The Bookcase In The Flowerbed

Determined to raise awareness around Grow Your Own Gorgeousness I recently  resolved to contact the local paper and perform an epic Jedi mind trick for extra exposure.

Throughout the whole interview I awaited the perfect Jedi moment. It came just as the reporter was straightening his papers and I was preparing to leave.

He said; “That’s great Bethan. I’ll send a photographer along to see you early next week so he can get a shot to go with the article.”

And I said in my most business-like, yet casual and generally “here’s the deal, take it or leave it” voice; “So … if you want a photograph of me, it’ll need to go on the front page of the Weekender.”

The reporter – obviously an intelligent and highly acclaimed Jedi master himself – stopped straightening his papers and glanced up. “And why is that?”

“Well,” I said, studying my launch-gnawed nails in bored manner, “when my two children’s books were published you put me on the front page of the Weekender and well, it’s only right that you should do it again for Grow Your Own Gorgeousness. Its all about consistency. You know?”

The Jedi Reporter raised an eyebrow. “I shall see what I can do.”

Leaving the offices, I swooshed through square to Olivos for a triumphant coffee, all the way having a whole little celebration party in my head. “It worked! Ooh ooh ooooooh! The Jedi mind trick worked! GYOG will be Weekendered. Oooh baby yeaaaahhh.”

Yet as I arranged my triumphant bottom on a nice little sun warmed chair, I was suddenly disconcerted by a new thought. What if the photographer came around and took a boring, dull picture of me holding a copy of GYOG up whilst grinning insanely? I have seen photographs like that of authors.

In fact, I have been in photographs like them.

But never again.

No way.

A massive rethink was required. As I sat supping coffee and staring hard into nowhere, I realised that what I needed to do was set up a shot – an interesting shot – that was vibrant, interesting and worthy of the Weekender.

The only thing for it was to keep sitting exactly where I was, chewing the remains of my thumb nail and thinking up potential photo shoots until I was hit with an inspiration sandwich.

Eventually the sandwich arrived (slthough it didn’t hit me until two days later) and as soon as it did I called up the Jedi Reporter.

“I was lying awake last night,” I explained. “Was reflecting on how GYOG is all about wildness, growth and our beautiful and imperfect natural selves shining into the world … And then I thought, what if I dragged a bookcase into the garden and arranged it in the flowerbed with all sorts of wildness and plants growing up it? And me … sort of leaning on it. Holding GYOG … Or something like that?”

Jedi Reporter listened to idea with interest . He said, “Go for it. But if you look like a crazy person don’t blame me.”

Excellent! I thought.

On the day of the photo shoot, Naughty N arrived at my house to find me sweltering hot in epic Indian Summer heat.

I pointed to far end of flower bed where I had dragged a small bookcase (borrowed from Mother) through five autumn spider webs, across treacherous soil and rubble and into the outer regions of the flowerbed. And there it sat all pathetic and small and mediocre.

“It looks stupid. What am I going to do?” I asked NN sulkily.

“It is a bit lost in all those weeds and things, isn’t it?” Naughty agreed. “You need a bigger bookcase. Like the one in the kitchen.”

In my kitchen I have a very tall, beautifully made bookcase that is stuffed full of very embarrassing books that I actually thought were quite sensible until they were taken out one by one and scrutinised before being piled on the kitchen table.

Once each and every book had been scrutinised and laughed at, Naughty N and I heaved the bookcase away from the wall.

We took a quick break from lifting (during which Naughty N screamed in horror, ran to the sink, grabbed a cloth and began removing something rather unsavory from the skirting board behind the bookcase while I hid mournfully behind the living room door, in between shrieking “get rid of it! I told everyone that something had died in here!” and nearly being sick all at once).

After it was all over and Naughty N had done an impeccable job of removing the mouse corpse, we heaved the bookcase into the garden and plonked it onto a different flower bed.

Stepped back. Narrowed eyes. Cocked our heads from the left to the right.

Naughty N pressed her lips together. She shook her head. “Not right.”

I couldn’t nod. I couldn’t move. Was frozen in panic. “The photographer is going to be here very, very soon,” I said hoarsely. “It can’t be too big. It must be the angle.”

Naughty shook her head. “Nope. Not the angle. Definitely too big.”

For a moment I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly Shrieky Bethan was all like, “Look what you have done! You should have just stuck with a picture of you and the book! Now you have two bookcases in different flowerbeds and the photographer is going to be here in less than an hour!”

I took a deep breath. Summoned Zen Bethan. Zen Bethan was asleep, so summoned Ideas Bethan. She said, “Get a second opinion. Get Debs The Loveliest Neighbour One Could Wish For.”

Debs was summoned and took one look at bookcase. “Too big,” she said.


“But,” she blurted, holding up a finger of triumph, “I do have one that would be perfect!”

Five minutes later and me and Deb had hauled a perfectly sized bookcase out of her top-most room.

It wasn’t too big.

It wasn’t too little.

It was Just Right.

Naughty N and I then stood back, sweating in the sweltering Indian Summer sun, whilst Debs The Loveliest Neighbour One Could Wish For buzzed around setting up the shot. (Deb and her husband both worked in TV and advertising and so used to do this sort of thing for a living).

She arranged the bookcase, took out batches of GYOG books and stood them elegantly on the top shelf. She created little features with autumn apples and opened up a handmade version of GYOG to display at the front. Then she summoned her husband Phil – who is also the Loveliest Neighbour One Could Wish For and asked his expert opinion. Phil suggested another feature, so we added my birdcage and finally a chair for me to sit in at the front. In the chair I sat. Struck a pose. And everyone said “just right.”

Well. Thank. Flipping. Flip. For. That.

At approximately 15.00 that day the photographer arrived. He took a photograph of me sitting in the chair. I was holding GYOG and squinting at the camera because the sun was at that horrible angle where it burns your eyes out every time you look up and you if you were in your car you would probably crash or run over an old lady, then kick yourself eternally for not bringing some sunglasses.

I am not sure if the photographer realised quite how he had been supported that day. Not sure if he realised the shot had been set up by none other than my creatively brilliant self, the astoundingly artistic Naughty N, a creative director from London and a real life, proper TV producer. Also not sure if he noticed the random bookcases of various sizes sitting in various flowerbeds around the garden.

As he left I showed him to the gate and said, “I hope you were able to catch a shot in portrait for when it goes on the front page of the Weekender.”
“Oh, is it going on the front page of the Weekender?” he asked pleasantly.

I made a little sing-song, see-saw noise that meant “well, I hope so” and “of course man! Didn’t you know?” and “we’ll have to wait and see”, all at the same time. Then I slammed the gate shut, ran in the house and drank wine. And hoped and prayed.

Have been hoping and praying ever since and now it is TODAY. It is the day of reckoning. It is Weekender Day – or not Weekender Day, depending on whether my Jedi mind trick worked.


Am off to buy a paper.