Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Fenwick Frolics

Sandie Cover One upon a time in my well spent-youth Newcastle was a happy hunting ground for unusual clothes and frothy coffee in good company. On occasion we would hitch-hike down from our small Northumberland college - I lived in Harry Potter’s castle, but that’s another story – and spend the afternoon in Newcastle trying on clothes we couldn’t afford, drinking frothy coffee in juke box cafes, and once – I think it was someone’s birthday – having high tea in Tilley’s restaurant where the waitresses still wore black dresses and white aprons.

Years later, with our children, my friend Pat and I would meet in Fenwick’s cafe for coffee and cakes. In those innocent days we used to let the children take the escalator to the next floor on their own (!) to play in the toy department. Meanwhile Pat and I would talk up a storm about the meaning of life – perhaps particularly our lives – and drink more coffee. After a while we’d go up to fetch the children from the toy department and bring them down for ice cream - and get on with being mothers.

I remember now that I bought my un-weddingy wedding outfit for daughter Debora’s wedding in Fenwick’s French salon – a long narrow skirt and jacket in navy blue velvet. I’ve worn it happily many times since.

And now this Thursday (tomorrow!) I’ll leave my desk to be on the othebooks Etc 028r side of the counter at Fenwick’s – signing copies of the paperback edition of SANDIE SHAW AND THE MILLIONTH MARVELL COOKER.

People often ask me what a book about. Well, I wrote about this one in an earlier post, saying.
Sandie Shaw and the Millionth Marvell Cooker’ is about:
Friendship and salvation between women & authentic factory life when industry was booming & the birth of celebrity culture & changes in access to higher education & college life & about changing cultural attitudes brought about by the
Sandie_Shaw_RHB_small[1]Women’s Movement & the nature and hesitancies of young love & the experience of immigrants moving into British life & the ironies, assumptions and secrets of institutions

But most of all, I say, I think – and hope - it’s a very good, funny, touching, rites of passage novel about this student from a small Northumberland college who works in a factory one summer in the 1960s ….

I’ve been wondering what I should wear for this particular Fenwick Frolic. Perhaps I should have found time to fit in a visit to Fenwick’s French Salon.

I’m certainly looking forward to it. I wonder if my good friend Pat will turn up. I hope you’ll come too. wx

12.30 pm Fenwick’s Book Department. Thursday 9th July 2009


  1. Mummy - What a role Fenwick's has played in our lives. I remember playing in the toy department and I remember helping you pick out that lovely outfit for my wedding.It's where I took my first steps in cafe society ... I hope it all goes wonderfully well! Love, Dxx

  2. Life goes in circles. You first came to FENWICK as a buyer; you bought a velvet outfit for your daughter's wedding. Now you'll be coming to this place as a potential seller; you'll be signing copies of your book to promote its selling. No doubt, it's a wonderful book, judging by the topics included. I wish you lots of success with it.

  3. Cafe society - where would we be without it? Have enjoyed so many cafe treats with you Wendy. They are just the thing for cooking up great ideas but also for just chilling out.

    Looking forward to Fenwick's tomorrow very much

    A x

  4. Good luck Wendy - hope you sell bucket loads!! Thanks for being a follower on my site and for your lovely comments. I had a re-read of several of your novels recently for a talk I had to give on the 'north east novel' for the National Council of Women. They're amazing and deserve a much higher profile.

  5. The novels that is ..... not the NCW!

  6. Debora _ I nearly told the tale of when you deliberately got lost in Fenwicks - oops! Now I have! But the best thing is that you are now the hereditary expert on cafe society! mxxx

    Duta - thank you for calling. I sometimes think looking for circles is part of a novelist's job! Only connect - isn't that what EMForster said? wx

    Avril - I think we are on a campaign to raise cafe society to new heights! This new one in Bishop Auckland is quite a find. See you tomorrow! Fingers crossed that it goes well. wx

    Kathleen - you have made my day with your very kind comment and you have given me heart to strut my stuff a bit tomorrow and Friday at WHS and Watersones. I love your pieces on reading, writing and a writer's life and I recommend them to anyone reading here.
    Looking forward to your Katherine Mansfield biography when it emerges from these final stages,
    Come again...

  7. Hi Wendy, Great to talk the other day. I too have trouble growing lupins! I too bought a wedding out fit , well a couple in Fenwicks sadly the so expensive hats have always ended up in charity shops. A story in your head is a magical thing and the next getting it on paper then reading to others. Egglestone hall is a jewel of a place. I often wonder about the children who were brought up there, not only the children of the'house' but the servants children See you soon. Mary x



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