Sunday, December 24, 2006

Finn Uncovers The Secret Of Christmas...

Something was going on...

A small tree that used to grow in a pot in the garden now sat in the front window, covered in sparkly stuff. Over the past week mum and dad had placed lots of objects around it, all wrapped in tempting crinkly, crackly paper. Dad had been in the bookshop ALL THE TIME - or so it seemed to Finn.

Then, in the middle of the night, Finn was woken by a strange noise coming from the living room. He leapt over there right away. What did our tiny hero find but a large man, with a jolly face, chuckling to himself.

"Oh hello little man" he said. "I hope I didn't startle you. I just find it so amusing the way people get confused about Christmas."

Finn stared at the man with his big blue eyes. He didn't blink.

"All this fuss about gifts, all the talk of wise men and babies and stars..."

The big bloke picked little Finn up, tucked him under his arm and went outside. It was frosty, foggy and dark but Finn could see a funny shaped car with a furry back seat. They climbed in and the big man zoomed them off into the sky. Up and up they sped.

"See that?" The big man pointed at a bright cluster of stars. "That's my digger!"

Finn gazed in the direction the big bloke was pointing and yes, if you looked close, that group of stars did look rather like a digger.

"Every year, round about 25th December, I have to get my star digger running and then I have to re-do the foundations of the sun. Otherwise it would fall into a black hole and go out - that would be a bad thing. In the very old days people understood things a bit better. You'll probably learn all about the places they built to worship the sun and the things they did to try to keep it happy. These days people have electric light and tend to forget the bleedin' obvious. They take the sun for granted."

Finn said nothing. But he widened his eyes a little.

Next thing they were climbing into the cab of the glittery digger. Instead of chugging like a normal engine there was a sort of vague throbbing sound. Then the star digger lumbered off towards the sun.

Finn had a great time with the big bloke. He was not like dad at all - not daft. He knew all about digging in space and produced some quite complex equations that ordinary people hadn't managed to think of yet that showed how to dig foundations beneath vast hot things like stars. He was so good at explaining things even small brained Finn could understand.

"So you see all this fuss about presents, babies, food - it's all a bit of a distraction. But I don't mind. I just do my thing every year. Make sure the sun keeps on rising."

When they were done they climbed in the strange car and zipped back down to Camberwell.

The big bloke put the small chap carefully in his cot. Mum and dad were snoring away next door. Finn watched with his big eyes as the large bloke put a finger to his lips. With a final jolly chuckle he left and Finn drifted off to sleep.

Christmas Eve - Thoughts Etc

It's been an incredible year.

From nothing Crockatt & Powell has been born.

Marie has a book deal.

I have a baby son.

I would just like to give thanks - liberally - to everyone that has been involved with C & P in any way.

Now I would like to give thanks in general...


All the best for the festive season and see you next year.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nearly there... pt 2

This is my last day. Tomorrow, Heathrow permitting, I'm off here and then onto here. Two weeks of total vegetative, monosyllabic relaxation. My poor mother and father will of course attempt to talk to me but I'm afraid the responses may be on the limited side. Marie is off to family in Africa and Matthew is spending 3 days in Glastonbury on a crazed Cowper Powys quest.

We will go safe in the knowledge that there is enough in the kitty to pay all the bills when we open up again on the 8th january. Hooray.

We set ourselves some targets for december. Yesterday we were just a few pennies short of the point marked 'wildest dreams'. So a big thank you to all down the 'Loo who helped us punch well above our weight. This week we did between a quarter and a fifth of the sales of my previous bookshops at the same time of year (if memory serves) yet we only have less than a tenth of the stock. Our shop mantra of 'Less is More' appears to have paid off. The other shop chant, 'If you build it they will come' also seems to have worked! Of course we do only stock the finest books...

However, 2007 is a whole other story. The twin pitfalls of Hubris and Complacency cannot be allowed to bedevil our minds. Still, if we don't big ourselves up no bugger else will. So once again...


And, A Bientot.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nearly there...

...just a couple more days...

(bookseller falls to the floor with thin dribble of drool running from corner of mouth)

On closer inspection is found to be smiling.

She hasn't left really...

Ok, so Marie's been given her very own corner of C&P on the web. It's a bit slapdash at the moment but I'm busy, it's christmas. Will update as soon as we get the gen from the lady herself. Might even be adding some links and stuff. Who knows. Open forum on this one methinks. Any ideas? Would be quite cool to build up a sort of Marie wiki site (how web 2.0 are we!?) until it's a towering slab of internet tomfoolery. Watch this space...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kulcher, 'innit

The shameful cultural admissions list started over at Scott Pack's blog spread like wild-fire eventually finding it's way to the Guardian's Comment is Free page. Everyone and their dog had a pop at their own list including my very own, humble offering a few posts below.

On a recent post of his Scott was musing on the whole brief phenomenon,

'I don't think we can declare any lessons learned from the whole experience, but it has been great fun. Hope you enjoyed it.'

Here's what I found myself thinking. Amusement, Interest, Amazement, Confusion, Dismay, Depression and Annoyance. In that order.

The thing is it didn't take very long before some genuine spleen and bile gurgled it's way out. I HATE Shakespeare. I LOATHE Ballet. I REFUSE to ever see an Opera. I'd NEVER read Proust EVER.

It pretty soon became one big infantile, self-justifying, self-serving circle jerk of people who suddenly felt emboldened by the surging of the mob to cut loose and get their own back on all the 'cultural elites' who had spent years putting them down. It was like everyone is patting themselves on the back for sitting back with what they know and turning their noses up at anything 'difficult' or 'unpalatable', like babies and toddlers with 'yucky' food.

Particularly depressing are the comments like, 'I saw an opera in 1953 and I never want to sit through that again' and 'I did Twelfth Night at school and was so bored that it put me off for ever'. This is NOT alright. It's NOT ok to be unembarrassed about this. You CANNOT pat yourself on the back just because there are people out there like you.

Take opera. I've seen some real turds in my time. The Handmaid's Tale at the ENO for one but then I saw Tristan and Isolde at the same venue and was amazed. Janacek at the ROH blew me away too.

I've sat through some very ropey plays, particularly Shakespeare - Twelfth Night in Bath 19 years ago sticks in the mind. But then I've yet to see a bad production at the National Theatre - Measure for Measure being a real stand-out.

I've tried difficult books. Occasionally I'll admit defeat but only in the battle not the war. I'll always give something another crack, even Cormac Mccarthy! (Who knows, in my dotage I might start to appreciate his punctuationless prose) But occasionally I'll try difficult writing and perservere and it WILL pay off. A few years ago I had to read a short essay by Heidegger. First time, didn't understand a word. Second time, nope, still nothing. Third time, mmm, that was an interesting bit. I must have read that bastard essay 30 or 40 times and eventually, slowly, almost painfully, an image and an idea of such startling beauty and clarity was revealed that I can still picture vividly. I would not give up that revelation for the world. And it was bloody hard work.

So, it's not ok to say NO, NEVER, WON'T, WOULDN'T. There is such a thing as exellence and there are good reasons why these things survive. Ok, it may be a little tricky or not 'fun' or 'enjoyable' (whatever they mean - a bit like gourmet food being not as 'tasty' as crisps or Mcdonalds). No, the only NEVER allowed is that you should NEVER GIVE UP!

Here endeth the rant.

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye

Yesterday was my last ever day at Crockatt & Powell, but it was too busy to blog about it then. It feels very weird, since, as Adam and Matthew will tesitfy, I had started to think of the place as partly mine, and would stomp around as if I was in charge, telling the boys (you know, the actual owners) off for failing to tidy the children's section, or not stocking enough Margaret Atwood novels. Now it's just another bookshop, and I wonder how long it will take before I am emotionally capable of purchasing my reading matter from the Stoke Newington bookshop (5 minutes from my house) rather than C&P (an hour and ten minutes, though as we know, they do deliver.) Possibly never.

Here's what I will miss: The boys. The customers. (When I left my last bookselling job, I couldn't wait to see the back of most of our customers, as they were patronising and rude and given to assuming [to give a genuine example] that I had never heard of Picasso. At C&P the customers are, without exception, lovely. I have come to think of many of them - of you - as friends. My favourite part of the job is talking to them / you, if I could do nothing else all day I would be happy. And nobody ever begins to spell Ian McEwan for me when inquiring about which of his books we have in stock.) Being able to go into the other room and tidy the children's section whenever I am feeling agitated about something. (Rearranging the bookshelves at home does not have the same effect.) Meeting loads of interesting authors at our events. The girls and the food at MarshRuby, Lower Marsh's and London's best curry place and my daily lunchtime stop. Manny. Our friendly delivery drivers, reps, and postmen. Free proofs. Being surrounded by books all day. Talking about books all day (may have already mentioned this.)

