Please take a moment to review Hachette Book Group's updated Privacy Policy: read the updated policy here.

Kate and Clara’s Curious Cornish Craft Shop by Ali McNamara

One

 

 

‘I don’t get it?’ my daughter says as she stares up at the huge, brightly coloured canvas on the wall in front of us. ‘It’s like something I did when I was little, and you stuck on the fridge for everyone to see.’

I have to agree with her but, wary of where we are, I choose my words carefully.

‘It’s called modern art,’ I whisper, ‘Not everyone gets it.’ ‘Do you get it?’ Molly asks, still in a voice a little too loud for my liking. ‘And more to the point, do you think it’s any good?’

A few people standing nearby turn their intense gaze away from the artwork in front of them towards our direction.

‘Molly, you need to keep your voice down,’ I whisper again, not answering her question. ‘Art galleries are a bit like libraries – people don’t want to be disturbed while they study things.’

Molly folds her arms. ‘In a library people actually want to take the books home. I can’t see anyone wanting to take a series of blue blobs home again and again, can you, Mum?’

I open my mouth to agree with her, but a refined female voice speaks first. ‘As a matter of fact this painting is one of our most popular exhibits. Our shop sells more postcards, prints and bags reproduced from this one work of art than any other in the whole gallery.’

I look at the woman standing next to us. I’ve seen her around the town from time to time, flouncing about in brightly coloured scarves and layers of mismatched clothing.

‘You obviously work here,’ I reply politely. ‘I thought I’d seen you around St Felix.’

‘I’m one of the curators at the gallery,’ she replies self- importantly. ‘I’m in charge of the new Winston James exhibition. I assume you’re here for the opening tonight?’

She looks us up and down as though she’s wondering if we’d been wrongly invited.

‘Yes, we are,’ I say, pulling the invitation from my bag.

The woman takes it from me and examines it carefully. ‘Ah,’ she says knowingly. ‘Local business, are you? That makes sense.’

‘Yes,’ I say, snatching back the invitation from her. ‘I own Kate’s Cornish Crafts on Harbour Street. We sell art and craft supplies,’ I emphasise when she looks blankly at me.

Mmm,’ the woman says, quickly losing interest in us as some more people arrive through the main gallery doors. ‘The party is through there.’ She points vaguely in the direction of some heavy glass doors. ‘Do enjoy your evening.’ Then she scurries over towards a large man wearing a long black trench coat and a matching black trilby hat with a green feather. ‘Julian! How wonderful you could make it!’ she gushes, air-kissing the man on both cheeks.

‘Come on,’ I tell Molly as she  grins with amusement at the eccentric group of people following Julian through the door. ‘The sooner we get this party over with, the sooner we can go home.’

‘Kate!’ a young woman calls with delight a short while later, as Molly and I stand awkwardly with our complimentary drinks gazing at the people around us. Some of them we recognise as fellow St Felix residents, and some of them seem to be distinctly different from the usual out-of-town visitor yet seem to fit in extremely well with the art gallery surrounding.

‘Poppy!’ I call back, pleased to see one of my fellow Harbour Street shop owners. ‘How are you? I haven’t seen you in a while.’ ‘I haven’t been in the flower shop much lately.’ Poppy grimaces. ‘Morning sickness,’ she explains, patting her tummy. ‘You’re expecting again?’ I ask with delight. ‘How wonderful.’ ‘I certainly am!’ Poppy  replies looking pleased.

‘Hopefully now I’m past twelve weeks I should start feeling a little better like last time. ‘Hello Molly,’ she says, spotting her. ‘Having a good time?’

Molly shrugs. ‘It’s okay.’

Poppy grins. ‘You remind me of my stepdaughter Bronte. She would have said something similar at your age, being dragged somewhere like this by one of her parents.’

Molly looks awkwardly at Poppy.

‘It’s wonderful news about the baby, Poppy,’ I tell her. ‘I didn’t know you were expecting again.’

‘Jake and I are only just telling people now it’s safe to do so. Actually I think it’s taken Jake all these weeks to get his head around the fact he’s going to be a father again.’

‘This will be his . . . fourth child, won’t it?’

‘Yup, second by me. The first two are hardly children any more now. Bronte is twenty and Charlie is twenty-two.’

‘Bronte is at art college, isn’t she? I think she popped in to buy a sketch-book from us once, but I don’t think she was very impressed by our somewhat limited range.’

