Rory is pictured here, second from left with author Anne Fine and other pupils from William Brookes School.
Rory’s Worxperience Diary: Tuesday
“You have to turn your hand to everything when you run your own business”- Anna’s words rang in my head as I alternated between the methodical up-down strokes of painting a bit of wall in the shop and the hectic grab-everything-before-the-kettle-boils rush of making tea and coffee. The tea and coffee were much appreciated by the customers who browsed the choc-a-bloc shelves, unlike my rendition of ‘Under the sea’- a must for any paint job.
Disney songs aside, I can see why so many people visit this shop: it’s got an ambience of relaxed enjoyment, not to mention enough books to feed a silverfish army. But such an atmosphere needs a lot of attention. The shop’s being repainted, with each wall in a different colour. And, due to the wooden support beams holding up the building, this requires care, deft handiwork and skill. Luckily, I could use masking tape and a damp cloth in the place of these.
Though the world’s best painter award escapes me for another year, I did manage to add the final two coats needed for the particular space being painted today, so now I go through the process of watching paint dehydrate. This is actually quite tantalising, as it’s now I spot any flecks that may have eluded me and wonder if anyone else will notice and if it’s too late to wipe them away. So, don’t believe what people tell you: watching paint dry will make you jump with excitement.
Forget sci-fi stories on planets with seas of liquid ammonia: try a sea of books. That's what there was on the top floor of Much Wenlock books this afternoon. After carrying the last of the fourteen boxes up the stairs, I gave a sigh of relief and allowed myself a short breather. It was then that I saw, in the distance, a figure drowning in the vast ocean.
Clearly a little lifesaving was in order, not least because my lunch money was in there. So, diving into the unknown, I nimbly manoeuvred my way around the boxes, careful not tread anything, grabbed my jacket, manoeuvred my way back again, only to realise I'd left the paintbrush back there. So, once more, I waded in and back again only to realise my keys had fallen somewhere in the depths.
But, my drenching was only a minor part of the afternoon. I also read the first three chapters of A Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff, an enjoyable romp which makes you realise how many idiosyncrasies we've all got and how stupid some of them are. On top of this I unpacked some orders which Anna received- who knows where she'll put them?- and did some washing up, showing that us Baywatch-style heroes have to do real work as well.
Rory's Worxperience Diary: Wednesday
The friend who gave me a lift in was telling me all about how he was going to a ‘Business Meeting’ *cough cough* at Staffordshire today. This got me wondering: how can we revolutionise the workplace so it has more of the feel of the outside world? This is why, while doing pre-painting arrangements on the first floor, I tried to simulate the atmosphere of the beach, by making a sand-castle out of the grains of wood, left from sandpapering the sill. Sadly, the castle was attacked by a feather duster, and fell before its might foe, its citizens scattered to the wind (literally).
But I was far from disheartened. Next, I gave the job of cutting open the boxes of books the feel of a bear skinning some freshly caught prey. However, the prey was still alive, and used its most deadly tactic: having eight different openings, all super-glued down. This made it immune to the scissors the bear armed itself with, but the bear was determined and, eventually, the precious treasures inside could be accessed.
Finally, while painting the window, I gave the paint the feeling of a waterfall by always painting down. I failed to remember at the bottom of the falls was my hand. Oh well, the garden of Eden required sacrifice as well, although I think the apples of knowledge may taste more of ink and paper.
There was certainly an air of nostalgia as we all sat sipping tea, eating cake and listening to each other's memories of family holidays. For that's the subject of RC Sherriff's A Fortnight in September, and, despite its being published over seventy years ago, we all found it held a ring of truth. We could all relate to the mixed feelings of anxiety, freedom and eye-opening realisations described within its pages. We could all recognise the characters, either in people we knew or in ourselves. And we could all picture the scenes of worry during the journey, frustration during the rush out of the house and sadness at having to leave.
But it wasn't just holidays and history that I felt was being revisited in people's heads, I could also sense them all reliving previous bookshop meetings, either through actual verbal references or through the looks in their eyes as we dissected the literature. Being my first visit to a reading group I don't know for sure, but I'd imagine it'd be easy to build up quite a history: the ones that always disagree, the folks who sit on the fence. Like the events in the book we were debating, there was a way to the meetings which was really lovely to witness. All but one of the members had been coming for more than a year and they all knew what to point out in a book and what was uninteresting.
Amongst these veterans it would've been easy to feel like an outsider but the sense of good-natured, wholesome enjoyment- we were there to discuss books, nothing more sinister- drew me in.
