Tuesday, 20 October 2009

So we bought ourselves a bookshop

So we bought ourselves a bookshop.

It was a sudden thing, this life-changing switching of cities and of lifestyles.

But, if you know anything of my history, most of the important things that have happened in my life have happened this way.

This paraphrase pops into mind, “when the time is right, all obstacles melt away.”

It was sometime in January that B & I made the decision that Vancouver wasn't the place for us anymore. Two weeks later, we're taking a fog-shrouded ride on a BC Ferries, er... ferry, to Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island to check out a charming Fine Used bookshop called Sabine's, which had come onto the market a couple of months ago.

Three weeks later, we've decluttered, staged and sold the condo for it's asking price, giving us the money to put in a offer for the bookshop. And, as these stories go, the offer was accepted. We moved to the island in April and officially took over in May. And what a ride it's been!

Sabine's Fine Used Books is in the main village of Ganges, in a charming little shopping area called Grace Point, where there are art galleries, bistros, a spa, a yoga studio and a great jewellery shop called Frankly Scarlet.

The bookshop itself has a marvellous olde worlde feel about it with lots of woods and carpets like you seen in the libraries of period BBC programmes. Bookshelves stretching themselves from floor to ceiling and hugging you as you walk between the aisles.

Hundreds of books filling all two floors of the shop with antiquarian books from the 1800's to brand new reads like 'The Book of Negroes'. The first estate sale we went to we bought a beautiful black, green & gold leather bound set of Shakespeare's works which we sold in the summer for $450. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to turn a profit. Kinda like what Lovejoy does, it does!

The funny thing about Sabine's is the coincidence of the bookshop's name and that Nick Bantock, the author of the Griffin & Sabine books, came to live on the island. So it made all sorts of sense that Sabine, the original owner of the bookshop, joined up with Nick to create the Griffin Room. A special place on the upper floor for a great many things Nick Bantock. All his titles are here, including most of Nick's out-of-print pop-up books as well as his original prints and the drawers of strange & curious ephemera (like Indian court documents and old stamps).

Now, it's the autumn and 6 months since the move. Although the flood of summer tourists have eased up, the enthusiasm and optimism for this move to be islanders and bookshop owners hasn't abated. Wish us luck!

2011 Update| And now we have a Facebook Page. Check it out at http://www.facebook.com/blacksheepbookssaltspring

Monday, 18 May 2009

There are Wild Things in the Garden

For a city girl like me, living in a little cottage in the wood is a very novel thing. I'm not used to not having rows of street lamps leading me home, or not having a gate, a fence or a buzz code that separates my little world from the the rest of the world outside. Or indeed, to have to burn wood for heat instead of just turning the thermostat knob for an instant gas fire to pop to into life. But the thing that really bowls me over, every minute, is the nearness of nature. Just next to the house, not 10m away is the woods.
There's a walking trail that is so overgrown I wouldn't have recognised it if my neighbour & landlady, Penny, hadn't pointed it out. Everywhere I look are trees. The straight & upfight Fir, the over green & over abundant Pine and the picturesquely scarggly Arbutus.
And then there's the quiet. Quiet enough to hear the wind caressing trees, the bees buzzing and the somewhat oddly regular crunching of leaves?

A curious sound that I just had to investigate.

Looking into the trees
I saw the most wonderful sight.

A couple of deer had wandered into
the garden below our deck
and without so much as a by your leave,
were grazing on the grass & shrubs.

I snuck across the deck to its edge to have a closer look, taking the greatest care to make as little noise as possible so as not to scare them. It was the closest I've come to a creature of the wild (unless you count Minke the demon cat, who is, by the way, getting more feral, if that were possible). It was magic! Then, I heard the loud Putt Putt puttering of a car coming down the road and was afraid the deer would run away and hide and my magic moment would come to an end. But no. Those deer continued with their veggie & daffodil buffet unperturbed (so much for the Ford Escape Hybrid commercials).
What's more they, made themsleves at quite home and plonked their ample tushes down under the dappled shade of a large Fir tree then proceeded with their after lunch nap.

