I'll refrain from using a cheesy line like "so this is Christmas" but we are now deep into the strange twilight world that I guess is retail in mid-December. Occasionally (when I get to bed in the wee small hours) I have this sense of the billions of items currently hurtling inexorably through the global supply chain, each one some key element in someone's perfect Christmas. Scary trousers. Currently Nicki and I have nightly review and planning meetings, which inevitably mean us huddled over the tea leaves looking for patterns to try to predict what might happen in the next 10 days. Are our regular customers more organised than the general populace (i.e. everyone's done the bulk of their shopping = sales peaked)? Are they less organised (i.e. will everyone come in next Monday expecting upteen copies of our Christmas newsletter recommends that have just gone out of stock)? Will 30 children turn up for storytime on Monday now that school's finished? This Saturday (December 16th) is the first big test. Abingdon's town council have granted free parking all day (they do this every year apparently), and this often corresponds to Abingdon's busiest shopping day. It's a great opportunity for people to support their local town (as an aside, we've had conversations with several people who have decided to 'buy local' for Christmas, hurrah). We've tried to set some 'last order' dates regarding customer orders, but plenty will be arriving during that last week. We have organised a local delivery service for one day next week (the 'delivery service' will consist of me, with Alex riding shotgun in a santa hat handing over the Christmas orders to customers and looking cute). This is just in case of any last minute orders that cannot be collected, the absence of which on Christmas morning may impact negatively on the general goodwill quotient. Anyway - enough Christmas madness. Here's a few bits and pieces from the shop this week: - The "Give a Poem for Christmas" campaign has upped a few gears. Sister Wendy is still miles out in front, but Benjamin Zephaniah, Carol Ann Duffy and a couple of anthologies are in the chasing pack. And a new book "Generation TXT" is making rapid progress up the outside rail (mostly by dint of me shoving it in front of anyone I suspect of being into new poetry who comes into the shop). - A big thank you to Ali for our Christmas pressie (special hi-tech water-washable chalk markers for our chalkboard, as befits someone who is a bit of a craftmeister). The home-made bag it came in was also hugely impressive... - Respect to the couple last week who had a coffee each and *sat outside* in the courtyard garden. Global warming or not, that was a brave move. - Some mutterings about the shop being not Christmassy enough made me panic and rush out and get some spray-on snow. I haven't done anything with it yet. Snowy-effect windows with ah-factor v 2 hours in the new year with a cloth soaked in alcohol. Should I or shouldn't I?