a guest post by Jo Canham of Blarney Books
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How We Came to Be: Part 2
Part 1 can be found here…
So here I am, sitting next to the baptismal font in an unrenovated hall, looking at the metres and metres of industrial grey carpet in front of me, and I burst into tears. (Remember, please, I am 20 weeks pregnant at this point – that, and I hate grey carpet!) The job ahead of us looks impossible. It’s late October. I have a baby due in March. In between time, I have set myself the goal of setting up a whole new business in a town where we don’t know, for all intents and purposes, anyone. My partner has made some work-related contacts, and we have met the real estate people, but that’s all.
We sleep for our first night on a mattress on the floor, in absolute exhaustion. And we haven’t yet begun! The trucks are to arrive, after an overnight stop in Warrnambool (a town 20 minutes away), first thing in the morning.
So it all starts the following morning. They arrive a little after first light, and the unloading begins for the men, the unpacking for me. The hall has a tiny apartment attached to it, where we are lodging until we renovate. The entire apartment is roughly the size of the kitchen in our previous house. It has three ‘bedrooms’, though only one of these can contain a double bed (forget about a queen!), and even that would create problems with opening the doors of the built-in ‘wardrobe’. Naturally enough, we have a king bed. We decide to move into the hall proper. Out of the gradually emptying cardboard boxes, we construct a temporary bedroom, on the raised platform, across from the built-in baptismal font. The boxes are quite useful – positioned appropriately, these box walls double as storage, and from them we managed to fashion some pretty effective shelving for our clothes.
The part of the hall that we are using for the bookshop fortunately requires at this stage very little work. It does need a coat of paint to brighten it up, and a small office area needs to be removed, but apart from that, we can pretty much start setting up the shelving and the books. Obviously, this is the part that I’m keenest to get stuck into. And I am very happy to report that I have a very strong and very able partner in Dean who was a great help with all of this – well, I could say he actually did a lot of it, not simply helped. I pointed a lot. With the shelving. With the books, a different matter altogether. He wasn’t allowed to help. It is my proudest achievement when I say that I shelved each and every one of those books myself.
As an aside, though, I have to mention that some pretty weird things happen to your thinking when you’re carrying a new life inside you. On the first shelving, I put all the crime books on a shelf that I could see from where we’d set up our living area at the back of the hall. And it was giving me the creeps, seeing all these shimmering knives, drops of blood, screaming faces, nooses, black gloves etc etc. I eventually had to relocate the crime section. It remains facing away from me to this day.
So we’ve managed to make a little headway. We have a bedroom, a massive living space that is littered with boxes everywhere, and a shop space full of shelves which are starting to collect books – though with the shelving plans changing every so often, there is a lot of re-shelving going on (still my job – in fact, all book shelving, ever since we’ve opened, has been exclusively my job – the thrill hasn’t left me yet!). My parents visit, and – bless them – Dad and Dean throw dropsheets over the shelves and paint the shop area (much to Dad’s amusement, I have picked the brightest orange I can find!) – these are extremely high walls and it is a difficult job. Away from the paint fumes, Mum and I spend time sorting out baby’s room and attempting to get some order into the neglected backyard.