Karmaville is a delightful little town, boasting affluent businesses, residential properties to suit all pockets, plenty of entertainment and a marvellous community spirit. It maintains healthy relationships with surrounding towns, and provides its residents with easy transport links to nearby cities. In short, it is a perfect microcosm of society, but is not afraid to welcome outsiders. Karmaville's town council has a policy of supporting local businesses, priding itself on giving the independent trader/creative entrepreneur a chance, in this world of huge corporation monopoly.
In 2014 four people moved into Karmaville, all of whom were eager to start new enterprises; they were encouraged by the opportunities offered by Karmaville. Arthur, Poppy, Gloria and Howard had heard much about the pleasant, friendly society and hoped their move promised prosperity and improved quality of life.
Let us now move on one year.
Each of the new residents has fared very differently...
Arthur has become known as The Marrow Man ever since his success in Karmaville agricultural show, where he produced the largest marrow anyone had ever seen. For much of his life Arthur has nurtured a dream of working an allotment and selling his produce to local shops; now he is retired, the time is right.
When the Karma Daily News named him The Marrow Man, Arthur felt very positive ~ and what a wonderful name for his new business! After sending the journalist a bottle of fine malt whisky to express his gratitude, he ordered business cards, spent a whole weekend working out a schedule for planting and reaping, and then compiled a list of possible outlets for his produce. He spends every spare moment reading up on his subject and tending his patch. Arthur is very happy; he has made new friends on the allotments and in the shops, too, and already supplies several establishments. Early feedback is very, very good!
Arthur knows his business will remain a small one, but he's fine with that. He's forged a mutually supportive network of suppliers and shopkeepers, and has gained more from the enterprise that he would ever have imagined.
Poppy has made friends with a small group of people, all of whom live in the same area of Karmaville as she does. The group is close knit, of people around the same age as her, from a similar background. A woman of private means, soon after arriving in Karmaville she started her little sideline of making personalised, hand embroidered cushion covers. All the people in her little group of friends have bought at least one of her exquisite pieces of work; all say that, though pricey, they are far too good to just be sold to friends. She had hoped to build up her business by word of mouth, but if her pieces are as wonderful as her friends say they are, why is she not receiving orders from the world at large?
She doesn't realise that because she has restricted herself to word of mouth advertising in a limited circle, 99% of Karmaville residents don't know she exists. However, she is happy enough. She buys the preserves that her friend Mrs Dingle makes, and tells her they're delicious, even though she finds them a little too sweet. She goes to see her friend Mr Babcock's rather dreary poetry recitals and claps loudly. Oh, but how she smiles when she goes to her friends' houses and sees her embroidered cushion covers on their sofas! She has little fantasies about becoming reknowned throughout the country for her artistic talent.
The other day she had the idea of placing an advertisement in the Karmaville Daily News, but didn't get round to it; besides, she was worried that she wouldn't be able to cope with large orders. Poppy does love making her covers, but it's a slow process and she has to be in the right mood; only last week she kept meaning to finish that new one for Flora Snow's parents' golden wedding anniversary, but there's so much else to do, and sometimes it's so hard to actually buckle down to it. Oh dear, and Flora is already getting impatient....
Gloria is said by some to represent everything Karmaville stands for. When she moved into her town centre apartment she'd already done plenty of research about how to get her business up and running. She knew the key was to provide a quality product at a reasonable price, and listen to her customers. Gloria makes luxury soaps, out of unusual and natural fragrances. Within two weeks she had a sample box ready, and a name for her company: Sumptuous Suds. Gloria has made many friends, too, because she is a positive and sunny person who is genuinely interested in others. Every morning she drinks coffee in Karma Kafe, and talks to proprietors and customers alike. She's found a hairdresser, uses all the local shops, has joined the Karmaville Players (the local amateur dramatic society), and introduced herself to practically every resident in her street. Last summer, she even organised a street party that was such a success that it was written up on the front page of the Karmaville Daily News!