Here's what I won't miss: The loo - so dirty, so cold, so terrifyingly positioned under the stairs to the flat above us so that every time you're sitting there, there's the fear that someone is going to come crashing down through the ceiling and onto your shivering lap. The cellar (though I did start refusing to go down there several months ago.) The endless phone calls from people trying to get us to change our phone, gas or electricity supplier. Opening the shutters in the rain. Closing the shutters under any circumstances - they are too high for me to reach without balancing on the 1cm-wide window ledges outside, and many is the time I have fallen off whilst trying to grab the edges of the shutters, giving myself blisters and bruises on my fingers as they scrabble on the hard metal. Adam's cycling outfit. Matthew's taste in music (see below). Tidying up after events. Getting up at 7 a.m. The commute.

But I won't be a total stranger - I'll still be running our bookgroup (7pm, first Monday of the month, all welcome.) And of course [plug] when my novel 'Gods Behaving Badly' comes out this August [/plug] I will force the boys to do some kind of event / signing / filling up the windows with copies and a cardboard cut-out of myself holding a pen and looking clever. And I still have the password to this blog... You're not quite rid of me yet.

The Perils and Pleasures of Late Junction

It's late at night (After 10pm - at my age this is late, something my younger siblings may find amusing) and I'm listening to Late Junction on radio 3 (surely another sign I have reached a certain age). Through my work-shattered brain, the lobes of which have been jumbled a little more by the introduction of a glass or two of fine ale, something is twinkling and squawking in a rather engaging manner...

...on further investigation the next day I discover the ear/brain teaser goes by the name of Joanna Newsom.

She's playing her new album in the shop right now. Yesterday Marie described the album as "awful" and "like listening to pub drunks singing songs from Annie". I had it on quite loud as I was pottering about before opening. Then I noticed someone waiting outside the shop. I pulled myself together saying things like "only a couple more days then they'll all bugger off and leave us lonely and yearning for them through January" before hauling up the shutters, stretching a smile across my face, yelling "morning".

"Are you open?" says the Austrian blonde.

"Yes, go right in" say I, and she does.

I finish opening the shutters then remember our Joanna is now singing to my first customer of the day.

I'm back in there in a flash but Joanna is the only one screaming (something along the lines of "desire, desire deeeeeeeesire" as it turns out.) I reduce the volume to a more civilised level and wait. A few minutes of happy browsing later the lady comes to the till with a book on soups and an imported book about Rodin with text by Rilke.

"Lovely books" she says.


We pause as the credit card machine checks her financial situation, something I cannot handle. I am forced to make conversation.

"What do you think of this album?" I ask. "I bought it the other day and I'm still trying to work out if it's brilliant or rubbish".

"When I first came in I thought it was lovely. But this song's a bit weird..."

In fact there are only five songs on this album and they are all pretty long. It's the same song as when she came in though quite hard to tell.

She leaves happy.

Next customer is the bloke from Flutes Plus down the road. He doesn't seem to notice the music at all. Phew.

Anyway, what's the point of this post?

What I want to know is this.

Am I just infatuated with this weird woman because the Christmas season has pushed me over the edge? Or is she truly brilliant?

Or have I just spent too long reading A Glastonbury Romance?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BA BA Bollocks...(Uh Oh, here comes trouble - but not till January please!)

Bookseller Crow let the cat out of the bag so we're going to wade in with our opinions as usual, though it's bound to offend and upset people.

It's also the wrong time of year.

But anyway...

Next year we will be asking the question:

What is the point of the BA for small shops?

Will we get an answer that makes sense? (Or will it be like the impenetrable equations they sent us that supposedly proved we were benefitting from selling book tokens?)

We shall see.

I'm not going to start this fight now cos I'm knackered and can't think.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Oh the shame

Over on some other blogs people have been listing cultural things they are ashamed to admit - never read Austen, never watched Monty Python, etc. So, here goes my 5:

- I haven't read Heidegger in German, only english.

- I've only seen the Berlin Philharmonic 7 times.

- I've only read Das Kapital twice.

- I didn't get to spend more than a week in the Hermitage.

- I've never taken part in the ayahuasca ritual of the shamanic Urarina people of Peruvian Amazonia.

Oh, the shame of it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ahhhhhhh that's better...

Afternoon now. Nothing like selling books for waking a bookseller up a bit.

With another daily sales target well and truly busted I can relax and remember why I started a bookshop in the first place. I bloody love books and nothing warms me heart more than selling me beloveds to other folk.

The Damned Utd is steaming out of the shop as is Cormac McCarthy's The Road - both books I Loved passionately this year. (Hope I can persuade David Peace to do an event when the pb comes out next year.)

We are also shifting lots of Where's Bin Laden? A book in poor taste sure, but that's what Crimbo is all about. We bought a lot and now we are selling a lot.

We also have a brilliant selection of till books this year - all too secret to broadcast I'm afraid (though other indy booksellers feel free to e-mail for details - one tiny publisher in particular I could tell you about. One man band - we are shifting his books in vast quantities.)

The Bankside Frost Fair starts tonight. Will be taking the nipper along on Saturday to see some Huskies and generally get into the Christmas mood.

Thanks to all the brilliant people shopping at C & P over the last few weeks. We are, of course, nothing without you lot...

It's the morning... nutters last night.

But can it really be morning? Am I really here again? Why am I so tired if it's the morning?

Maybe nobody will notice if I just have a little snooze under the table next door...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lazy? Moi?

I just spent ages writing this long rambling post about the my lifelong search for the Path Of Least Resistance and how when I finally found the POLR it led me to a life that involved a lot of hard work...

...but it was very self indulgent and probably rather dull. I'm not going to inflict that on you.

Instead you can have some even more indulgent random thoughts in a variety of festive colours.

Twenty minutes to go and I have not yet been attacked by drunken, crutch wielding nutters.

Will Marie ever come to the shop when she is a famous author?

The line above is in "snow" white BTW.

Since the lad and Maz are out this evening should I go to the Hermit's Cave in Camberwell?

Or would I be better off in the King's Arms down the way?

Drunk and disorderly

About quarter to seven last night, 3 customers in the shop, in staggers one of santa's little helpers, steaming drunk and swaying and lurching all over the place. (He had a santa hat on, was leaning on a crutch and a face that looked like it had one too many arguments with the pavement)

Oh bollocks.

'Alright mate, can I help you?'

'Naw, wanna buy book'

'Anything you're looking for'

'Got money in ma pocket. I wanna buy sommat'

Ooookaaaay. Off he lurches and I naturally follow him.

'A'm not a thief. Wanna buy'

Other three customers getting tense. What to do?

'Look mate, I think you'd be better off at home. Why don't you go?'

'Not leaving, call the police'

'No, I think you need to leave now. Please go.'

Repeat those two sentences ad nauseum.

So now we're standing by the till and I see him start to slightly bend over and fiddle with his trousers. Oh christ, he's going to take a piss on the till. He really is. WHAT TO DO. I grabbed his arm and started to drag him out the shop when he wheeled around, picked up his crutch and threatened to hit me over the head. Great.

'Don't fuckin' touch me!'

'Out now'

'Touch me again and I'll kill ya'

'Out now'

'All your windows are gonna be broke in the mornin' ha ha'

I don't think so. We've got shutters.

'Out now'

And before leaving he dribbles out some spit onto the carpet. Charming.

Amazingly, I remained extremely calm throughout. I even realised that if he hit me with the crutch it wouldn't hurt much because it was one of those lightweight aluminium jobs. And there were three male customers still there. The thing is though, what to do if he comes back? Any suggestions? We do have a 4-iron sitting behind the till...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

No R & J @ C & P

So there I was last night watching spanish football when I realise that it's only bloody Richard and Judy's bloody christmas books programme on bloody channel 4. Missed it! Call yourself a bookseller! A bloody professional! Arse!

So I raced to their website to see what I'd missed...

Best cookbook - Jamie Oliver. Won't stock it. It's 12.99 at Sainsbury's.
Best Coffee Table book - Life by Lennart Nilsson. The rep showed it to me and I didn't really like it. Oops. Still not a patch on my pick this year After the Flood from Robert Polidori.
Best Kids book - Calm Down Boris! by Sam Lloyd. Erm, haven't seen it. (But it's from Macmillan distribution - let's not go there - represented by the nice people at Bounce though so might get it. If it wasn't REPRINT PENDING: NO DATE!)
Best Stocking Filler - Flanimals of the Deep by Ricky Gervais. I've never liked the Flanimals books and I'm not about to start now.
Best celebrity book - they couldn't decide because all the celebs were in the studio and they didn't want to upset anyone. However I can announce that we have exactly no copies in stock of the shortlist anyway. Mmm.

