A Tale of a Bear and a Squirrel
It was that time of year again... the last Saturday of August (Bank Holiday weekend) and The Followers of Rupert AGM. Every year, Stella & Rose's Books make a pilgrimage to Warwick with all our Rupert stock in tow. This year was no exception.
What was different this year, is that it was my first time (believe it or not in the almost 20 years that we have been a part of this event) that I went along with Maria and her husband, Steve. Usually, the group would include Maria, Steve (Maria's husband and fellow Follower), Chris & Cliff. However, Chris & Cliff are now people of leisure living it up in Portugal and so I was roped in!
On Friday 28th August, we loaded up Maria's campervan and the company Volvo with our Rupert annuals, Rupert Adventure Series and Rupert Little Bear Library books, ten collapsible wooden book shelves, our trolley and a load of book stands and book ends. Onyx and Betsy, our Hearing Dogs, accompanied us too.
We set off from Tintern early on the Friday morning to avoid the traffic as the previous day had been the Monmouthshire show and we didn't want to meet the trade traffic leaving the site (ten minutes up the road) where we were delayed 20 minutes trying to get across the river. Then the M50, M5 and M42 were absolutely chocka (no doubt bank holiday traffic)! We finally arrived at our destination of Warwick Boys School at about 1pm... just in time for lunch.
We checked in at the school sports hall briefly, where the trade stands are to be set up,and then decided to go for a wander to find some lunch in the town. There is a lovely park by the river in Warwick... St. Nicholas park. There was a cafe in the middle where we hoped to get some lunch but it was soooo busy with a queue out of the door and little space left to sit we decided to forgo that idea and head into town.
We wandered through Warwick town looking for a coffee shop and eventually found a likely looking Tea Shop – Thomas Oken Tea Rooms. We wandered in and to our pleasant surprise, the owner of the establishment recognised our dogs as Hearing Dogs (they had their uniform on) and proceeded to sign to us. She made us very welcome, we had a lovely lunch and would most definitely recommend it.
Heading back to the school after refuelling with lunch, we unpacked our Rupert cargo and set up shop. A lot of hauling and lugging of books and boxes began, followed by arranging our stall just so. When this task was complete and we were happy with our layout, we headed off to find our place of rest for the night – a Premier Inn on the outskirts of Warwick. It was very nice & a very comfy bed too!
Later on Friday evening... whilst I was waiting for dinner, I happened to glance at my email (foolish I know). I had received an email from a colleague at Stella Books in Tintern informing me of signs of a rodent in the shop... followed by another email informing me that the rodent was in the form of a squirrel and had last been seen making a dash for Natural History... Wonderful news! Having had the experience of a squirrel in the shop before, about 12 years ago or so. I had visions of the squirrel chewing up the computer cables and setting fire to an entire shop full of books... (Must check the insurance policy). A few minutes later, Steve had a phone call to say that a colleague who just happened to be passing the shop after the shop had been locked up informed us that the shop alarm had been activated. Fortunately, our colleague had his shop keys with him and was able to enter the building and deactivate the alarm. There were signs of a squirrel at large, books being knocked over but not a sighting of the creature anywhwere.
What to do? We could wait for the squirrel to leave of his own accord! However, Steve recalls a friend of his who may be able to help... so he telephones this friend and proposes that he pops over to Stella Books in the morning to see if he can locate the squirrel.
Back at the Premier Inn... we had a lovely dinner despite the worry of the squirrel at the back of our minds. Up early the next morning for a lovely cooked breakfast and then away we go to our stall at The Followers of Rupert AGM.
We set up after a few minor mishaps e.g. not having a dongle but fortunately having an ipad to access our database for sales... We telephone our weekend staff at the shop in Tintern to inform them that a friend will be over to try to find the squirrel.
The day commences with a welcome from the characters of Rupert who are in a play which will be enacted in the afternoon. A lovely social morning ensued in which to greet and be introduced to customers old and new. The morning also saw the current illustrator of Rupert, Stuart Trotter, signing the new Rupert Annual for 2016 available only to Rupert Followers at the time of writing.
Just before lunch, a phone call for Steve from the shop! Steve was in the AGM so we had to wait for him to return. Once the AGM was finished, he returns the telephone call and finds that his friend will be joined by a wildlife inspector in an attempt to trap the alien resident.
So, the wildlife inspector arrives and attempts to trap the squirrel using a pole and net... no way, no fear, absolutely not! This just wasn't going to happen. Steve's friend then arrives at the shop, he and the wildlife inspector decide to work together to find the squirrel. We also heard from our colleagues that in the meantime the customers were thoroughly enjoying the spectacle! Well, I guess that was something... Eventually, the squirrel was trapped under the bottom of row of bookcases... the squirrel had to be moved inch by inch from the furthest bookcase to the front by removing the skirting of the bookcases until it was caught in the inspector's net. It was placed in a carrier and the children in the shop got their first close up of a beautiful, cute, book-reading grey squirrel. The squirrel was taken to the vet to be checked over... that was the last the shop saw of that one.
Anyhow, back to the Followers... In between all of this to-ing and fro-ing on the telephone, we actually manage to sell a few books.
At the end of the day, we pack up and head back to Tintern where we unload our Rupert cargo and part company, Maria & Steve back to Rose's at Hay-on-Wye and myself home to bed in Chepstow.
Despite trying to multi-task as a squirrel catcher and a Follower of Rupert, I had a thoroughly enjoyable day... remember, this was the first time I had ever been... No doubt I will be volunteered for next year's AGM!
Contributed by Sonia