Category Archives: Big Stone Gap

Worth their Salt

 Jack’s guest post is actually on Wednesday

My last guest post was about the satisfaction of completing work that I’d spent five years learning as an apprentice painter and decorator.

This one is about the importance of leaving some tasks to other professionals –

The last time we had heavy rain here, which is almost two months ago, we noticed we had a couple of roof leaks. They were in complicated corners of our main roof which had been completely re-shingled about five years ago. This is not my specialty at all, and I no longer have the head for heights that I used to, so it was time to call in the expert. I have the good fortune to be friends with the owner of the biggest construction company around here and he had previously put me in touch with his preferred roofing guy. He came promptly, explained that he was in the middle of a big contract but checked the problem areas and promised to take care of them as soon as possible. Lo and behold, he arrived yesterday, carried out work with no fuss and today it has rained heavily all day with no signs of leaks. The rain is welcome, of course, as it was needed to douse the wild fires over in Tennessee.

This past weekend we spent with Wendy’s parents in Knoxville, where her brother in law Dennis was working most of the time trying to diagnose and fix a long-standing problem with the heat pump (he knows about this stuff). When we got back here on Monday evening we discovered that our heat pump was acting up. I phoned the local company who had installed it three years ago and their engineer came this morning, established the problem and had it working again within an hour.

In both cases the communication ahead of the work was first class, which is something else that I consider a very good sign. I was taught, during my training, as much about customer care as I was about the techniques of applying paint, hanging wallpaper or working safely at heights.

What’s the ‘take-away’ from this?

Know your limitations, trust professionals and don’t grudge paying them their worth, take advice where you can on the reputation of these professionals and treat them with respect. They will have earned your respect and loyalty.

Here’s to my fellow professionals whoever and wherever they are!

3 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

The Monday Book: QUICK, BEFORE THE MUSIC STOPS by

janet-carlsonThe test of a really good book is when the author makes you interested in something you don’t particularly care about. This book was left in our cabin at some point by someone staying there, and on a writing weekend, just to have a diversion, I picked it up.

Mostly I wanted to see how Carlson would handle a subject not everyone can connect with, but the writing style and her very gentle use of dancing as a metaphor for human relationships reeled me in. Yeah, dancing couple as married/courting steps is not a far stretch, but her blunt writing with the delicacy of describing human emotions were a nice juxtaposition.

Carlson tells how her marriage dissolved, how dancing kept her busy and diverted her attention toward other men, for good or ill, and how she got her groove back. And she makes it interesting – not too much technical information, but she she needs to describe how she had a head-on on the dance floor, she gives you just enough detail to be able to see it in your mind.

And although she uses a very obvious allegory as the overall premise of the book, there aren’t many cliches in her. Dancing backwards in high heels is not recurring as “pity me” stuff. The Russian Dance Master who is slightly mysogynist is not a straw man for all men.

I really enjoyed this book, as much for the writing as what she was writing about. Jack and I ceilidh dance socially, but that’s a far cry from this world. So kudos to Carlson for bringing her readers into her world with such elegance. She made it look easy. :]

 

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

Dae ye need yer old lobby washed down?

Jack’s guest post is a wee bit late this week, but here’s why –

I started my working life by serving a five-year apprenticeship as a painter and decorator in my Dad’s firm, and then eventually took it over and ran it. Finally, I started teaching apprentices in the local college and ended up as Head of the construction Dept.

Nowadays as I redecorate around the bookstore I often reflect on the things I learned along the way that help reduce the time each takes. What I’m talking about is, of course, after emptying the room and before refilling it.

img_1475

On Tuesday I emptied out my office/studio and on Thursday I put everything back, so I had one day to paint the ceiling, walls and woodwork (two windows, two doors and the baseboard). Being a 1903 house the doors were paneled and with moldings, while the baseboards were deep.

What I noticed as I worked were a number of things –

1 – how much time had been spent learning brush skills; how to work equally well right or left handed; how to load just enough paint on the brush; how to cut in neatly between different colors on walls and ceiling and baseboards.

2 – That I knew how to load and use a roller without spraying paint around.

3 – that I knew the order in which to paint a four paneled door – moldings, panels, rails and stiles.

4 – that I knew how to apply paint evenly enough to maximize the chances of covering in one coat.

Wendy was impressed that I didn’t have any paint spots on my clothes or shoes, or on the floor. She asked if I’d enjoyed it, and I had to think about it. That’s when all these thoughts came to me – had I enjoyed it? Not especially, but it was very satisfying.

The worst thing was clearing out the room, because I kept discovering long forgotten things and just had to sit and read or look at them. Just as bad was deciding what should go back, what should go the attic and what should get dumped.

img_1479

Lest this sound as though I’m back in the game, however, anyone needs a room painted I suggest you consult yellow pages!

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, Life reflections, Uncategorized

Toilet Yarn Bombing is Da Bomb

whoville-2016-035It’s not often that one gets to yarnbomb one’s own toilet.