So, there you go. If you were to draw a venn diagram of our relationship to Richard and Judy it would look something like this:

So either we're serially incompetent and doomed or, we take the time and trouble to find more beautiful and varied books than you'll find on the tv and in the high street. Judging by the sales figures last week I'd say the latter is edging out the former by a brave few furlongs.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Brilliant stuff...First of all a lady comes in and sidles up to me.

"Do you know someone called Gabrielle?"

That's my mum's name.


"Oh well I go to the same hairdresser. He said he'd been to your shop and that it was great. Now I'm here to have a look and it is lovely."

That's the old gossip grapevine at work.

Then a couple with a Rough Trade bag come over and buy a pile of books. I love Rough Trade and launch into an anecdote about the time when...blah blah blah. As a shop Rough Trade has always been my idea of the "ideal" independent. I am rather over excited to find out folk that love Rough Trade like our shop too. It turns out they are readers of this blog come to visit. They don't even live in London!

That's the flash new internet/blogging grapevine for you.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Good long reads...

I am STILL reading A Glastonbury Romance by John Cowper Powys and I am STILL in love.

(Crow on the Hill has an entertaining post about long books)

I love the way Cowper Powys writes - he makes me look at the world a little differently. If I'm starting to feel jaded, if the strains of running the bookshop/small children/brilliant people dying without warning etc become a little too much to take there's always (for over 1000 pages anyway!) this other world to escape into for a while.

Last night I was eating Japanese food at the cafe over the road after work. I was by myself. I had no book or paper. I was feeling glum. Then I started to listen to the conversation of two women who were sitting behind me. I have no idea who they were or even what they looked like (I left without peeking). Their conversation was completely mundane. But it was also beautiful. Two people, sharing little observations about family life and friends, the world - whatever. Just an ordinary boring conversation - but beautiful because of it.

That's what Cowper Powys does for me. He slows things down. He reminds me of the way things really are...slow, complex, messy, human...and beautiful.

Website Goes Festive

I used to hate Christmas bookselling. Face to face with rampant consumerism day after day, people buying books without a thought, books that were destined to linger on a table next to the bog at best...

But after the last week or so my opinions have changed. Now I rather like the fact it suddenly becomes possible to sell any old crap. Of course we don't stock crap books. But that's even better. We just suddenly seem to be selling lots of good books.

So long live festive cheer and rampant consumerism.

Don't know what to stuff in their stockings?

Visit santa at - click on the beard and consume!

Question Time

Martin Amis was on Question Time last night and he was brilliant. Had some great turns of phrase - 'English politics is all piss and vinegar' and 'pissing your pants before a big storm won't keep you warm very long' (lots of urine related themes) and some dodgy opinions on the nature of the european versus the asiatic.

He had this weird kind of gravitas as if being a novelist had given him some sort of seering insight into the motivations of the events under discussion. The others seemed lightweight in comparison. David Davies was a simpleton who kept pausing after every sentence waiting for applause from the audience. None was forthcoming. Ruth Kelly was an annoying junior prefect and the bloke from the Telegraph just some boorish pub landlord type. Only Mariella Frostrup and her blinding common sense stood out from the crowd.

So, give that man a tv show. I'm thinking a Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned type thing only with Amis and Christopher Hitchens. Wouldn't that just be the best telly ever.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

How The Other Half Lives

Due to a delivery glitch, we received a delivery destined for a North Yorkshire bookshop, and they (presumably) got ours. I began to suspect when I pulled Alan Titchmarsh's autiobiogaphy 'Nobbut a Lad' out of the box; grew increasingly wary as two copies of the Brownie Annual 2007 followed; and finally twigged when a large hardback entitled 'Fifty Golden Years With My Yorkshire Mistress' emerged.

I wonder what they made of our '1001 Albums To Listen To Before You Die', 'Debrett's Etiquette For Girls', and Jessica Mitford letters?

Drip drip drop little November showers...

A sudden, enormous clap of thunder causes me to look up from my work.

It's raining - no, hailing - horizontally. People are running down the street with inside-out umbrellas. Manny is practically lying on top of his stall, trying to keep the vegetables in place.

So, no customers today, then.

Remember, Crockatt & Powell do deliver...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Launch Party Here Tonight

As mentioned in a comment to the post below I would like to take the time to draw everyone's attention to the launch party of Heroines by Jessica Ruston. The publisher Long Barn Books have provided enough wine and food to feed and inebriate a small country and it should be a bit of a bash so if you're in the area drop by. 6.30pm

A new direction or, is it really only december 6th?

Christmas, christmas. This is our first proper one. A mixture of excitement and tension. Lots of stock and an anxiety that no one will buy any of it and we're already completely knackered, shop-wise and body and soul-wise. Another 2 1/2 weeks of this and I'll be a pile of cranberry jelly on the side of life.

So it's a good time to announce a change of direction, a new career for the new year. I'm going to become a director of perfume commercials. I mean, how hard can it be to film Charlize Theron walking down a hallway taking her clothes off? I could do tha'.

Thanks Matthew, it's been a blast. Well done Marie and all the best with the mega-hit of 2007. I'll be jetting off to my first assignment on christmas eve. It's a concept piece for an as yet to be announced brand launching next year. But I can tell you it stars Jessica Alba and Girls Aloud and is set in an ice hotel in Lapland.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Blimey. First our regular booktrade e-mail arrives telling the world we have joined the Wedge card scheme and then Marion Boyars phone up to ask us about our participation...

I am slightly confused (for a change) but soon wake up enough to visit the site where I am confronted by a photo of our shop! Bloody hell.

At the moment those of you lucky enough to have received a wedgie are entitled to a 10% discount on the weekend at Crockatt & Powell. (This is a small attempt by us to attract people down the loo on the weekend. It's not as bad as it really it's not...) In future we will have some more interesting offers but that's what we're starting with.

Anyone feeling really muddled? Follow this link and find out what it's all about...WEDGE

In Praise of Smoke...

Here Ye Here Ye!

Good People of London rejoice!

Smoke Issue Nine has hit the shops!

As well as regular features such as London's Campest Statues (this one is a real contender!) Smoke asks serious questions such as Is Harlsden the Centre of Deeper Spiritual Truth?

(This post was interrupted by Marie phoning the shop. She meant to phone her French mother but dialed us instead! Is that not a touching example of extreme loyalty to the bookshop? Our Marie is putting the finishing touches to the novel that is going to make her famous and us sad and was phoning to ask her mum if she was confused by a sentence the American publisher didn't understand. At the risk of disrupting transatlantic relations I will say no more...)

Where was I? Ah yes...smoke...

Who could fail to love this quirky publication? It is brilliant. Only £2.50. Roll up and get yours NOW!!!!!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Swanky editions

Penguin have just released 5 'Designer Classics', books with covers by artists and designers encased in shiny plastic boxes. Sam Taylor-Wood has covered Tender is the Night, Paul Smith did Lady Chatterley's Lover, Madame Bovary was designed by Manolo Blahnik, Crime and Punishment by Fuel and The Idiot by Ron Arad. They are all jolly handsome with my favourites being the embroidered cover of Lady Chatterley's Lover and the constructivist effort for Crime and Punishment. Arad's promised much but is a little disappointing. The plastic case has a lens which distorts the book to make it look like it's floating and pyramidal but unfortunately it's not quite robust enough as our copy came in with the plastic cracked in the corner thus rendering it totally bloody worthless. Also, the 'protective' cardboard box it comes in was crudely sellotaped up at the edges increasing, if that's possible, it's utter worthlessness.

These are limited editions that retail at £100 each. Not only the Arad but the Fuel came in with a small flaw too. So, a word to Penguin, if you're going to go to the effort of commissioning these things, make them exclusive and charge a premium maybe you should make sure the person in charge of packing them up at the warehouse doesn't have two left arms. Or actually gives a damn.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Book Lovers Beware!

One of the independent bookshops I used to work at had a real thing about signed copies. I remember after a session with one esteemed author (who shall of course remain nameless) readying myself to stack the vast pile of their latest hardback on top of the bookshelves. This was standard practice as there was nowhere else to put large quantities of books. (Anyone who can read between the lines will know the shop I am talking about. Excellent place. Bit untidy.)

Unfortunately there was a gap where two bookcases met that was invisible. I only discovered it was there when I placed five copies of this beautifully signed new hardback onto what I thought was the top of a bookshelf. It was, in fact, a gap between two bookcases. There was a crash as the books fell behind the bookcases. I was enlightened and never made the same mistake again though I am sure someone else has. If one were to look behind these bookcases there would probably be a few, perhaps valuable, signed first editions lurking.