‘You can’t stock everything, can you?’ Poppy says pragmatically. ‘Most of the shops are pretty small in St Felix. You’re lucky you have that extra basement to trade from. I’m sure Bronte found something in your shop that she could use – she never stops sketching.’ Poppy leans in towards me. ‘Her stuff is a lot better than most of the so-called art hanging on these walls. It’s a bit . . . childish, isn’t it?’

‘I guess, but it’s better than some of the pieces in the other rooms. It looks like someone has just thrown paint at some of the canvases through there. At least you can tell what these paintings are.’

‘That’s true,’ Poppy agrees. ‘I’m only really here to show support for the gallery tonight, aren’t you? It’s great they’ve got it back up and running again after all the renovations. We always see an upsurge in visitors when this place is open. It seems there are a lot of people who appreciate modern art more than I do!’ I smile. Poppy never minces her words and I admire her honesty. ‘It’s good to know there will be more visitors soon then. I wouldn’t really know – the gallery has been closed since

I opened my shop.’

Poppy thinks about this. ‘Yes, it must have been, I suppose. I’d forgotten it had been closed so long. You came here what . . . twelve months ago?’

‘Eighteen. They’d just closed the gallery for renovation when I first arrived.’

‘Gosh, that long? How times flies.’

There’s a clinking sound of someone tapping a wine glass with a spoon, and the room hushes as we all turn towards the noise.

 

‘Ladies and gentlemen.’ It’s the woman from earlier. ‘If I could have your attention for a few moments, please.’ She waits for the entire room to quieten before she begins. ‘Thank you. My name, as most of you will know, is Ophelia Fitzpatrick and I am Chief Curator here at the Lyle Gallery. As you know our magnificent gallery has only just opened again after our extensive, and if I may say, rather fabulous refurbishment, so I’m sure that this is the first time some of you have visited us since then. I’m certain you will all agree that the renovations have been more than worthwhile, and the gallery is now even more stunning than ever.’ She gestures at our surroundings and there’s a small ripple of applause. ‘I’m sure you will also concur though that a gallery, however architecturally amazing, is only as good as the artwork it contains and, as many of you will have seen tonight, we have some incredible works of art on perma- nent display here.’

‘Incredible isn’t the word I’d use,’ Poppy mutters next to me,

and Molly grins approvingly across at her.

‘But I am simply overjoyed,’ Ophelia continues, ‘that our very first special exhibition to be displayed here in the Lyle Gallery is by a local artist who lived and worked here in St Felix in the nineteen fifties. I’m certain you’ve all been appreciating and admiring his many works of art that we’re proud to be displaying on our walls, but if you haven’t because you’ve all been too busy enjoying yourselves, then I urge you to allow yourselves to be captivated and enthralled by them before you leave us tonight. But before you all rush off to do just that, it is my immense pleasure to introduce to you someone who can tell you much more about both these wonderful paintings and the artist him- self. May I welcome to the stage someone who knew Winston James better than most – his son, Julian!’

 

Ophelia breaks out into enthusiastic applause, and the room joins in with a slightly more muted response as the same man we’d seen outside earlier wearing a hat and coat, now sporting a tailor-made navy-blue suit, pale blue shirt and a cravat with white polka dots, springs up on to the tiny temporary stage next to her. He kisses her extravagantly on both cheeks and then confidently takes the small microphone from her tight grip. ‘Thank you, Ophelia!’ he says, gesturing for her to step down from the stage, leaving no one in any doubt that it was now his turn in the spotlight.

‘Greetings, friends!’ Julian James calls out enthusiastically to the room.

I glance warily at Molly, but she’s already grinning and hold- ing her phone up that little bit higher so she can record this.

I put my hand over the camera lens. ‘Mum!

I shake my head at her. Scowling, she lowers her phone. ‘May I call you friends?’ Julian enquires, a concerned expression falling over his chiselled features. ‘My father was so very much a part of life here in St Felix for so many years that I feel you are all his friends and family, and therefore mine too.’

Poppy snorts next to me and hurriedly takes another sip of her orange juice to conceal her amusement.

Julian seems to sense some dissent in the crowd and looks with concern in our direction. A disarming smile is immediately cast my way.

I smile politely back.

‘You’re in there,’ Poppy mutters, nudging me.

‘I hardly think so,’ I say, pulling a face. ‘I do have some standards.’

‘He must be loaded though,’ Poppy whispers with amusement. ‘Now the painter dad isn’t around any more the dough must all be his. If you can get past the silly facial hair and the dodgy voice, it’s all yours.’

