Alison Muirhead frowned uneasily. The woman searching the shelves of the second-hand book shop at Tanfield Manor kept pausing to stare at her in a most disconcerting manner. Suddenly the woman left her browsing and marched over to the counter.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” she demanded.
“Sorry, I don’t know you,” replied Alison shortly.
The woman suddenly clapped a hand to her head. “Got it! You’re Alison Muirhead, who writes that amusing Diary of a Non-Domestic Goddess column in Modern Women’s Journal.”
“Why yes, you’re right, but how.....?”
“I recognised you from the photo at the top of your page in the magazine. What an amazing stroke of luck meeting you. I’m on a committee which is helping to organise a week-long book festival. We would really like to have a writer give a talk at our mid-week event, do you think you could help?”
“Well, yes, I’d be pleased to.”
“That’s splendid; I’ll let our chairman know I’ve met you.” The woman took her mobile phone from her handbag and hurried out of the shop.
Viv emerged from the stock room, carrying a pile of books, which she put down on a stool in front of a nearby bookcase. She took the topmost volume off the pile and laid it on the counter.
“Look what someone’s donated, they’re extremely.......”
“You see that woman outside the shop, talking on her mobile phone? Well, she’s on a committee that’s helping to organise a book festival and she’s asked me to give a talk at one of their events.”
Viv’s eyes widened. “Will you do it?” she asked, looking very impressed.
“Oh yes, I think it will be really interesting.”
The woman put away her phone and came back into the shop. &ldqou;Our chairman was thrilled to hear I had met you, we do hope you can persuade him.”
“Persuade whom? To do what?”
“The Reverend Gareth Evans. You must know him, as you both write for Modern Women’s Journal. It’s always his page I turn to first, when I open my copy of the magazine. I find his message so encouraging; he writes with such wisdom and insight, plus just the right touch of humour. If you could persuade him to give us a talk it would be a real feather in our cap.
“Oh, look what you’ve got on the counter, an Elizabeth David cookery book. I’ve been trying to get one for ages; they’re extremely rare. How much do you want for it?”
Alison picked up the book, dropped it into a carrier bag and thrust the bag into Viv’s hands.
“Sorry, this lady has just bought it.”