I mention this incident because of a small item in the Independent today:

Woman Dies Behind Bookcase

New Port Richey

The body of a missing Florida woman has been found by her family, wedged upside down behind a bookcase in her room. Mariesa Weber, 38, is believed to have fallen and become trapped as she tried to reach behind the bookcase to adjust the plug to a TV set. She may have died from suffocation. (or embarrassment - my italics) Her family spent nearly two weeks searching for her, fearing she had been kidnapped.

Luckily there are no hidden spaces behind any of our bookshelves...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Joy Bookselling Books Stuff Nonsense

Among the many joys of bookselling (leaking roofs, broken toilets, smelly cellars, men with backpacks, pestering local authors, crap discounts from publishers that shall remain Macmillannameless - I could go on) perhaps the greatest is the fact that I love what I'm selling - books.

How many times have I picked a proof up, glanced at the blurb, yawned at the superlatives and then been gripped by the first few pages of what turns out to be a stonking good read?

Ok, not often. But when it happens OH BOY IS THAT EXCITING!!!!!!

It makes all the smelly loo stuff ok. It even makes mortgage people who laugh in your face about incomes ok.

So what's the book? It's called Ascent. It's by Jed Mercurio (who wrote Bodies) It isn't out until March 2007! But let me tell you you're gonna love it...

...starts off with a Soviet pilot's view of the Korean war. I loved James Salter's novel The Hunters for the depiction of the cool, clinical murder that is modern air fighting. It's great to see things from the other side. The Russian pilot concerned is Ivan The Terrible, the greatest ace of the Korean war. But the Korean theatre is only the start. Ivan ends up in the space race...

The writing is brilliant and had me ignoring my infant son. It's that gripping (or I'm that much of a bastard!)

So I'm excited about a book that's not out yet. Another perk of the job I'm afraid. But then there's always Bodies. On the table next door now...

Monday, November 20, 2006

A little perspective

Want to know where the real money in publishing is?

John Wiley pays £572 Million for Blackwells publishing

HMV paid £62.8 million for Ottakers and look at the fuss that kicked up.

Oh well, back to the coal face...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Arse Freak - Me Footie Team Are Getting Battered!

Bloody Bloody City...Whipped by that stuffeddonkeyloving Pearce and his bas*tard Barton boys.

I remember the good old days when Fulham and City were both in the first division.

We played them at Craven Cottage and the Gallagher brothers were in the posh boxes behind us. (The posh seats used to be up behind the Hammersmith Terrace.) As we scored the third goal the whole Hammersmith end turned towards them and were singing "Oasis - What's The Score? Oasis Oasis what's the score?" Noel was giving us all V signs. What a laugh.

Hey ho, at least I'm at work and not having to watch it in the pub...

Friday, November 17, 2006

More gifts from America and a good way to kill a few hours

The new Dave Eggers, What Is The What, the story of the Sudanese refugee Valentino Achak Deng. Very handsome edition and some very fulsome praise on the jacket - not just rent-a-quotes but proper critical paragraphs. Might be taking this one home myself.

Some more from the seemingly excellent Archipelago Press. A book on Auguste Rodin by Rainer Maria Rilke who was his secretary for a while! Some amazing complementary photographs and an introduction by William Gass. Wow. And The Novices of Sais by Novalis, a german writer who died in 1801 at the age of 29. Here's what the blurb said:

'Novalis is one of the towering figures of German Romanticism. The Novices of Sais, translated from the German into French in 1925, received enthusiastic recognition by artists and poets alike and is often quoted by the surrealists. The text is a lyrical meld of Romantic emotion combined with a profound fascination with nature. In 1949, the novel was translated into English by Ralph Manheim and accompanied by 60 original drawings by Paul Klee. Novalis and Klee create a harmonious universe of their own. As Stephen Spender puts it in his introduction: "a world of pure art and pure contemplation, of imagist poems, and an intense, glowing yet humorous and meticulous imagination."'

The Klee drawings are indeed beautiful. Both Matthew and I had our eyes on this before it got bought! From box to sale in 45 minutes. Very satisfying. Probably means we should have got more than one in.

And if you get tired of reading go to and watch the interviews. They are half an hour each and uniformly excellent. Howard Jacobson was brilliant, P J O'Rourke bullish, Jonathan Miller lecturing and Martin Amis quietly funny though slightly overshadowed by James' intellectual ego. This is what tv used to be like, fascinating talking heads with no bells and whistles just articulate intelligent people.

Number of stickers - 35. Number of books - 1


Last night I was watching the weather report after the news at ten with my wife Mary.

I wish they could just stick a magnetic black cloud on London with several fierce looking droplets falling to earth as they used to in ye olden nineteen seventies. Instead the funky cool new graphics wibbled and wobbled and went through various shades of blue. It means the same thing though. The BBC think it's going to piss with rain tomorrow. The time graphic next to the display said 8am. This meant it would be raining as I set off for work. At this point Mary asked me if I'd brought the brolly home. No. I left it at the bookshop. We then proceeded to have the kind of ridiculous argument that makes married life such bliss and all those who are not wed (or living in sin as we did for about ten years) glad of their solitude.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start blogging about my home life (only Finn! - he's irresistible)

My point is that I just walked to Lower Marsh from Camberwell and it only started raining as I turned into the street. By the time I'd opened the shop it had stopped. By the looks of it outside it is now raining, but only a very little - hardly enough to justify all those ridiculous graphics. (The old ladies have their headscarves on but they're still out there haggling with the market traders!)

The BBC (and all other weather people) should still use magnetic clouds because that suggests that what they are saying WILL happen is in fact merely a GOOD GUESS.

Weather folk face it. You don't know what the weather is going to do. After every broadcast you should replay poor old Michael Fish and the hurricane and shrug at your audience.

I suppose there is a vaguely serious point here as well. Nobody can predict the future. And when you start trying it is easy to end up in a ridiculous position. As with the BAs Brave New World report and all our talk about Print on Demand it really is all talk. Nobody can say exactly how things will pan out despite the efforts (and often huge sums of money) that are invested in an attempt to shape the future to our liking.

Climate science falls into the same category. While I do not doubt that human activity is influencing the climate and other aspects of the world I have little time for people that claim to be able to predict how things will change in the future. The best models are still just guesses. As for the precautionary principle (the idea that it is better to act now - just in case) look at where that got George Bush in Iraq...

The Universe is unpredictable. And that's a great thing! We should embrace it. As Erling Kagge pointed out when I interviewed him about his book Philosophy For Polar Explorers this means that it is very very difficult to prove that a thing is impossible.

Or as the final lines of Journey By Moonlight by Antal Szerb put it:

And while there is life there is always the chance that something might happen...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Confession...

Was out and about in New Cross last night, at a talk by Nick Hornby. Blake Morrison was chair.

Blake - you may have been looking for your pen this morning.

I'm really sorry but I seem to have walked off with it...

...if by any chance you read this, or a mate sends a message on the literary grapevine then that's cool - it's here waiting for you.

BTW Mr Hornby was dead wrong about people not reading much fiction in translation. We have been open for almost a year now. In our bestsellers (all the books sold since we opened) there are several top 30 entries that are translated.

Pamuk (Turkish)

Shafak (Turkish)

Szerb (Hungarian)

Ammaniti (Italian)

Camilleri (Italian)

and Zafon (Spanish)

We love translated fiction at C & P and it looks as though our customers do too.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Accounts dept. heavies

Through no fault of our own and only very occasionally do we find ourselves in arrears with the odd supplier or two. Do the people they employ to retrieve the money really have to be so aggressive? The man today was very demanding and insisted they needed the payment immediately. For a start they don't need anything, they want the money. We only really need food, shelter and water, we want the nice stuff. We wanted their books and they want some money for them, need is something else entirely. Secondly, it's barely two weeks overdue, so just chill the fuck out. And, thirdly, did his mother never tell him he'd catch more flies with honey than vinegar?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Cold called this morning. Usually I slam the phone down with a snarl but for some reson I listened for a few, deadly, seconds longer...

The blah was full of details about BT wholesale/retail rates and "recent changes in legislation" from which C & P could benefit.

The gist of it seemed to be - we can save you money, you don't have to do anything and there is no catch.

Of course when we got down to the nitty gritty it turned out there were just two problems.

1: We would have to pay a little more per month than we do at the moment. In return for this we would receive 3000 minutes of free calls. As I calmly pointed out to the gibbering idiot on the end of the phone this was not a very good deal.

2: We would have to pay by direct debit. I HATE direct debits. To my mind it is a way of companies taking money from you without you thinking about it. For a business I believe you have to think carefully ANY time you give anyone money be it a little or a lot. Otherwise you will get ripped off. That's the "market" for you.