Stop it!’ I hiss, trying not to laugh.

‘St Felix was such a huge part of my father’s life for so many years,’ Julian continues, ‘which is why he loved to paint it in his own unique way.’ He gestures to one of the paintings behind him. ‘So I know how utterly thrilled he would have been to know that all his St Felix  paintings are being displayed here  at the Lyle Gallery this summer for both you, the locals, and all of St Felix’s many visitors to admire.’ We raise our hands to applaud but Julian continues: ‘In fact, I’m sure  many  of you small business owners will very soon be thanking my father that there will be even more visitors to the town this summer as a result of this exhibition, so I ask you to raise your glasses in appreciation of the genius that was, and still is, Mr Winston James!’

‘He almost had me there,’ Poppy says, as we half-heartedly raise our drinks, ‘but then he told us how grateful we should be, and while I agree that the visitors are a bonus for all of us, he’s a bit pretentious, isn’t he?’

‘He does seem very full of himself,’ I say, looking around for Molly who seems to have slipped off somewhere.

‘His pomposity is spilling out of the top of his head,’ Poppy says in her usual direct way. ‘Oh, do excuse me, Kate, I’ve just seen Rita over there. I need to speak to her about some flowers we’re supplying for a wedding reception at The Merry Mermaid. Back in a bit.’

Poppy waves at Rita and then weaves her way through the crowd of attendees, many of whom now seem to be clambering to speak to Julian.

 

Where has Molly gone? I think again, looking around me. It wasn’t like her to wander off.

Actually I have to admit to myself, it was more like her these days. Since Molly had become a teenager a few years ago she’d changed – not physically, she was still small and wiry, but in other ways. Now she dressed in jeans, heavy boots and T-shirts with bold emblems on them. However, it wasn’t really her appearance that made the difference, it was that she was becoming ever more independent.

Feeling even more awkward standing on my own with no one to talk to I turn towards the painting nearest to me and pretend to examine it closely.

Poppy is right: the style is a bit childish at first glance. St Felix Harbour at Dusk it says on the little name tag underneath the picture.

Hmm . . . I guess it is, I think, looking more closely at the canvas. It was easy to recognise the town’s distinctive harbour with the small lighthouse at the end, and in front of that the whitewashed stone cottages that still line the edge of the harbour, now mostly shops, cafés and holiday accommodation rather than homes for fishing families as they were in the fifties. However, the perspective of the picture seemed off – a deliberate trait perhaps? Also, the artist had used really basic lines and brush-strokes to complete his work – making it look very much like a toddler’s view of the fishing village I now called home.

‘One of my father’s favourites,’ a deep rounded voice says over my shoulder.

I spin around and find Julian James standing a little closer to me than I feel comfortable with. He’s holding a glass of red wine and he takes a long slow sip of it as he waits for my response.

 

‘Really?’ I enquire politely, turning back to the painting. ‘Why was that?’

‘Isn’t it obvious?’ Julian says, leaning closer to the painting and to me.

‘Perhaps you could enlighten me?’

The smell of expensive aftershave and red wine fills my nostrils as I await what I expect will be a very long reply about the quality of the light, masterful brush-strokes, depth and feelings.

‘It was one of his bestsellers!’ Julian laughs, so I turn back towards him. ‘There has been more merch made of this little beauty than any of his others.’

‘Merch?’

‘Merchandise!’ He rubs his fingers together. ‘And where there’s merchandise there’s money! Lots of money!’

‘Ah, I see,’ I reply, wondering if I could dislike Julian any more than I already do. ‘I’m sure your father didn’t ever think about his paintings being commercial when he created them though, did he?’ I look at the picture again. Next to Julian’s materialism it suddenly seems so pure and innocent. I couldn’t imagine that anyone who had created a work of art as naive as this would have been so mercenary as to anticipate the money he might make from it.

‘Are you kidding? My father was the most extravagant, reck- less spendthrift I’ve ever known. He loved splashing his cash around. The more the better as far as he was concerned.’

‘You paint a fine picture of him,’ I say wryly.

‘Ah . . . ’ Julian waves his finger at me. ‘I see what you did there. You’re quite the clever little birdie, aren’t you?’

‘I try,’ I reply politely, wishing someone would come and whisk either myself or Julian away so I had to endure his company no more. Why did no one want to speak to him suddenly? You couldn’t get near him a few minutes ago.