Well, that and the cake.
Rory's Worxperience Diary: Thursday
I witnessed a special event today: a young soul’s first visit to a bookshop. At only four months, the infant was wide-eyed with anticipation at the colourful tomes around it. I don’t know what was going through its head - I don’t know whether it knew where it was or what the books were. I only knew one thing for certain: this was one customer who didn’t want tea and coffee.
As well as pondering how old you have to be to appreciate the brilliant taste of char, I also lent my hand to peeling the masking tape from the window. That’s one of those jobs where you always manage to get paint on yourself no matter how careful you are: the universe simply dictates that it must be so. And therefore it was with a heavy heart that I separated the window from the tape and revealed the casement’s new tangerine-style to the world while simultaneously splattering myself. On the bright side, I can now be seen in low light areas.
A Thursday afternoon story:
Silver fish by Rory Kelly
Crescent Lane’s always had a bit of a reputation: there’ve always been rumours flying around. I just ignored them. I thought people were just trying to put me off. I mean, when people say a place is a bit weird they usually just mean it hasn’t got a Tesco’s within three metres.
I didn’t realise what they meant when they said it was ‘odd’.
I didn’t realise they were warning me.
I didn’t realise there’d be demons.
I only found out at all because I’d left my notebook in the shop. Grumbling to myself, I waded through the junk in my pockets, tried the wrong key twice, finally found the right one, turned it the wrong way, and finally let myself in to find…silver.
I don’t work in a mine or a jewellers. I work in a bookshop. I don’t expect to see silver. Especially not on the walls. But there it was, all around, creating a shine that was almost blinding.
But that wasn’t all. The silver was moving. It was literally pulsating. It shifted before my eyes. It was liquid, that was obvious, but it looked so very thick.
I tried to speak, to put my bemusement into words, but I couldn’t. My mouth wouldn’t move. It was stuck gaping. I took a step forward slowly; I almost expected the stuff to vanish. It didn’t. I glanced out the window, expecting to see a youth with a spray can, but no-one was there.
“Hello?” I called. The shop was deserted- I could see that - but I checked anyway. “If any one’s in here, this is trespassing. I’ll phone the police.” I don’t know how I expected them to have got in: I hadn’t actually left sight of the building before I realised I’d forgotten my notebook.
“This is your last chance: come out, now!” Okay.
Before I could react there was the sound of a deep breath and all the silver jumped off the walls. I yelped and ducked as it bunched together in the middle of the room, right above my head. I gazed up in horror as the swirling orb stretched out, shooting out tiny strands as it went.
There was the sound of mud being compacted and suddenly it wasn’t just a load of liquid metal.
It was an insect.
It looked like a moth with no wings, and yet it was still hovering above me. It was still mainly silver in colour, but there was a bluish tint now. It had such wide eyes.
“…” my mouth just hung open. What could I say?
It’s rude to stare.
The voice was like an echo of an old man whispering.
“W-What are you?”
Silverfish? A friend in the book trade had warned me about them: they ate the bindings of books. But he never mentioned them being the size of a car.
Or that they could talk.
“What do you want?”
I’ve come for a book, he said, ignoring my question, I need information.
Where to find other silverfish.
“Why do you need to know that?”
So we can rally against a common enemy.
“I don’t have any books on that subject.”
I’d just discovered that for myself. There was the same noise of mud being squelched together and all the books were back in place; I hadn’t even noticed they were gone.
“So, you’ll be going?”
Eventually. First, I must ask you: how long have you owned this shop?
“Only a month.”
Pity, I could’ve used your help. I’m sorry for startling you.
He started to float slowly towards the door; I found myself crawling on all fours after him.
“Wait!” I called: I didn’t even know what I wanted to ask him.
Yes? He didn’t even turn to look at me.
“This…enemy. What is it?”
He sighed and the silver along his back quivered. He suddenly sounded even older. For years your kind have been making books, and my kind have been devouring them, loving the stories and knowledge we gained. But now… another sigh… you don’t seem to need as many books.
And with that he floated out the door. I never saw him again, and I never got word of a ‘silverfish uprising’. But that night, just as I was about to check what was on the TV, I put down the remote, got down my favourite book and felt much better.