The first two places to take on Gloria's stock were a natural remedies shop (of which Gloria was a regular patron), and her local health suite. Within a few months, Sumptuous Suds could be found in most of the hotels and guest houses, and in those in neighbouring towns - Gloria's reputation for her friendly, businesslike and prompt service, and the quality of her product, keeps her customers coming back.
Gloria has now rented premises from Karmaville Council and employed several staff, but still likes to maintain the personal touch with her customers, answering their queries herself whenever possible. She works long hours, but loves it. Her reputation has grown; Sumptuous Suds have seeped into the bathrooms of nearby cities, too.
Gloria is so grateful to Karmaville for the opportunities it's given her, and tries to do her bit for the community by taking part in the charity fun run and giving talks about running a business at the local college. Yes, Gloria is one of Karmaville's biggest success stories!
And now we come to Howard. Howard always wanted to become a successful and internationally acclaimed classical pianist, but such glory has eluded him. Trying (but sometimes failing) not to feel bitter about this, he decided to make a living working as a piano teacher while working on his magnum opus, if he could find the time for that as well.
What better place than Karmaville?
Howard is choosy. A year ago, he placed advertisements in the local lifestyle magazine, because that was where he hoped to find the class of customers he sought. He bought a house in a pleasant, tree-lined avenue, but felt disappointed by his neighbours; he'd hoped to live amongst more creative types, but these people were very commonplace. Howard is not by nature a social butterfly, and rejected his neighbours' early efforts to make friends. He didn't need them; well, none of them had children who looked as though they might want piano lessons.
Howard gained a few pupils through the schools, but it is said that he isn't the most pleasant chap to get on with. He never wants to discuss a pupil's progress once lesson time is over, especially not with the parents, who don't understand the first thing about what he does. He is the best; they should be glad he's agreed to tutor their offspring. Isn't that enough? If he sees a parent in the street when he's out shopping he often pretends not to have seen them, becoming suddenly very interested in a shop window.
Howard gains few recommendations, so the 'word of mouth' advertising for which he'd hoped has not materialised. People say he is undoubtedly good at what he does, but unfriendly. A few locals have tried to pass the time of day with him but found that he just delivered a monologue about his disillusionment with the music industry, and the problems he has finding a suitable breed of pupil.
"I sat and drank two pints with the chap, in the Karmaville Arms," Arthur The Marrow Man told one of his friends, Bob, up at the allotment. "Fella never once asked me anything about myself. Just talked for England about how he'd tried everything to become a success, and nothing had worked. I felt a bit sorry for him, y'know, but I couldn't help thinking he was his own worst enemy."
"Aye, I've heard he's a grim sort of chap," said Bob. "Bit of luck he'll be moving on soon. Hey - tomatoes are looking good, Arthur! Still, I've got to go, it's pub quiz night. You coming?"
"Wouldn't miss it," said Arthur. "And we're going to win tonight - Gloria's on our team!"
Bob shook his head. "Lucky man! Lovely girl, that one - and she makes some pretty fair soaps, too! D'you know, she came round to our Vera's and gave her some free samples to take to her knitting circle. How nice is that?"
"Aye, she's an angel!"
The sun shines down on Karmaville, on Arthur and his friend as they pack up their gardening tools after a hard but satisfying day's work.
The sun shines through the drawing room window in the house where Poppy lives, too; making a 'tsk!' noise, she gets up to shut the curtains, as it sheds light on her television screen. On the table is the cushion for Flora's parents' golden wedding anniversary present; it is still only half completed, even though she promised Flora she would have it yesterday.
The sun shines through the window of Gloria's office, where she is just wrapping up a very satisfactory meeting with a new client.
It shines into Howard's living room, too, but he doesn't notice it. He is too busy growling to himself over an article in a national newspaper, about a old friend who is being hailed as the best cellist the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra had ever employed. If that sort of thing didn't put one in a bad mood for the day, what did? And in an hour's time he has to tutor that awful little Jimmy Smith, the one with bunches of bananas instead of fingers! He can't even cancel, because pupils are a bit thin on the ground these days.
When, oh when, will his genius be recognised?