So I wasted a few minutes of my time. Nothing much lost I suppose. The person who called is "going to have a word with her manager" to see if they can offer me a great money saving deal that does in fact save me money.

Modern life. Bloody rubbish!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Gifts from America

Oh how we love the UPS man and his brown uniform. We've just received the American edition of the new Thomas Pynchon novel Against the Day. Could this be one of those rare occasions when we actually get a book on sale before the big boys?? (Please don't/do tell me if it's already on sale at your local high street)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Brave New World

I went along to a presentation of the Booksellers Association report Brave New World that was to look into the impact of digitisation on the UK book market.

I turned up, ate a load of canapes but declined the wine having already visited a rather good pub.

A room full of suits and plenty of blah and jargon later I felt very much none the wiser. However having read the report I was enlightened a little.

We already have a blog (obviously) and an internet shop, though sales through the net have been disappointing so far. I think Amazon have things fairly well sewn up in that department. We plan to archive our events as podcasts on our website soon and also want to set up a forum where people can debate the merits of books they have read. We use the internet all the time. Customers can e-mail us and expect a personal response within minutes, something the large chains and Amazon's robots can never offer. The most interesting aspect of the report was that they highlighted the importance of "owning the transaction". As a small bookshop we are able to respond to the needs of a local market and our customers in a way that bigger players would love to be able to. You get a lot more than "have a nice day" from Crockatt & Powell. This is something that publishers should value as our customers certainly do - they wouldn't shop here if they didn't. We see ourselves as a filter, a shop that helps people to cut the crap and find the great books they really want to read.

What really excites us at Crockatt & Powell are the new technologies that will soon make Print on Demand a realistic option for small retailers. One aspect that the report fails to address completely is the environmental benefits of POD. No more returns, no wasted paper or books being driven/shipped all over the world. POD would save the industry vast sums of money very quickly. We believe it is only a metter of time before it arrives.

I thought the report was rather too concerned with E-Books and an I-Pod for books. We are of the opinion that E-Books will always be of minority interest for students and geeks. Real, printed books have a beutiful simplicity that is impossible to replace entirely.

So there we go. They said a bookshop like ours would never work, that we would go under in a month. They were wrong. Now people laugh when we talk about publishing books ourselves. And we are going to do it. Our first title will be published next year...

The digital future is coming and we are going to be there.

I will go out on a limb and say it is Amazon and the large chains that have most to fear from a digital future...(Yes Amazon!)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Credit where credit is due

In marked contrast to my usual moaning and critical post (see below) I would like to make clear just how much I admired and enjoyed DBC Pierre's travelogue/documentery on channel 4 last night. I've never been able to get into his books but despite that it is quite clear the man is a natural born storyteller and thankfully we had a producer and director who were happy to let Pierre do the talking and not attempt ridiculous 'dramatisations of events'. (Although they were guilty of the occasional CGI reproduction of the Aztec capital. It didn't look nearly as grand as Pierre was telling us.)
The apparently permanently drunk presenter switched his narrative continuously between different personas and different tenses but was totally engaging at all times. Maybe he has found a new career as a 21st century gin blossomed and tequila'd Michael Palin. I hope so, he's a telly natural.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

These scam e-mails just get better and better


Arts coverage on television

The titles should give the game away. Some dreamy music, a child, an old man, someone else with their dreamy eyes shut presumably Imagining... something dreamy. Or artistic. Who knows. And then half an hour of Alan Yentob 'interviewing' american directors in the strangest fashion. Two cameras. Shot of Yentob asking question/making statement. Brief shot of interviewees responding. Back to Yentob listening to their response. (Shot of interviewees has the Yentob camera in frame with an awkward looking operator. Whatever for?) Then off to another shot of Yentob in a convertible/ under Hollywood sign/ next to New York steam hole. Then section of Yentob walking down a corridor with a director making chit chat. Then Robert Redford on a rooftop. Then I switch off.

Not to mention that the programme has lifted chunks wholesale from a book called the Sundance Kids by James Mottram about the new generation of hollywood directors from Soderbergh to Sofia Coppola. A book which at 400 pages felt like a brief account of this fascinating period of American cinema. So what would a producer of a weekly arts strand on BBC hope to gain by squeezing the book into 55 minutes? I didn't make it to the end so didn't see the credits but I hope they made a mention of this fairly shameless usage.

I don't think the Imagine... show is dumbed down tv. It just seems to me a vanity project for Alan Yentob as a reward for his sterling services to television. Travel the world in style meeting lots of interesting people and getting to see loads of paintings in empty galleries and dress it up as BBC arts coverage. Nice work if you can get it.

But then you do get dumbed down arts coverage - The Culture Show on BBC2 on saturday nights now 'presented' by xfm dj Lauren Laverne from some kind of sixth circle of hell trendy bar/ members club in an indeterminate location (probably BBC studios in White City) where the various contributors come in to 'explain' to Lauren in words of two syllables or less what their 4 minute 35 second segment on Mozart is going to be ABOUT. Because you always have to be told atleast three times for the 'information' to get through the thick skulls watching zombie-like out there in tellybox land. And then you get Grayson Perry on the Late Review being asked about a film and responding something like: 'Well, I don't really go to the cinema so I don't, erm, really know much but I did like it, a lot'. Sorry to single out Grayson there but more often than not the Late Review does descend into the kind of I Liked It, I didn't Like It level of criticism. The least intersting thing anyone can say about a work of art is whether they liked it or not. Give me a reason to see, listen, read, watch.

"The duty of criticism is neither to depreciate nor dignify by partial representations, but to hold out the light of reason, whatever it may discover; and to promulgate the determinations of truth, whatever she shall dictate." - Dr Johnson.

To be fair BBC4 has some good live coverage of music and opera and some good documentaries although they do have a tendency to over-do the 'drama' part of drama-ducumentary as obviously some bad writing spoken by bad actors on a cheap looking, bad set is much more effective than somebody actually telling us what a book or painting is about. And there are interesting things to be happened upon across all tv stations but where radio (for which I happily cough up my license fee) and the internet manage to talk to us like grown-ups (witness Radio 4's Saturday Review against BBC2's Late Review) why does television still insist on talking to us like we're 7 year old couch fungus?

Is it ratings? Did nobody watch the arts on tv when they were focused, articulate, complex and fascinating? I just don't believe it. Or is it that cable and satellite gives producers an excuse not to bother. I still remember channel 4 in the mid-eighties dedicating successive saturdays to a season of films from Andrei Tarkovsky. At 9PM! Prime time! Execs are always talking about Television to Remember. Well, I remember Ivan's Childhood, Solaris, Stalker, Mirror, Nostalgia and The Sacrifice.

Accessibility. That's the word isn't it? Everything these days has to be accessible not exclusionary. I'm going to stop now. Got work to do. Might return to the topic though...

ps As a counterpoint to arts coverage I was watching Sky Sports news this morning while chewing on my muesli. No less than 4 separate bits of moving text all with different information and two people telling us stuff intercut with interviews and statements. Why do sports producers assume I can easily absorb 5 different bits of information simultaneously yet arts producers assume I'm a moron who needs every single thing explained 3 times v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y

Monday, November 06, 2006

I've been putting it off all morning...

...but now I really should make a couple of phone calls.

This blogging business just eats time don't you find?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who do you support?

A great afternoon of sport. West Ham-Arsenal, England-New Zealand, Chelsea-Spurs. 6 hours of non-stop grass action.

The Hammers edged out Arsenal at the last minute. Not exactly deserved but well done all the same. I used to live almost slap bang between Upton Park and Highbury so my loyalties are divided. I wanted Arsenal to win because they play the best football and would be well placed to challenge Man.Ure and Chelsea but I'm not sad to see the spirit of the Hammers come through. And let's face it, they need a break.

A below par New Zealand thumped England. YES! A combination of 11 years at public school in the west country and 7 years living in New Zealand makes me a turncoat that wants England to be pulverised every time they play rugby. All those England players only remind me of the bullies and bores I had to endure school with. The New Zealanders remind me of the energy and spirit of the Maori and South Sea Islanders who play for fun but know how to win a game ruthlessly. The All Blacks are possibly the best side ever to play team sport. Unbelievable.

And the biggest, most ruthless team in the land... lost to Spurs. I admire Chelsea for their machine-like tenacity and occasional flair but I've always had a soft spot for Tottenham since the days of Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles. The only shame is it leaves those manc bastards 3 points clear! Grrr.

But who's the real winner today?

