Tag Archives: Scotland

That was Then, This is Now

Jack’s weekly guest blog

Now that our cafe is up and running and proving successful, it’s worth taking a step to the side and assessing how our life has changed over the last couple of years.

Two years ago Wendy’s book hadn’t been published, we hadn’t done the ‘booking down the road trip’, I hadn’t turned the basement into a habitable space and we hadn’t even thought about a cafe.

The publication of the book and the search for a ‘store-sitter’ (hat tip to Andrew Whalen and Wesley Hearp) to allow us to go out and do signings around the country put the little bookstore on the map and quickly resulted in lots of people (individuals and groups) coming to see us and the shop. We’ve really enjoyed these visitors. About a week ago we got the farthest one yet, coming all the way from Washington State just to see the Little Bookstore for herself.

When we moved down to the basement, that cleared our upstairs area, which allowed us to consider expansion of one kind or another. With the demise of our beloved Mutual Pharmacy and Diner the kind of expansion we wanted was decided for us! The cafe has brought folks in who buy in the bookstore and vice versa – win-win all round.

So, how has our life changed?

We are far, far busier than we’ve ever been, not just as the bookstore but as individuals. We travel far more than we did, and we are in touch with a whole network of like-minded folks around the world. It’s actually quite strange in some ways – we arrived in a very rural place as outsiders who had traveled a fair bit, and settled into a quiet rural existence. Now we are back out traveling and occupying common ground with people all over the place.

Although we can always retreat to the basement we find we now enjoy sharing time and space with Kelley and Sam, who run the cafe on the second floor (hence the name Second Story Cafe). They arrive before we wake and sometimes leave after we’ve gone to bed.

We still have a guest bedroom, so we continue to have friends stay over from time to time, particularly musicians and storytellers from the United Kingdom. That’s a good anchor to our strange new lives.

And I sometimes, in the midst of the cafe and the shop and the visitors swirling around us, think about a famous Scottish proverb, and laugh. If ‘the De’il funds wark fir idle haunds’ then he wouldn’t find much fertile ground around here.

Y’all come see us – or, as we say in Scotland: Come Awa’ Ben.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

Hame, Sweet Hame…

Jack’s back! And so is his weekly Wednesday blog post.

East, West, hame’s best! (That’s “home” fer those amang ye wha’ cannae speak Scots.)

Ah, but which hame?

Avid readers will know that I take a group of Scotophiles over to the old country every June. This year was the sixth such trip and it was as enjoyable as ever – a lovely group of seven folk (should have been eight but one had to call off at the last minute for health reasons). We were carried all round Scotland and the North East corner of Ireland in the trusty seventeen seat bus driven by our equally trusty driver and co-guide Colin Stuart, meeting such talented and interesting people as Liz Weir, Pete Clark, Jock Duncan, Doli McLennan, Robin Morton and Alison Kinnaird. (Look ‘em up; you’ll be glad you did!)

I always go a few days early to stay with Colin just outside my hometown, Dunfermline, but every year when I drive through the place I find they’ve added another roundabout and another couple of traffic lights – it’s a complete nightmare. Buildings that were much loved landmarks have disappeared. In other words, it’s not my home any more.

Meanwhile, back in Big Stone Gap, Wendy waits quietly until I depart before organizing all our friends into a work-crew and completely re-organizing the bookstore. I get hints via email and blog posts, but it never really prepares me. I may not come back to new roundabouts and traffic lights, but shelves have danced ’round about to new positions, she does a lot of traffic with yard sales, chairs have descended the stairs, and half our furniture is waiting patiently in the basement until I complete the work down there.

In other words, it’s not my home any more….

But you see what I said there? I mentioned friends – on both sides of the Atlantic. Ah – now friends are a lot more important than roundabouts, traffic lights, buildings and furniture. So I still have two hames, in the East and the West, and will have as long as I have friends there.

Then there’s that special friend who waits ’til I’ve gone before re-organizing the bookstore. Wherever she is, is truly hame!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Scotland