‘So what do you do here?’ Julian asks. ‘I believe some of the guests here tonight are local businessmen and, of course, women,’ he adds, waving his hand graciously in my direction. ‘Are you one of the aforementioned?’

‘Yes, I own one of the shops on Harbour Street,’ I tell him proudly. ‘It’s a craft shop. Kate’s Cornish—’

‘How nice,’ Julian interrupts, not sounding the least bit inter- ested. ‘Your very own shop.’

I’m very proud of it.’

‘I’m sure. Here,’ Julian says deftly, reaching into his pocket, ‘why don’t  you take my card? Perhaps you’d  like to give me a ring some time. We can chat business and other things . . . ’ He winks suggestively and I almost vomit. ‘I’m often down in Cornwall. I have a holiday home here as well as a luxury villa in the South of France.’ He continues listing his properties as if it goes without saying. ‘Plus a flat in South London, but I doubt you get up to the Big Smoke too much, do you? It’s quite the journey from here.’

‘No,’ I reply, taking his card. I want to say so much more but I bite my tongue, I don’t want to create a scene. ‘I don’t get to the South of France much either. Taunton is usually my limit before I get jet lag.’

‘Shame,’ Julian carries on merrily, not realising what I’m saying. ‘Travelling is what I love to do most, you see . . . Oh . . . very clever! Jet lag – I get it.’

Julian!’ Ophelia calls, hurrying over to us to my immense relief. ‘There you are. You really must meet . . . Oh, you again,’ she says, not even trying to hide the disdain in her voice as she sees me. ‘Are you having a . . . pleasant evening?’

 

‘I am indeed,’ I say brightly, spying the perfect opportunity to get one up. ‘I’ve seen some wonderful paintings, and I’ve just been invited to stay in a luxury villa in the South of France to talk business . . . ’ I tap Julian’s card casually against the palm of my hand so Ophelia can clearly see it, while I cast what I hope is a dazzling smile in his direction. ‘I’d say that’s pretty pleasant for a Tuesday evening, wouldn’t you?’

‘I’ll be in touch,’ I say to a smug-looking Julian as I take my chance to escape them both. ‘Bye, Ophelia. Thanks for an utterly unique evening.’ Astounded, she stares at me blankly. Then I turn and walk away from them as quickly as I can, knowing that if I ever see either of them again it will be far too soon, and that my being ‘in touch’ with Julian is about as likely as a seagull not stealing a tourist’s Cornish pasty this summer.

 

 

Two

 

 

‘I’m going to take Barney for a walk, Anita!’ I call down the stairs of the shop. ‘Could you or Sebastian come up for a while?’ I attach Barney’s red leather lead to his collar, and he looks up at me appreciatively so I rub behind his blond ears just where he likes it and he nuzzles my hand.

‘Don’t get too excited,’ I tell him, ‘We’re only going for a quick wander – I’ve got sewing to do later.’

Anita appears at the top of the stairs closely followed by her younger colleague Sebastian.

‘You don’t both need to come up,’ I tell them. ‘I won’t be gone long.’

‘Tea break!’ Sebastian says, clutching theatrically at his throat. ‘Gasping for a cuppa, aren’t we, Anita?’

Anita nods her grey head in agreement. ‘We’ve unpacked most of the delivery now. There are just a few fiddly bits left – crochet hooks, packets of embroidery needles . . . that kind of thing, but that won’t take long.’

‘You two got on with that quickly!’ I say, amazed they’ve unpacked so many of the boxes we’d had delivered to the shop earlier in the day. It was a delivery of craft equipment so the majority of it was fiddly little things that took ages to hang on the wooden rails or stack on the glass shelves downstairs.

‘We don’t mess around when we get going, do we, Anita?’ Sebastian says, putting his young arm around Anita’s much older shoulders. ‘We’re a great team!’

‘We are when you stop nattering for a minute or  two,’ Anita says good-naturedly, patting the hand on her shoulder affectionately.

 

Barney tugs a little at his lead. ‘All right, I’m coming,’ I tell him. ‘I’ll be back in a bit. Molly might be in from school before we get back. If she is, tell her she can have no more than fifteen minutes down here in the shop before she gets on with her homework upstairs. I know you’ll be tempting her with some of your homemade cake, Anita.’

Anita smiles. ‘Ah, but she deserves it. She’s a good girl.’

‘I know she is, but I also know she’d much rather spend her time down here with you two than upstairs doing schoolwork.’ ‘How did the pair of you get on at the gallery last night?’