Upton Park - 35,000 - full house
Twickenham - 82,000 - full house
White Hart Lane - 36,000 - full house

How many cities in the world could host 3 huge sporting events simultaneously on the same day without the support of an Olympics or similar? London can. And did. And I bet there was plenty going on elsewhere too. And it was sunny.

I love this town.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

On The Road (again)

Back in September we (well Marie and I) were raving about Cormac McCarthy's new book The Road. (Maybe someone more tech savvy could link back to those posts for me?)

In my (naturally very humble) opinion it is the best novel to be published in 2006.

The Guardian caught up today and made it book of the week.

We have lovely US editions in stock now, way more beautiful than the UK version that suggests The Road is an airport thriller.

I say again, if you only read one novel this year - make it this one!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Crockatt & Powell Bestsellers

Here's our latest top 10...

1: Lambeth Past by Hannah Renier

2: Travels in Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara by JM Synge

3: New Alphabet of Animals by Chris Wormell

4: Teeth Tails and Tentacles by Chris Wormell

5: Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansom

6: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

7: Mice, Morals and Monkey Business by Chris Wormell

8: The Outsider by Albert Camus

9: Disgrace by JM Coetzee

10: Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb

As usual I think you'll agree this is different to many other lists of bestsellers.

The Outsider is our bookgroup book this month, Chris Wormell came to sign a week ago, the JM Synge is just outright the best book on tramping ever written, Disgrace came top of some Observer poll of best novel published in last 25 years, Journey by Moonlight STILL in there through sheer force of ME placing it in the hands of unsuspecting folk - "This is hungarian, you are going to bloody love it..."

The man formally known as...

Back in the early days we were visited on a regular basis by Flashing Helmet, a man with a hat covered in flashing red lights.

Over the year his hat grew more and more battered before finally disppearing over the summer. He claimed it had "blown away".

Now the nights are drawing in and the wind has a nasty bite.

The one formally known as Flashing Helmet has now exchanged his visually distinctive headgear for a brain box cover that appeals (!) to another sense...


It is a very stinky wooly hat...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Aftermath...(and opinions)

Last night we were selling books at the launch party for Jimmy Carr & Lucy Greeves (' put the apostrophe where it belongs grammar gurus!) new book The Naked Jape.

A swanky underground place with a free bar, full of casually dressed media types - you know the scene. Nobody is wearing shoes - they're Jimmy Choos darling! There were canapes too but since I was wearing green corduroy trousers and a pair of muddy walking boots the staff kept bypassing me with their trays of yummy titbits. What's a man to do? A steady diet of champagne and Japanese lager is a recipe for one thing only. Yup. I did it again and TOTALLY failed to impress the rich and famous...

...First there was the attractive blonde who marched over, dazzled me with her smile and said "Hi, I'm Lucy"

"Hi, I'm Matthew" I said and shook her hand. Then she left.

Lucy? Who the fu*k is Lucy? Maybe she works for Penguin. Amazing the way these people seem to expect you to know who they are I thought to myself. About an hour later it struck me. Oh THAT Lucy, the one who wrote the book I'm selling...DOH.

Then there was the woman who said "Do I really have to buy one of these? Can't I just walk off with one?"

"You could steal a book, but then I'd have to arrest you and beat you up!" says the foot in mouth oaf. It was (Adam later informed me) Shazia Mirza, the rather famous comedian.

As for Jimmy I thought he was a good bloke. He came over and said hello. Later I saw him coming out of the bogs and he said "Alright mate". When I got home (Adam was driving, don't worry - he came and rescued me later) I turned on the telly - and there was Jimmy.

Lifestyles of the rich and famous eh? (Yawn)

In a separate incident the shop was stormed by artists on Sunday. They put art in the windows and spread art bookmarks throughout the shop. If you come in while the exhibition is running (Bookmarked - until 25th November) you will find bookmarks dotted around the shelves like colourful fungus.

As ever, we like to do things a little differently. Rather than a Halloween window we have art. Not a commercial decision - an artistic one.

BTW the "private" view is tonight. Everyone is welcome though. Guess what? There will be a free bar...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Art Attack!

The shop was stormed by artists on Sunday.

The residue of their action can be seen over the next month or so...

Bookmarked is an interactive exhibition where artists designed and made bookmarks that are now spread in fungus fashion through our stock. There are a huge variety of bookmarks made from all sorts of materials. Some are discreet, hidden within the pages while others burst forth like mutant flowers and scramble down the spines...

Some are metal, some fabric, some paper - all are interesting and worth hunting down.

The "private" view is on Tuesday at 7pm but everyone is welcome to attend.

Yeah, I know, we're at it again. Boldly going where no sensible bookshop would ever go! But what's the point of having yr own shop if you can't do wacky things in it from time to time?

Friday, October 27, 2006

My new favourite website

I won't tell you where I come suffice to stay it's on the right side of the scale.

Guilty Pleasures part 364

Went to see The Devil Wears Prada last night and enjoyed it way more than I should probably admit to. Sometimes when you sit down to a film and after the first 20 seconds you know, you just KNOW that it's going to be a totally brilliant couple of hours, well this is one of those.

Came in this morning and picked the book off the shelf and started flicking through it but it's just not a patch on the movie. Or, rather, Meryl Streep so totally owns the role of Miranda Priestly that it's impossible to read the book without thinking of her. When there's no room left for your imagination to create your own image of a character then there is no point reading the book.

And speaking of book/film adaptations, a customer came in this morning asking for a copy of The Thin Red Line by James Jones after recently seeing the movie. It's out of print in this country. How did that happen? Publishers huh? Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Finn discovers Finnland

It was quiet, the dead of night. Finn lay in his cot and chatted to Miffy. He was just saying how difficult he found this whole walking/balancing thing when Miffy suggested he might like to try flying instead.

What a good idea!

Before long they were speeding through the skies. Miffy kept urging Finn to go higher and so he did. Up and up and up, through the clouds and into space...

Space was great fun. You could go even faster in space where there was no air or gravity to hold you back. But there was all sorts of junk floating about, a great ring of human dirt left by astronauts and cosmonauts on their previous visits.

Finn looked at Miffy. Was she smiling? that was it. Finn grabbed Miffy by the feet and she opened that enigmatic x mouth of hers.

Miffy the space hoover! (Or Dyson!)

Finn guided Miffy around the earth, hoovering up all the space junk. Along the way they ate a couple of defense satellites, a surprising number of spy satellites and the odd piece of "star wars" missile gear. They also ate the Sky TV satellites but left all those that were there for research purposes. First orbit they left those that predicted the weather but then Miffy ate them too.

Finn realised he was losing control. Miffy was insatiable. The tiny x was now a huge X - almost as big as dad's gob when he was trying to fit a fork of sausage, egg, beans and bacon into it. And they were heading for the Moon!

Oh blimey, what started out as fun was now looking rather dangerous. If Miffy ate the moon planet earth was in real trouble and Finn was more into saving the world than destroying it. Oh arse. A promising little life so far but now Finn was going to be responsible for the end of the world. His frown spread from the forehead to the rest of his face. He began to cry.

But what's this? Here's dad. And there's Miffy, normal mouth - an inscrutable x.

"Had a bad dream?" asked dad.

Ohhh....thought Finn...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Christie Malry's Own Case Histories

Do you ever find clues, a sort of forensic trail in a novel which leads you to suspect what the author might have been reading when (s)he wrote it?

Obviously, I have an example.

I've just started reading Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson, and the book I read before that was Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry by BS Johnson - two books with little if any apparent similarity except that they are both good. Anyway, early on in the Atkinson book, we meet a character whose brother-in-law was a polar explorer, and I thought, hmm. Haven't I just read a book where the main character's father was a polar explorer? Oh yes, it was Christie Malry. Anyway, not a particularly interesting coincidence, so I didn't dwell on it and moved on. Then, only a few pages later in the Atkinson, I came across this: "Sometimes it seemed to him as if the entire world consisted of one accounting sheet - lost on one side, found on the other." Which really made me stop, because that's the basis of the entire plot of Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry (the double-entry in question refering to accountancy, and not to something you might have to search for on more dubiously-oriented websites.)

I don't think it's plagiarism and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I just find it interesting (assuming that was the book she was reading, and not just two coincidences in a row) how little bits of the writer's real world can end up in their fiction.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sweet Smell of Success

The movie was on tv this morning at 8.30 in the a.m which gave me just enough time to watch it before opening the shop and I'd forgotten just what a heartstoppingly brilliantly cool and vicious film it was. Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster were never better and New York never looked so damned noir. As Time Out says 'the dark streets gleam with the sweat of fear'. And the writing is right out of the top drawer

'That syrup you're spilling is for pancakes, Sidney, NOT J.J.Hunsecker...'

Rent, buy, whatever. Genius.

The Book Business by Jason Epstein

We've been talking a lot about the coming revolution - digitisation and Print on Demand. But we're just a couple of chancers too used to speaking our minds to be employed by anybody else - as various established trade figures have suggested recently - what do we know? (And why don't they shut up!)

Jason Epstein founded Anchor Books, cofounded the New York Review of Books and created the Library of America (beautiful HB US classics imprint).

He knows what he's talking about and whaddayouknow - he agrees with us!

"It is less clear how new technologies will transform retail bookselling as the chains in their oversaturated marketplace face competition from Internet booksellers and the prospect of limitless virtual inventories available on demand in electronic or printed form at random locations. These factors have already discouraged investment in the retail chains, whose share prices have stagnated at low levels. Nonetheless, a civilisation without retail booksellers is unimaginable. Like shrines and other sacred meeting places, bookstores are essential artifacts of human nature. The feel of a book taken from the shelf and held in the hand is a magical experience, linking writer to reader. But to compete with the World Wide Web, bookstores of the future will be different from the mass-oriented superstores that now dominate the retail marketplace. Tomorrow's stores will have to be what the Web cannot be: tangible, intimate, and local; communal shrines, perhaps with coffee bars offering pleasure and wisdom in the company of others who share one's interests, where the book one wants can always be found and surprises and temptations spring from every shelf."

I say again - if you're out there with the technology we'd love to help develop and test it in a retail setting...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Jesus: I Am Your Father

Was just doing a web search for an audio version of the Bible for one of our cutomers, and guess what: you can get the Bible read by James Earl Jones - the voice of Darth Vader! How brilliant is that? I don't know if he does the helmet-breathing ("In the beginning - wheeze wheeze - there was the Word") but either way those booming tones are really going to add to the drama of the story. I am ridiculously excited about this. Sign me up, God!

A mesage from Fifi...(who puts the "she" in coffee)

Lower Marsh has a reputation.

These are the opening lines of Simon Winchester's excellent Surgeon of Crowthorne.

"In Victorian London, even in a place as louche and notoriously crime-ridden as the Lambeth Marsh, the sound of a gun-shot was a rare event indeed."

But everything changes and these days Lower Marsh is a bit of a cultural hotspot - no really!

Apart from C & P there are three other bookshops, a flute shop, two retro clothing places and a kind of rubber fetish place...

...and then there's Scooterworks!

Scooterworks keeps me alive - and I don't have a Vespa or scooter of any sort. They do coffee you see and I'm in there at least twice a day for my fix.

But because this is Lower Marsh they don't just fix scooters and make coffee, they have poetry nights as well.

Details of their latest event are here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The future's lookin' good

Bryan Appleyard has written a piece on the future of publishing and bookshops. We've been having very similar thoughts here for a while now. Our basement is the perfect size for a print on demand machine which would mean stock holding wouldn't be a problem. Every book ever published would effectively be In Print and available at Crockatt & Powell. Exciting, huh?

I disagree with Appleyard in one area. There will still be a demand for beautifully produced editions and art books amongst others that conveniently our shop is the perfect size and style to sell. And there will still be a demand for some casual browsing of carefully chosen titles. Again, i think we've got that area covered too.

I do wonder how the 20,000 sq ft book retailers are going to fare but here at C&P we can't wait.

Fahrenheit 666

Thanks to Raf for drawing my attention to this. How can this not be a spoof? How? There is so much to love / hate / crawl whimpering into an underground bunker about this piece, but may I draw your particular attention to:

"It's just all kinds of filth," said Alton Verm, adding that he had not read "Fahrenheit 451."


He looked through the book and found the following things wrong with the book: discussion of being drunk, smoking cigarettes, violence, "dirty talk," references to the Bible and using God's name in vain.


Alton Verm's request to ban "Fahrenheit 451" came during the 25th annual Banned Books Week. He and Hines said the request to ban "Fahrenheit 451," a book about book burning, during Banned Books Weeks is a coincidence.

and... But no, I've been persuaded. Sorry, must go. I have to burn down half the shop now. After all, "If they can't find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn't have a book at all."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I like it when other people think the same way we do

Seth Godin is a marketer and author and entrepeneur.

This is a recent post on his blog:


I just got an angry note from Anna in the Midwest. She read one of my books, got the coupon for unlimited free consulting by email and decided to cash it in. She sent me a note asking me to persuade her bosses that the best way to grow their resort was to lower prices.
When I responded that perhaps she ought to consider raising prices and using the extra money to create a remarkable experience, she got really angry with me. Of course, I refunded her consulting fee. Actually gave her three times back what she paid...
Here's what I think: Cheaper is the last refuge of the person who's not a very good marketer. Cheaper is easy and cheaper is fast and cheaper is linear and cheaper is easy to do properly, at least at first. But cheaper doesn't spread the word (unless you are much cheaper, but to be much cheaper, you need to be organized from the ground up, like Walmart or JetBlue, to be cheaper). They are, you're not.
Cheaper is a short term hit, not a long term advantage. Cheaper doesn't create loyalty, because the other guy can always figure out how to be cheaper still, at least in the short run.
Even free isn't cheap enough to win in the long run. Not if other people can figure out how to match what you've got.
So, if you can't be cheaper, be better.

I think I'm going to frame this and stick it above the desk in the office here at C&P towers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Well we've decked the halls with boughs of holly, there's fake snow all over the shop and adam has his santa hat on...

...IT'S CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, no...not exactly.

But the season of bad taste and chronic digestive difficulties is fast approaching. The trade is buzzing. Who will top the charts? Will it be Billie or Jamie or that heathan Dawkins? What will be the book bursting stockings all round the country this year? Will it have sh*t in the title? Will it be about wasps or penguins or bad spelling?

At C & P we hate christmas with a passion.

Er, no we don't. Not really.

But surely Christmas doesn't have to be all about celebrities and their boring little lives.

At C & P we will be filling stockings, but with the kind of books you might in fact want to read or receive as gifts.

What are they? OOOOOHHH NOOOOO those are trade secrets too important to tell. Come down the loo and have a look.

Or wait for our catalogue. With luck we will have it sorted in time!

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Digested Booker Digested

We had that John Crace in the back of our shop last night. A funnier and more cynical man I am yet to meet. He didn't so much digest the Booker list for us as chew it up and spit it out zingingly into a silver spittoon. It was quite brilliant. If you want to read his regurgitated Booker you can find it here but if I were you I'd wait til next Thursday at 3pm and listen to it on Resonance FM 104.4, where you will have the benefit not only of John's deadpan tones reading the short-shortlist, but also of the question and answer session at the end where certain members of the audience got rowdy and started answering the questions instead of the journalist. You also get to hear me laughing like a drain which I fear will be amplified many times as I was wearing a microphone. It's good stuff...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Going Psychic (or just settling in?)

Something strange happens to me. I think to myself, walking through Southwark into Lambeth for work in the morning, of a person; someone I've spoken to in the shop several times before. I won't have seen them for a while. I experience an agonised moment - have I somehow offended so - and - so - will they ever come back?

And then they come into the shop. We chat. They buy some books.

Heil Football!

All the great footballing national sides, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Hungary, have all at some point in their history been a Fascist military dictatorship. Even Croatia punching above it's weight favoured the Nazi's. There must be something about surrendering the individual to the mass that lends these teams their cohesive strength.

This makes me feel much better about England being shit.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Starve a cold, feed a fever

Well, no solids passed these lips last night. However, a few solids may exit in the course of the day... if you know what I mean.

Who won again?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's a miracle

I'm not a religious man but extraordinarily my near life-threatening illness has cleared up enough for me to blag my way into the Booker parties tonight.

Praise the Lord!

No.1 in an occasional series on the disadvantages of running your own shop

No sick days.

In times gone by a night full of attempts to unblock ears, nose and throat, failing miserably each time followed by attempts to stem the flow from ears, nose and throat, failing equally miserably each time would have ended in a swift phone call to my place of employment begging impending death as the reason for not turning up and resulted in a day involving the sofa, a blanket and lots of television.


It's a small price to pay...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Everything Happens Very Quickly

A week of events and parties...

Tuesday sees a night of poetry at Crockatt & Powell.

Hylda Sims and Nancy Mattson will be reading (and Hylda singing) poems from their new books Sayling the Babel (Hearing Eye) and Writing with Mercury (Flambard)

All are welcome - admission is £3.

The Booker Prize Winner will also be announced at 10pm on Tuesday. We will be rushing across the bridge to SOHO where we (Adam, I and our "HOT" author Ms Phillips) hope to crash a number of Booker parties where we will "wreck it up" in true C & P style...

