Kate and Clara's Curious Cornish Craft Shop - Ali McNamara Page 0,1

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 permanent 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 himself. 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 holding her phone up that little bit higher so she can