It was one of those days. I was rushing. Didn’t have the printout I needed with my ticket confirmation codes on it. Arrived late in Swindon. Missed the connection to Kemble. Had to hurtle cross-country in a taxi (£78 yikes) to get to Westonbirt School. Realized I was starving, so grabbed a scone as big as my head and a cup of tea at the station and tried to do sudoku in the back of the cab (mistake) to relax. Arrived shaking and sick, with three minutes to spare, at a school that looked a lot like Blenheim Palace. Gorgeous enthusiastic girls. God knows what I jabbered at the poor things for an hour.
Then whoosh to The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury, who are sponsoring their first literary festival, where I met the lovely Hereward (it’s an Anglo-saxon name) who confessed that he’d had a dream about me the night before. Something in his expression, however, suggested that by ‘dream’ he actually meant ‘nightmare’. There had been a rather extensive e-mail correspondence and I’m sure that in the dream, I was bludgeoning the poor man with a laptop.
In passing, I asked if he had a copy of Kipling’s Captain’s Courageous in stock, because I’d decided the day before that I had to read it. They didn’t, but would be happy to order it. Great.
Next, off to a lovely evening event at the Quaker meeting house in Nailsworth, then a mad dash to make the 8:30 train home. But not before Hereward handed me a small package, beautifully wrapped.
It’s not unusual for bookshops to send a visiting writer off with a gift book — but when I opened this one, it turned out to be an original copy of, yes, Captain’s Courageous — from 1897. It takes a lot to make me cry. And I still don’t know how the man did it (he mumbled something about an antiquarian bookseller friend in town).
I’m sorry about the nightmare, Hereward. The book is one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received. And if anyone reading this blog lives anywhere near Nailsworth or Tetbury, please go immediately and introduce yourself to Hereward or Sarah or Louise at the Yellow-Lighted Bookshop — and buy lots and lots of books.