When humans are told to think of a number between one and four, seventy-five percent of us will choose three (hands up those who did…be honest!). This isn’t necessarily because three’s our favourite number it’s just the one that catches our attention first. I believe the same happened to me when I was asked to choose ten mugs from the Penguin catalogue and order them over the phone. All the mugs bore the titles of classic books, and I told myself I’d choose ones I knew first: but no, I was automatically drawn to ‘Vile bodies’ and ‘Hotel Splendide’; which I hadn’t even heard of before. Only after did I notice ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’ and ‘The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes’, both of which I have perused.
Speaking of inappropriate choices, my form tutor came to visit me yesterday at the worst possible time. It’s no secret that, as my sister so eloquently put it, ‘Everything Rory touches turns to dust - meaning it’s either broken or ‘temporarily misplaced…forever’. So, I was extra careful while handling the mugs and jugs of the bookshop, I traversed the stairs carefully whenever holding anything and I never ever used one hand to hold anything breakable. This strategy worked right up until the second Mr. Garnett walked in and I broke a folder simply by opening it. Luckily, Super-Mollie swooped in and used the powers her magic boots gave her to fix it. But, even still, Mr. Garnett had to pick day number three instead of two or one out of all the four.
Rory’s Worxperience Diary- Friday
Meeting Sister Immaculate Rose
Uganda is a country in East Africa, bordered by Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan. Today I had the pleasure of speaking to Sister Immaculate Rose, a Ugandan nun who is the head teacher of a special unit which teaches Deaf and Deafblind children. This was Sister’s first visit to England, and she said she’d enjoyed it very much. She said that the English were very generous with donations and the way deaf children could fit in with others their own age was admirable. Things in Uganda are different; it’s still considered somewhat shameful to have a deaf child, and some parents go as far as hiding their children. One of Sister’s jobs is to go around villages and ask the other parents if they know of any Deaf or Deafblind children in the area. Sometimes parents will give the children to Sister Immaculate and refuse to take them back; sometimes children will be given to Sister Immaculate and refuse to go back. But she said attitudes are improving: she started with a class of only twelve in a single room which had to be used for everything. But now she has over two hundred students and a unit devoted to her cause. She tries to show parents that deaf children can learn and have a life too by putting on concerts and organising football matches.
A devout Catholic belonging to an order called ‘Daughters of Mary’, Sister said she doesn’t discriminate the children she takes by religion and nor does she try to change them. She also teaches acceptance to the children and tells them not to force their beliefs on others.
Sister said she doesn’t believe deaf and hearing children can be mixed in African schools, as enough translators can’t be found and the deaf children would struggle. She told me how there aren’t enough teachers specially trained to help deaf children, as the government doesn’t offer them more money and so Sister must try and find extra money to add to their salaries from other means. The children are taught all the same lessons as in England, but Sister also teaches practical lessons like woodwork or knitting, so the children won’t be a burden to their parents when they return home.
It was really eye-opening to meet this selfless woman who’s given so much to help children who have so little, and I really hope this article will inspire people to help her in any way possible.
Anna was telling me today how her greatest fear would be that it should rain on the two days before Christmas. “It’s when the shop’s most busy”, she said, “And if it rains all the customers will go to Telford or Merryhill.” Anna’s pluviophobia (Yay! New word for the day!) is understandable: she keeps some books and calendars outside, leaving them exposed to the elements. That’s why she and I kept a wary eye on the horizon this morning, lest the heavens opened. Sadly, they did, and we had to rush out rescue the books from certain soddiness. But other than the downpour’s unexpected appearance, today was fairly calm. I unpacked the mugs I ordered yesterday, feeling like a schoolboy presenting his homework to the rest of the class, unpacked some new books, labelled them, stacked them, and then phoned any customers’ whose orders had come in (I was halfway through dialling my home number when I realised). I also spoke to Sister Immaculate Rose, for details see above, who has to be one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. So, all in all, quite relaxing, maybe I’ll sing ‘Under the Sea’ to spice things up…
One of the questions I was asked while on worxperience was how different I thought it'd be if I'd gone to work at Waterstones, WH smith or another big chain book shop. I think it'd have been a lot less varied for one; I doubt I'd have painted, for example, or got to use the till or many of the other cool things I got to do. When me and Anna sat down and wrote a list between us, it was over two pages long. Which is quite an accomplishment since I was only there for four days. It was nice to be surrounded by the colourful covers of the latest books, instead of the grey walls of school, with tomes of knowledge not posters telling me I wasn't allowed to chew. The experience really helped me to see what running your own business is about, and I wrote a story on one day which my English tutor said was some of my best work so it must have been inspiring in some way.