must mean that the customer’s ceiling is tall enough to allow for a light fitting with a slight drop.
At which point I should suggest an appropriate chandelier.
But I don’t because in that crucial moment my mind is too busy panicking to follow my ‘tall man’ logic.
Instead I buy time by asking for an alternative measurement.
“And in centimetres?” I ask, “I went to school in Spain.”
Actually I didn’t move to Barcelona until I was 14, by which point I should’ve probably learnt about feet.
Annoyingly the customer is unfazed and gives me the metric measure without hesitation.
“Aaah,” I say, smiling, “that makes sense now.”
I still don’t have a clue.
That said, our lights are measured in centimetres and metres so I suppose I have become more comfortable with the metric system.
The widths of our most popular chandeliers are 35cm, 40cm and 50cm.
When people give me a measurement of something, I visualise a chandelier that’s closest to it in centimetres and then imagine that item a bit smaller or bigger.
Like a TV screen.
If someone is talking about a 38cm TV screen then I can more or less picture a 35 cm crystal cascade chandelier and get a rough idea of the size.
Except, when does anyone talk about a 38cm TV screen?
They don’t. They always use inches.
6 inches must be a very short man.
Thankfully not all our customers are geniuses and know the exact answer to the ‘how high is your ceiling?’ question.
Some are more on my level.
“Normal size,” they reply.
Or they stretch their arms in the air and wave, “About here.”
Or, “About as high as your ceiling, but lower.”
And, “It’s your traditional Victorian house but split in two.”
Or “I can touch it if I’m standing on the bed.”
In the end I just point at different lights until they get excited about one of them.
If the light fitting does hang too low, I suggest pushing a coffee table underneath it.
“That’s a good idea,” some say.
Not such a good idea for the bathroom perhaps.

P.S There's only 2 days left to Vote for me in the Author Blog Awards 2010! Each vote makes a huge difference so please don't forget to do it!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Shop Girl and the Little Tweeter

The shop is full of bird cages.
A new pub is opening and the owner wants them wired up.
The cages are boot-sale dirty with traces of their long gone feathery occupants.
One still seems to have half a bird attached to the perch.
Mum and I don’t make a move to touch them.
“They need a clean,” Mum says.
“I can do that later,” says our client.
On closer inspection, the bird is not stuffed but silk.
“Well it really should be done before we start work,” Mum says.
Normally we’d already be fiddling about with the potential lumiere. We can cope with normal dirt and nicotine but seeds and birdshit is another matter.
“I just need a rough idea,” our pub man says. “They’re not that dirty.”
“Yes, but it’s not just ordinary dirt it’s birds’ dirt.”
He looks confused.
“Avian flu,” Mum says with authority.
The thought makes me step back a little.
I feel itchy. I wonder if I’ve already got it.
“What do you want me to do then?” he asks tartly. “Take them away and clean them?”
He hadn’t banked on us getting all health and safety. It doesn’t last long.
“No it’s okay,” Mum says.
As ever, we’re too nice to put him through the hassle even if it means becoming the source of an epidemic in South London.
He says he wants the cages wrapped.
“Like Christo,” Mum says later. “You know, the one who wrapped half of Australia up in plastic.”
Mum suggests hanging CD’s in them to reflect the light.
So here’s the brief: a boot-sale birdcage with a light bulb hanging in the middle, surrounded by dangling CD’s on fishing wire wrapped up in a net curtain.
A few days later she sets to work scrubbing them.
As usual when someone brings in something battered and in need of repair, the other customers all want to buy it.
“How much is the birdcage with the CD’s?” they ask, one after another.
It spurs on the cyclical conversation of getting into design lighting.
Mum suggests doing a whole range of unusual, one off pieces.
“That’s great if you’re prepared to work for long hours at risk of getting no money,” I say, which reminds me I’m still writing.
“How are book Sales going?” customers will ask, fingering the pages of the copy I’ve placed strategically on the shop counter.
“Slowly,” I say.
They examine my picture on the front cover, then return the book to the pile and smile.
“Well, Good Luck with it.”
I wouldn’t need luck if they bought it.
Inevitably, after not buying my book, they ask how much the birdcage is.