I guess this city girl still has a lot to learn about the country kampung life.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Moving to Salt Spring Island

When I was a little girl, moving houses was always looked forward to. It was something rare & exciting. It was a welcomed change in routine, exploring new rooms and a new neighourhood. It was looking out new windows and seeing the world in a whole new light.
I guess moving houses then you're an adult isn't that much different. Except for the mountains of stuff you have to pack, ship & then unpack. You tend to amass stuff as you go down the road of life. I do at least. These days, I am learning to buy less and reuse more these. Not so much because I'm trying to be green (which I do try, and now living on Salt Spring has forced me to) but more so that I'll have less to lug around when the next move comes along.

So, in early April, we did the BIG move to from Burnaby, in the Metro Vancouver area, to Salt Spring Island. For those scratching their heads trying to figure out just where this Pulau Air Asin is, let me enlighten. It's part of the Southern Gulf Island group which is sandwiched between Vancouver Island & mainland North America. And because the move involved catching two ferries and travelling over 150km (slightly further than Mersing is from Singapore), we had to do it over two days.
Day one was to pack the huge 5 tonne Budget truck, which our friend Milan heroically drove. After we crammed our possessions into the truck, I could see that we were in serious trouble. We had more stuff than we had space. Which simply meant that all that couldn't be stuffed in the cars had to be left behind or thrown away.That's when I resolved to learn to live with less because of the nail-pullingly painful decisions on what we had to leave behind.

The next day started bleary-eyed at 4am to travel from the skypad we has sold to catch the first ferry on the first leg of our move. Horseshoe Bay in West vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver island. Then the hour drive to Crofton to catch the local ferry to Vesuvius Bay on Salt Spring. Everything went without a hitch. Even Minke, the demon cat behaved. Not a single peep, or sound or crumpling of the steel door of her transport box.
We were lucky, as we have been since coming to the island. The sun was out and nothing got wet. Only a few bumps & scrapes on the furniture.
Evening saw many familiar boxes & furniture jumbled about in an unfamiliar wooden house. Our new home is a cottage in the woods in a place called Trincomali heights. And we are settled. At least for this year.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Skypad SOLD

It's done! The skypad sold in under a week.

After four years of living 18 floors above the Burnaby skyline, with truly spectacular views of the winding Fraser River, Vancouver Island,
the North Shore mountains, the city and Mt Baker, I'm trading it all for island living.
But that's for a later story.

It took a month's hard graft to get the flat into shape.

There was the painting of rooms, skirting and doors; fixing all the little bits that needed fixing and changing the gawd awful brass fitting the previous owners had installed in the bathrooms & replacing them with nifty, less fussy brushed nickel ones.

And cleaning like I've never cleaned before.
Who knew there were special cleaners for every surface imaginable?
The wood surfaces needed lemon oil, the kitchen counters had to have a strong but fresh orange smelling cleaner, the stove top need a ceramic cleaner, the windors & mirrors had Windex and the floors required some evil smelling anti-bacterial glunk.

Thank goodness the spring flowers were already in the garden centres!
The cheapskate in me reasoned that daffodils, primroses & pansies would last longer than cut flowers when we had our open house. so we just had to have them.
Especially if we had to have several open houses over the next couple of weeks with the property market being so depressed and all.

The colourful spring flowers really do add cheer and life to both the winter battered balconies.

But, it looked like we didn't need the daffodils to last that long after all. In fact, they only needed to last a few days. Because Jeff Harrison, our super realtor worked a miracle.

It chuffes me to say that we got multiple offers the next day after the open house.
And less than a week later, today as it happens, there was confirmation that the apartment has been sold. At the asking price.
In a word...

Looks like my years of hard slog as a journalist and stylist at Home & Decor Magazine wasn't wasted.
All in all, I'd say that it paid off. In spades!

Have a look and tell me what you think.