Anita asks. ‘I heard it was a good turn-out.’

‘Yes, it was packed – you could hardly move. Amazing what a couple of free drinks and a vol-au-vent can attract. The exhi- bition was okay, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing. The paintings weren’t really my cup of tea. I should probably have given you the tickets, Sebastian.’

Sebastian is a student at an art college in London most    of the year, but in the holidays he returns home to St Felix  to live with his parents, and when he does he helps me out  in the shop. We’re so much busier in the summer months  that I can just about afford to employ two part-time members of staff.

 

Sebastian shrugs. ‘Nah, you’re all right. I’ve been to the gal- lery plenty of times. I don’t really know much about Winston James as it goes . . . was his work any good?’

I wrinkle my nose. ‘Good isn’t a word I’d use to describe it . . . childlike maybe?’

‘Surely you mean naive, darling!’ Sebastian says with a flourish of his hands. ‘That’s what the critics always say when something looks like it’s been painted by a three-year-old.’

I loved that about Sebastian – even though he was an art student himself he never really behaved like one. He wasn’t ‘airy fairy’ as Anita had suggested he might be when I told her I was hiring him last summer. He called a spade a spade and I admired his honesty. Yes, he was lively and a bit over the top at times, but he had a good heart, was a hard worker and the customers loved him.

‘I’m sure that word would most definitely have been bandied about last night,’ I say, winking at him. ‘Okay, Barney!’ I tell the golden Labrador nosing into my leg, ‘I really am coming this time.’

‘Before you go, Kate,’ Anita says, ‘I forgot to tell you – Noah called in earlier from the antiques shop. He says he might have something of interest to you.’

‘Really?’ I ask, wondering what on earth  Noah  could have that I might want. ‘Right, thanks. I’ll pop in after Barney’s walk.’

Barney and I leave Anita and Sebastian to their tea and no doubt a good gossip, and we make our way quickly along the street down towards the harbour.

I’m very lucky to have found such good staff to help me out. Originally it had just been Anita and myself, and she had sort of come with the premises. Before I became the tenant it had been an old-fashioned wool shop owned by a little old lady called Wendy, who had also lived above the store like Molly and I do now.

From what I’d heard, Wendy and Anita used to run the place like a gossip stop for the older ladies of the town and it had been very popular. However, I’m pretty sure they hadn’t been making any profit for some time. When Wendy had sadly passed away there had been much talk about what was to become of Wendy’s Wools, so much so that when I came along and said I wanted to open a craft shop the landlord had almost hugged me with joy and relief that the beloved place would be re-opening as something along the same lines. He even offered me a discount on my rent if I agreed to keep Anita on, which at the time I wasn’t too sure about. Now, looking back, I don’t know what I’d have done without her knowledge and advice on how to make my little shop work for both the locals and the holiday-makers who flocked to St Felix.

I say ‘little shop’, but we actually have two floors we trade from. To allow us to sell as broad a range of art and craft sup- plies as possible I’d renovated the basement to hold them all. Upstairs on the ground floor we stock my own textile designs, mostly handmade by me with a little help from some of the ladies of the town, who I’d hired when sales had really taken off last summer.

Having my own shop has been such a long-term ambition of mine that I occasionally have to pinch myself that I am not only ‘living the dream’ but making good money from it too.

 

In the summer when the tide is out, dogs are allowed on the vast harbour beach that’s created by the expanse of sand the waves leave behind. Once Barney and I have weaved our way through the many grounded fishing boats the outgoing tide has aban- doned at odd angles on the wet sand, I let him off his lead and he bounds across the beach until he finds his first interesting smell; then when he’s stopped to sniff it a little too long I give him a whistle and he chases after me. When we’ve walked out far enough so we can see waves lapping against the sand Barney looks up hopefully at me.

 

‘Oh no, you’re not going swimming right now!’ I tell him before he has time to bound off into the water. ‘I haven’t got time to wash and dry a wet sandy dog this afternoon. You can swim tomorrow if you’re good.’ I pull his ball from my pocket to distract him, and throw it across the sand well away from the lure of the sea.

When we’ve spent about fifteen minutes on the sand together with me throwing and him chasing the ball, all the while avoiding unsuspecting holiday-makers wandering hap- lessly across the makeshift beach, I call Barney to my side and we walk back towards the harbour again. The tide is already beginning to turn behind us, and I know all too well how quickly the waves will start rushing in to form a deep and dangerous sea once more.

 

Many an unsuspecting visitor has been caught on one of the high sand-banks in the middle of the harbour while the waves washed in around them. It’s a St Felix tradition that someone has to be rescued at least once a week.

‘Come on, you,’ I say, attaching Barney’s lead again. ‘Let’s head back the long way and we can call in on Noah on our way round.’

Barney, not minding at all that we are taking the long route to get back to the shop, sets off happily in front of me, and we wind our way along the cobbled streets until we come to Noah’s Ark, a charming little antique shop that’s been a part of St Felix much longer than we have.

 

I open the door a little so the bell rings above me, and I see Noah pop up from the back room.

‘Oh, it’s you, Kate,’ he says, coming into the shop properly. ‘I hoped you’d pop by.’

‘I’ve got Barney with me. He’s a bit sandy so I didn’t want to bring him in.’

‘I run an antiques shop by the sea, Kate. I think I’m used to a little sand by now.’ He grins at me. ‘Bring Barney in. Clarice will be delighted to see him.’

Clarice is his little dog. A bit like me with Anita, Noah inher- ited her when he inherited this shop from his aunt.

 

I bring Barney into the shop and the two dogs sniff delight- edly around each other at our feet.

‘Anita said you wanted to see me about something?’ I ask tentatively, still not sure what Noah could want. I knew Ana, his partner, well. She was infamous around town with her little red camper van, which she hired out for events. At anything from weddings to school proms Ana seemed to be in attendance driving Daisy-Rose as she called her, putting a smile on the face of everyone who saw them together.

‘Yes, that’s right. I got a job lot in from a house clearance the other day,’ Noah explains, leading me towards the back room. ‘The previous owner of the house was an elderly lady, and she must have been quite arty as the attic was filled with all sorts – paintings, art equipment, craft supplies and this,’ he says, gesturing towards an old wooden box.

 

‘It looks like a sewing machine,’ I say, as he undoes two brass catches and lifts the lid. ‘Oh, it is a sewing machine! And a pretty old one too.’

‘I like to call it “vintage”,’ Noah says, winking at me. ‘I reckon this one is from the early part of the twentieth century, or possibly before then.’

‘Perhaps,’ I say, looking at it. ‘I doubt it works though.’

‘No, I think this old girl sewed her last petticoat many a year ago! But I didn’t think you’d want it to sew with. I thought you might be able to use it in your shop for display purposes. The machine would really set off your designs perfectly.’

‘I suppose it could look quite cool in the window if I cleaned it up a bit. How much do you want for it?’

Noah shakes his head. ‘Nothing. You’d be doing me a favour taking it off my hands to be honest. These machines don’t make much money, especially in this state, and you did do Ana that favour last year with the interiors for Daisy-Rose. We owe you one.’

‘Nonsense! I was happy to make those cushions for you.’

I look at the sewing machine again. ‘I guess it would be quite a nice display piece . . . but I have to give you some- thing, Noah.’

‘No, really, Kate, I’ve already made enough money selling all the old art equipment that came with it. A guy came in to browse yesterday and snapped it all up immediately. He’s open- ing an art supplies shop and he said it would look great in there. That’s when I thought of you and the machine.’

‘Perfect timing! So where’s his shop going to be – some- where local?

‘Yeah, just up the road from you, in the old butcher’s.’ ‘What?’ I exclaim. ‘Here in St Felix? I thought you meant Penzance or Newlyn when you said local . . . ’

‘Nope, he’s just getting set up. I think he hopes to open in the next week or two. Nice guy. Just moved here apparently.’

 

‘But we sell art equipment,’ I say, my face darkening. ‘In the basement of the shop.’

‘Oh, so you do,’ Noah says, suddenly realising why I’m so peeved. ‘I hadn’t thought of that. I’m sure it won’t make too much difference to you though, will it? I mean, look at all the Cornish pasty shops here – they all seem to make a profit.’

‘There’s a lot more demand for pasties than art equipment though – it’s more specialised. Look at it this way, if someone opened a vintage car hire shop in St Felix renting out retro cars and vehicles for events, would you and Ana be worried?’

‘Sure,’ Noah says, nodding pragmatically. ‘I can see where you’re coming from, Kate, but there’s not really too much you can do about it if his shop is opening soon.’

‘Oh, isn’t there?’ I say, folding my arms. ‘We’ll see about that . . . ’