The Shop Around the Corner

You've Got Mail. The Shop Around The Corner

You've got mail. Shop Around The Corner.

Once upon a time, in a world when I was hooked on romantic comedies and I had an awkward teen haircut, my heart settled into the corner of a little bookshop in New York City.

Its facade was green, and its glow was golden.

The effervesce of Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) made that little cosy bookshop for children all the more appealing.

I fantasised about that little nook. How good would it be to own / live in / work in a book shop like Kathleen Kelly’s? How good would it be to have a little cosy corner that attracted children like moths to a flame, and filled their little hearts with books?

That was back in 1998, when You’ve Got Mail was released. A few years later,  the real life bus I caught to university passed a little suburban shop called Books and Beans. I pressed my nose against the pane. Wait! There is was. The shop around the corner had found its way to my otherwise ordinary Brisbane suburb.

I was studying visual arts at the time, and to say I was disillusioned with making non-art out of styrofoam and other found non-arty-like materials was an understatement. My hopes of learning how to paint were flushed down the toilet along with the sentiment that anyone with creative talent can make a living in the arts. My lecturers wanted to drum into us that making a living from art was a thankless, and most likely impossible task.

Anyway, six weeks into the course,  I withdrew and applied at the bookstore. I got the job. As well as making cappuccinos and serving cupcakes, I was responsible for dressing like a fairy and reading books to kids.

It was kind of like a small heaven, with a Queensland climate.

I loved sitting and reading with the children, answering their impossible questions about where my wings were and why I was so big. Why wasn’t I invisible? I couldn’t say.

I read happy books, sad books, funny books. I even read scary books, if you count Julia Donaldson’s Room On A Broom. (I didn’t find the story about a witch helping animals scary, but a mother rang the shop the next morning to complain about me giving her child nightmares.)

I left Books and Beans a few months later, not because I didn’t love it to pieces, but because I was an itinerant, hapless 19 year old.

When you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, chances were, if it was between the years of 1998 and 2005, I would have told you I wanted to own a children’s book store. The Shop Around The Corner would have burned in my memory as I told you about my dream.

Bookshops will always have a special place in my heart. I hope they live forever.

What was your childhood dream? Do you have a favourite bookstore? 

For more tales from the sunshine house, book ideas and imaginative activities, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, which is full of sunny goodness.

Linking with Essentially Jess.

You’ve Got Mail

I have been struggling lately with my relationship to my smartphone, particularly Facebook.

I found myself reaching automatically for my phone, searching for something. Scrolling through Facebook, I found… a lot – but not a lot, if you know what I mean. Thousands of one-liners, inspirational quotes, witty quips, beautiful images, or links to (depressing) articles about Australian politics. I needed time out. I needed to remove the Facebook app from my phone, so great was Facebook’s pull.

You’ve read about my struggle with my smartphone here before – it’s not a new thing. Nor is it just me. Rachel Macy Stafford has created a whole movement about ‘switching off’. I read an excellent article on Medium the other day about reasons to avoid Facebook. People are talking.

I realised what it is, for me at least. It’s the You’ve Got Mail syndrome.

[jwplayer mediaid=”3912″]You’ve Got Mail

This is what You’ve Got Mail feels like…

The other day, walking towards my letterbox (my actual, real life, three dimensional letterbox) I felt a rush of excitement. What’s waiting inside? A parcel? A letter from a long lost friend. As I lifted the lid, my heart rate increased, and dopamine released in my brain in anticipation. But the box was empty.

Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days of the year, it’s the same story, or at best, a bill. Then one day a parcel arrives, and it’s exciting enough that my body and mind begins to expect the equivalent outcome every time I approach the letterbox, and responds accordingly.

The little red flag on Facebook notifications has the same effect, as does the red and white number on Apple Mail. We get excited, even though the flag, or the red and white number might amount to nothing more than spam (read, bill), and we become addicted to the anticipation and the good feelings it provokes.

It’s the feelings from the You’ve Got Mail 90’s movie time a thousand, because there are so many more devices and apps for getting mail.

So I have stepped away, slightly. I am still here – the phone’s on the kitchen bench, but it’s on silent. The computer is still on, but I use it when I am working, or for an hour or so in the evenings. I still enjoy my  Zanni Louise Sunshine House Facebook page – it’s a fun and warm community, which I feel genuinely connected to, and I pop in occasionally to like or comment on a friend’s status update.

I am just noticing – being aware of the effect it all has on me.

Speaking of mail, this incredible parcel arrived the other day from Naomi Bulger. I think its arrival may seriously reinforce my You’ve Got Mail syndrome.


youve-got-mail And now I am off to finish Naomi’s novel, Airmail. Toorah.

Do you know this syndrome too? Do you get excited approaching the letterbox, or your inbox?