So this morning, after a solid 70 minutes lovely chanting with some lovely Buddhists, I dropped off to a new dry cleaner the lovely frocks me and the Mrs wore to lovely Amy and Jennie’s lovely wedding last week. So far so lovely. It gets better …

The Room of Lost things (my latest book), is based in a fictional dry cleaner’s, in a real place. Really where I live. And actually, it used to be based on the location of a real shop, until the also lovely Faisal (who advised on all things dry cleaner-y and many things Islam) sold up. I’ve talked in interviews about how important Faisal was to making this book, mostly because it was sort of his idea in the first place (see blog about making The Room of Lost Things).
So … fast forward to this morning.
I took the dresses in to a new dry cleaner (different location, the old one is a nail and hair place now). Quick chat with perfectly nice man, who prints out ticket and asks me my name. I say Stella. He says Stella ?. I say Duffy. He turns around, fishes in bag, pulls out half-read copy of … The Room of Lost Things! (actually, he’s about a third of the way through, I told him it starts speeding up soon … !!)
Turns out he was listening to the radio, and heard me talking about Loughborough Junction and mentioning Faisal. He called the only Faisal dry cleaner he knew in the area, it was ‘my’ Faisal, he bought the book. And is now, apparently, doing a very good job of selling it to other locals!
I love this for so many reasons :
1. I have never been a big splash author where zillions of pounds have been spent on marketing. I’m sure it must be nice, I do still have a hankering for tube/bus posters, but … the word of mouth thing is what everyone really believes in, all the publicity people say it’s what really works, and this could not have been more word of mouth.
2. I love Radio 4. And I love Saturday Live. And I’m fairly certain he would have heard me on Saturday Live, as I remember mentioning Faisal and dry cleaning the last time I was on there. (Though I did probably have the same conversation with Robert Elms’s great London show on BBC London.)
3. My Mum always talked to shopkeepers, and people on buses/tubes/trains/in queues etc. And I’m a bit rubbish at it, a bit rubbish at talking to strangers generally. There’s too much to do, I’m too busy, they’re too busy etc etc. But since I’ve been a Buddhist leader in my area, I’ve made a bit more effort. Not to convert people or prosetylise, I rarely talk about my practice, but because I’m much more aware of the area. Of trying to love it better. Of our living in a part of town that is often demonised and wanting to prove it is other than the public perception. I like that taking the time to chat to this man means that we now have a relationship, like the old days, where people knew each others’ names and smiled in the street. Or at least, that’s the myth. Maybe it’s always been hard for some of us to talk to strangers. Maybe it just takes a bit more effort.