Now that I have your attention…. :]

Jack and I took yesterday to get into the Whoville Spirit of things for the holidays here in Big Stone. The whole town has a Who theme going – I keep waiting for someone to display an album cover of Roger Daltry, but so far, everyone is behaving.

who-bugThere were days when one could join the cutout painting brigade, but with our crazy schedules, Jack and I had to handmake our contribution. So naturally it involved yarn.whoville-2016-036

Welcome to the Bookstore Whoville 2016, ladies and gentlemen! Flash photography allowed. And Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Since I live with a Scot, it’s a somewhat mixed bag here.

horton

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: ENDGAME by James Frey

well-this-sucksOh dear God in Heaven, Frey, you make up a memoir about drug addiction and somebody gives you the keys to a fictitious city????

How many ways is Endgame bad – the writing that has characters doing abrupt turns from their previous hopes and dreams, all in the space of one sentence? The conceit of hiding a treasure hunt inside, along the lines of that golden rabbit buried a couple decades back, and getting people to buy the book so they can do the math and be one of the treasure hunters? The really, really stupid plot device of 12 ancient lines who all know about themselves but not each other, and who have successfully passed this secret from family to family without anybody else knowing? Kids killing each other – wow, where did you get such a great new idea in YA fantasy?

Shall I go on, or do we now have enough reasons to leave James Frey’s book alone? He’s the guy who wrote A Million Little Pieces in which he claimed to have had dental surgery without anesthetic, crawled into a crack house within weeks of getting clean in order to carry his girlfriend out and enroll her in a program holding a spot for her, and been taken into the fold of a gangster who treated him as a son during their rehab. At the time I was reading Pieces I was working with addicts in a literacy program, and I remember thinking about halfway through the book, “No way, man. He’s lying.” Which turned out to be what everyone else thought, too.

Give it up, world. There is no taste, no truth, and no future. The Sky Gods are coming for us all, unless we’re one of those ancient lines or found the golden rabbit.

Short version: this book sucks.

Leave a comment

Filed under bad writing, between books, Big Stone Gap, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, post-apocalypse fiction, reading, Sarah Nelson, Uncategorized, writing, YA fiction

Nothing is Scarier than a Blank Page -except maybe an Untold Story

blank-page1Jack and I are holed up at the cabin this weekend so I can get back to my book. It’s been so long, it feels like starting over in some ways. And it’s true, there is nothing scarier than a blank page.

The good thing about the cabin is, no Internet. Which means I don’t fritter time “checking facts” and otherwise pretending to write when I’m really online. The only way to get online is to drive five miles down the road to the Lonesome Pine Grill, buy a cup of coffee, and piggieback on their wireless. Which we do once per weekend only.

Now is a good time to be off the Net anyway, as post-election vitriol turns into fingers that point, names that fly, and tit for tat that makes kindergarteners look mature. It’s all over but the shouting used to mean something was finished; now it’s just descriptive.

Never mind. I’ve gone back to writing. The world may or may not be going crazy. Books to sell, cats to rescue, safety pins to wear, life goes on. What’s scaring me is that damn blank page.

I’m trying not to  make it a metaphor for America. For all the people who felt they weren’t listened to before the election, for all the people who fear their voices may be drowned out after.

There’s just this blank page in front of me, one I need to write on, to tell my story. That’s what comes next. Tell my small, sweet, simple story: cats, books, Jack, life.

Because we’ve all seen the power a good story wields. And what happens when stories go untold for too long. Tell yours. Nothing is scarier than a blank page. Fill it.

5 Comments

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing

Stand and Deliver!

 Jack’s Wednesday guest post –

Tricking, treating or guising?

We had three hundred kids plus their supervising adults through the bookstore last Saturday. They were ‘trick or treating’ as these Americans say. They filed in over three hours, snaking through the place to the kids’ room to choose a free book, getting handed a cafe cookie and having a photo taken of them in costume before leaving for the next port of call.

trick-treat-crowd

A small number of the 300 waiting to enter

I wondered about that American tradition so I did some investigating – it turns out that it means “give me a treat or I will play a trick on you”. So, in other words, what would be described in an English or Scottish court as ‘demanding with menaces’!

There’s been a fair bit of discussion on facebook over the last few days about the different Halloween traditions on the opposing sides of the Atlantic, and even about the various names for the vegetable that gets carved into a lantern for the occasion.  I was forced to take part, if only to promote the correct name for the said vegetable.

In Scotland the festival was, for me, always ‘Guising’ (dressing in disguise) and the lantern was carved from a tumshie (a large turnip) and the kids had to perform a poem, song or joke in return for their gift. It was always a family event too, with games – dookin for aipples or trying to snare a treacly scone dangling from a string by mouth with your hands behind your back.

The name of the vegetable? I’ve heard Turnip, Swede, Neep and Tumshie (rutabaga over here) . It was always a tumshie in my youth. But when I grew up and became a responsible adult I was once asked to join an EU funded international environmental education project led by a Danish organization that had a license to grow hemp (don’t ask!). They suggested various Acronyms for the shared undertaking and one of them was NEEPS! I immediately agreed – of such is inter-cultural understanding achieved, although no-one understood why we’d agreed so quickly and enthusiastically.

Long may these weird things continue to confound us, and I can still remember the smell of a candle burning inside a hollowed out tumshie or neep!

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized