Actually not really, not yet. Not party time yet, that is. But this year spells five years of HappenStance so there is an event fixed -- at the Scottish Poetry Library -- Saturday June 12th 3.00 pm for 3.30. Invitations will go out to subscribers this week with CHAPTER FOUR! (let me know if you're reading this, are not a subscriber and would like one). And yes, that means Chapter Four (the Shakespeare chapter) is finally done.

Not just that. Also in the mail to those and such as those is: Robin Vaughan-Williams' The Manager, Jon Stone's Scarecrows and Tommy McKean's long interview with Ruth Pitter (A Conversation with Ruth Pitter). The cost of postage and stamps alone yesterday was £146.00. In fact, total costs for HappenStance this week have exceeded £1,000 -- a scary amount for one teeny weeny press in a week. "Never mind. It's only money."

I remember when I first heard those words. I was in my early twenties and not long married. We had been renting a flat in Altrincham, Cheshire but my then husband had got a new job, and we were about to move to Scotland (where I still am). The agent we rented from came to inspect the flat. Then they wrote to us to say they were retaining our deposit to meet redecoration costs. All right, I had stuck wine labels all over one wall of the kitchen. But hadn't we redecorated the huge bedroom? And not just an amateur job either  - Proper Painters had done it. We had perilously little money and we contacted our lawyer (who was not 'our lawyer' really but my dad's best friend and my 'Uncle' Stewart). It was Uncle Stewart who said, "Never mind, it's only money." Okay for him. He had lots of money. We had none.  Anyway, he got our deposit back for us and off we went to Scotland with it.

That's not the sort of thing people are supposed to write in blogs. Back to the plot.

I now have so many publications floating around I've had to acquire large plastic boxes which I'm about to label. I find it difficult to keep stock with efficiency. Whenever a new publication arrives, I start by keeping a careful note of where the copies go, to whom and when, which are paid for, which are complimentary. And then at a certain point there's a flood of orders, and I am working like mad and also posting things hither and thither and I lose the ability to write down what has gone where. Which means I end with a partial record and have to tally the final sales by means of deducting the copies that are left from the total that came in. Not impressive.

The online shop is great in this regard because it automatically saves the data. Even sales by flyer slip are useful because I keep the slips. But somehow it always gets out of hand in my hurry to get things into parcels and make my frantic way to the post office.

I recall Duncan Glen (Akros) telling me that Margaret (his wife) kept a note of every single sale in 'her book' and I wished I had a Margaret. She also kept track of every invoice. I can't do that either - I just don't have time. If someone orders a pamphlet and doesn't pay, I don't have time to chase up. Which is why two bookshops (and I do remember this with a degree of bitterness) never paid for orders of 12 pamphlets, which were duly invoiced and sent. My ordinary purchasers are incredibly honest. The truth is I am dealing in lots and lots of small payments, because pamphlets cost relatively little, although cumulatively they cost me -- well, not an arm and a leg exactly, but at least a foot and an ankle. They cost, annually, just under half my employed income (at least three-quarters of which is recovered, eventually). All very interesting. I've done a worked example on one of last year's pamphlets in Chapter Four.

So today is the subscriber day. The flyers, the envelopes, the invitations, the printed labels, the list to check off is sitting downstairs. Just got to print the backlist of Sphinxes. With luck issue 12 will be finished this week. Just waiting for the final two chickens.

Clare Best's Treasure Ground is continuing to prove a treasure at farmers' markets. After I posted last week about Dr Fulminare's write your own blurb, she sent me an amazing picture of a sheep dating back to an episode during her residency at Woodlands Farm (see below). This was in the middle of the worst summer rains ever. She had spent a couple of hours in the shearing shed spraying the sheep (both sides with the same word, one word each from a short poem based on 'The Red Wheelbarrow')and then they all jostled together in the truck on the way to the field. By the time they were making their poetic ways around the field, most of them were just an even shade of pink, or blue or green.

Below is one of the legible survivors. Better than Damien Hirst, eh? At least these sheep are alive . . . .


Sheep poetry
Sheep poetry