Stepping into the sunshine as an introvert
For those of you who know me, you’ll know that I’m not particularly fond of large groups of people, that if you were to feel inclined to look for me in a crowded room, you are most likely to find me behind a solid piece of furniture.
Not hiding exactly, just finding it difficult to come out until everyone’s taken their leave.
I’m not even that good with a few people.
My face will go red, I might stutter, I’ll always laugh inappropriately, and I can’t remember anything I want to say, let alone anything that might pass as witty or wise. People cause me vast amounts of stress, and I need a lot of space between social engagements.
Interesting really, when you think about the fact that I run a bookshop and this means, of course, that I have a retail space open to the public.
But it’s not to say that being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m not friendly, or that I don’t like to meet people. I do. I really do.
I love meeting inspirational people, and hearing their stories. It’s just that I’ve got plenty of books with good (curated) stories, if you can’t offer me one.Ithink generally booksellers are booksellers because we have an intimacy with our books (seriously, it’s never about the money), and the customer side of things is really something we didn’t think out properly when we thought, “I know. I love books. I’ll start a bookshop.” (I touched on this briefly in an earlier Bluestone column.)
I wonder how many booksellers would define themselves as extroverts? I suspect there are more extroverts amongst bird watchers than booksellers.
The great thing about a shop in a tourist town is that we get to meet so many people who are just passing through. I can hide behind my solid piece of furniture, have a bit of a yack, share some stories, and then they move on.
The key to this golden relationship, for me, is that they do actually move on. It’s when they come back again the next day, “Hi, Jo!”, or the next week, that causes the stress. That causes that horrible sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. Because then I’m expected to remember names, and details of conversations that weren’t ever going to be installed into my hard drive – I have a devastatingly poor memory anyway – there becomes an expectation that wasn’t there the day before. The relationship has totally changed.
However, when these visitors come back the following year, as part of an annual pilgrimage to our lovely coastal village, we return to the golden relationship. They are generally kind and generous enough to drop the expectation that any information, especially names, is not likely to be retained for 12 months. We are back on safe ground, and that golden ‘relationship’ can cheerfully be resumed.This summer’s round of tourists again brought me great joy, and the January season passed in a happy whirlwind.
I talked to a writer from Sydney, and another from Adelaide, a painter from Trinidad, a Vietnamese lawyer couple from Western Australia, a couple of wonderful musicians, a photographer who’s worked in newspapers for 50 years, many, many lovely Melbourne families, an enthusiastic and artistic family from San Francisco, a food critic from Melbourne, an art patron from Ballarat, a Hobart doctor and her family, an advertising executive, a fisherman from Darwin, so many more people, and so many family dogs including Teddy, a mini schnauzer, who is learning chess! (I’m Instagramming some of the dogs who visit – you can view them @blarneybooks).
We also had some wonderful events on in the shop, including Emily Dalkin, of Outwest Rebellion Studios, who led a three-day drama workshop for primary aged kids, where she taught the kids how to play with nothing but their imaginations. We had a performance for children by Portland’s Herbert & Valerie, and Anna Hoyle‘s very funny art exhibition, Handy Reference, that has caused much giggling in the gallery (it runs until Feb 21).
I loved every minute of January, and felt that I could go on working every day of every week for the rest of my life, if it continued on so, but Australia Day – besides being a day of enormous angst for those of us who us don’t revel in sudden-onset patriotism – is also the marker for the end of the high season in Port Fairy.
Holiday-makers pack up, fold away their tents, their BCF furniture, unplug their vans, and in a steady stream, they leave. You can literally stand beside the highway and wave goodbye to the convoy, wiping away a tear, and perhaps holding down that momentary urge to pack up and go with them.
For more of Jo Canham’s Tales from Port Fairy, catch up here.
Enjoy our other Bluestone columnists …
Great food and gardening tips: Kylie Treble and Food for Thought
Great architecture: Clinton Krause on mid-century architecture in the south-west
Great books: Claire Norman’s Bool Belle book reviews