East Grinstead's High Street features the longest continuous run of 14th and 15th-century timber-framed buildings in England, with The Bookshop being one of these, despite the fact that a German aircraft dropped a bomb behind it in 1943, killing the then owners and almost destroying the building outright. Luckily things were much more pleasant on Friday (21st August) as people started arriving from about 7pm for the Rainbow Orchid launch event.
We had Pimms, orange juice and snacks laid out, as well as six of the A1 boards that had been up at the Foyles Gallery exhibition a couple of weeks beforehand. John, the bookshop owner, had even gone to the trouble of getting a lovely orchid in as part of the shop decorations. I sat down to sign my first book at about 7.10pm, and signed the last one at about 9.15, only stopping briefly half-way through for a quick list of thank-yous and to present Harvey with a giclée print of the Breguet plane that he so kindly constructed a model of.
I was determined not just to sign books but to give everyone a quick sketch as well (which I didn't do at Foyles), which meant that everyone in the queue was enormously patient as I scribbled away as fast as I could on each book. The turn-out for the event exceeded all our expectations, with a really lovely buzz all evening. I don't know how many books were sold, but after the copies on the rack were sold, a big pile on my signing table went and the window display also had to be plundered to fulfil demand. Sadly some people didn't have time to queue, so I was left with a few books to sign on Saturday to be forwarded to their owners at a later date. I'm really sorry I didn't get to chat to everyone, and I'm really grateful to all who came - especially those who travelled any kind of a distance. Some came from London which was really lovely - it's not that far, but I know a psychological barrier has to be broken to come to events outside of London as well as a geographical one!
There was a marvellous mix of friends, people I hadn't seen for ages, people I'd never met before, and men, women, and children (girls and boys) of all ages. The evening zoomed by for me. My wife Elyssa and good friend Louise had made an amazing Rainbow Orchid cake (including raspberries from our garden) which I hope everyone got a piece of.
An enormously-massive thanks to Elyssa who worked so hard to organise this event (and also managed to take these photos in the second half of the evening), and to all those who immediately went into useful mode and helped with the drinks and food - I'm very grateful indeed. And special thanks to John the bookshop owner for providing his lovely bookshop for the evening and staying late to host us. You can see an album of photos from the evening here, and there are some up on the Tintinologist Facebook page as well (thank you Simon).