By Thursday we hope to have recovered enough to host an event with John Crace author of the Digested Read column in the Guardian. He is launching his new book (The Digested Read Vol 2) but on the night will be digesting the Booker shortlist - lots of literary laughs to be had I'm sure.

So there we go - a lot happening at C & P as usual.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

We're becoming telepathic.

Matthew and I are writing about the same thing at the same time and posting within minutes of each other. (See below) I think we need to spend more time apart...

Oh.My.God. Pt 2

This from the Guardian today on one of our competitors:

'All the talk is of a new, lighter look for its shops, currently being trialled in Manchester's Arndale Centre. There are colourful fittings and modish photographic signs with slogans such as "talk to us" and "happy to help". The traditional gold fascia has been ditched in favour of black, lower-case lettering on a white shopfront. Categories have been rearranged into "shopping zones" such as "home and lifestyle" and "arts and entertainment". Meanwhile, **********'* is experimenting with a supermarket-style loyalty card scheme, and shop staff will have to wear uniforms from next year.'

Uniforms, huh? Matthew and I are really going to have up our sartorial game then aren't we? I'm thinking of matching corduroy and leather patches. No, too musty. Baseball caps and dungarees? Too fast food. Straw Boaters and stripy trousers? Too Henley. Erm, Bow ties and bespoke suits? Getting there. Jeans and t-shirt? Too much like that already. Oh bloody hell, we're doomed.

And speaking of Shopping Zones and Lifestyle I see Sainsbury's are shifting Jamie Oliver's new book for £12.99. Cover price, £26. We can't even buy it from Penguin for £12.99. Oh well, I guess that one won't make our christmas catalogue.

Do you care what people wear?

There is a book that all who are following the debate over Muslim dress might be interested to read - Minaret by Leila Aboulela. I am a great believer in fiction and think reading a novel can be an extremely good way of understanding the internal lives of other people. This novel is narrated by a muslim woman who chooses to wear the veil and lives in London. I will comment no further - just urge people to read it if this is an issue that interests/concerns them.

On a related note I would like to announce that Crockatt & Powell, in line with our policy of keeping a close eye on the actions of our competitors, will be introducing a staff uniform in the near future.

Matthew will continue to wear his "lucky bookselling shoes" as, apart from having to amputate his feet to take them off (he fears the sky may fall and crush the bookshop if he is parted from them) they are in fact rather smart. His uniform will also consist of a shirt on most occasions, with baby sick an optional accessory. The practice of wearing odd socks will also continue as it has been deemed impossible for him to get his morning routine organised to the point where two socks of a similar appearance might be found in his sock draw at any one time. A sweater with T-shirt might also be seen on days when shirts are all "in the wash".

Adam will be allowed to wear what he likes at all times as to attempt to get him to do anything he does not want to do are likely to be met with a series of four letter words followed by "off".

As for Marie, she is a woman - I'm sure we are all aware of the dangers of men telling women what they should wear by now, so she too can do what she likes. (The idea that we have ever had any influence over Ms "famous" Phillips is a laugh - have you met her?)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Oh. My. God.

I think I need to go and lie down. In a cave. Somewhere away from the coming apocalypse.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's Cold!


I love it when it's cold.

In the summer I find the least movement leaves me sweaty and exhausted. I turn into a kind of sloth.

Autumn, Winter - I love it.

The chill in the air over the last few days has led to my annual transformation. Suddenly I feel full of energy. I'm walking everywhere very fast again.

Hooray for Cold! You can keep your beaches and sun loungers. Give me a blast of windy rain in the face over a week of sunshine any time...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Radio Crockatt & Powell

Next Thursday at 3pm sees the start of our new weekly series on London cultural radio station Resonance FM. You can find it at 104.4 FM or listen online by following the link in this post or on our sidebar. We'll be broadcasting weekly for about 3 months (not inculding October 12th, when we take a break to allow transmission of the Frieze Art Fair). The first episode is last week's excellent live event with Benjamin Markovits, and future guests include Louise Welsh, Tom McCarthy, Mary Contini and Zadie Smith. If you fancy taking part, either as an audience member or as an author, see our website

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The seduction of "yes" and it's about time we said Congratulations I suppose...

There was a book out recently about a bloke called Danny Wallace who decided one day he would say "yes" to every question he was asked. (The book is called Yes Man)

It's a very funny book. (Is that my girlfriend you're staring at? Er...Yes.)

Since opening the shop I too have fallen for the seduction of that litle word. It has often led to us expending a lot of time and energy on things that have made no commercial sense at all. There is a school of thought that argues that running a bookshop is just like running any other business, that everything should make commercial sense.

And yet saying "yes" has led to all sorts of brilliant things happening.

I believe passionately that Crockatt & Powell should be a place that says "yes", that is positive about the creative ideas people have. I also think that the atmosphere this creates makes things happen.

While not wishing to take anything away from Marie who is a talented writer, brilliant events organizer and great in many ways - I am sure that working for Crockatt & Powell has had something to do with her recent success...

(Congratulations Marie. We are very pleased for you, though in all honesty as Gore Vidal aka Morrisey once said "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little." I have been trying to write a book for ten years but gave it up to open a bookshop. A nasty evil BSTTS part of me is jealous - luckily it's a very tiny portion, a certain twisted and gnarly toe - I'm sure I can keep it in check. Meanwhile Marie has promised us to make sure she does not turn into a "twat" and we will be vigilant in the extreme!)

Do you see what I'm getting at?

In a way a bookshop feeds on other people's creativity all the time anyway. We don't write books, we sell them. We make a living by selling creativity.

What I hope is that by encouraging creative things by saying "yes", to let things happen at Crockatt & Powell, we will make the business work financially as well.

I wonder how different the world would be if money took a back seat, just for a minute. Let the creativity take control, say "yes" and cross your fingers.

You never know what might happen...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Finn Learns about Insects (and Injustice)

Our cheeky hero was lying in the grass where dad had carefully placed him and was listening to the sounds of the garden; birds twittering, the squatters next door speaking loudly in Spanish, aeroplanes, mum mowing the lawn, dad reading - the usual.

All of a sudden he felt something sharp and tingly, something - leggy - walking up his arm. He waved his arms about but still the nasty sensation continued, up his arm and - horror of horrors - onto his little face!

"Aaaaaaaagghhhh!" said Finn and dad came over to see what all the fuss was about.

"Hey little mate what's up eh? Oh! A beetle. Ahhh....There there, he was lost that's all."

Finn stared at dad with his big eyes.

"Ok. Well beetles are insects you see. They do look weird but they are very important creatures and we should all try to be more appreciative of their services. Your auntie Anna told us a story about beetles in India, do you remember?

She was out in the desert. The dunes spread for miles in every direction. Miles and miles of nothing but sand. Then, as the sun went down, all these dung beetles appeared and started rushing about. They clean up every evening after dark. Every speck of dirt, camel poo, whatever - they drag under the sand to see if they can eat it later. Remember how auntie said they kept trying to carry her off? How every few minutes while they were sitting on the sand round the fire they would reach down and grab a beetle and throw it into the darkness. A minute or two later he'd be back.

See insects are very hard working. The dunes are spotless thanks to their collective efforts."

Finn smiled. Dad was getting all allegorical as usual.

"People spend a lot of money on sprays and poisons to try to kill insects and keep them out of their houses. The funny thing is that if it wasn't for those very same creatures then we would all be buried - in our own poo!"

Finn smiled again. He was only a few weeks old but already his sense of humour was rather lavatorial...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cat out of the Bag

Yes, I can now exclusively reveal the secret - it's as Anonymous put it in the comment, I'm being publishified! Like an utter turnip I forgot to ask for the details - like how much my agent sold it for (oops), or when it's likely to come out, or if I have to write another one - but I'm sure I'll know these things sooner or later. But I can tell you that my book will be published by Jonathan Cape (hardback) and Vintage (paperback). And that it will be the Crockatt & Powell book of the month. Year. YEAR. And that I've been invited to Martin Amis's launch party tonight. Yes, it's the highlife for me! Until Monday, that is, when you can find me back behind the counter of your friendly neighbourhood book store...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More e-book stuff and other tidbits

Coming soon to a website near you!

Margaret Atwood is mostly right. (Present company excepted)

Mix all the ingredients, stir thoroughly and stand back for the reaction.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ben Markovits

Tomorrow evening we are delighted to welcome Benjamin Markovits to Lower Marsh for a reading from our recent Book of the Month Either Side of Winter.

(Louis Saha just scored in the champions league for Man Utd - He used to play for Fulham. The season we were promoted he scored more goals than any striker in either of the top four divisions! I'm at home on the laptop BTW.)

We think Ben is a young writer of real distinction - that's why we chose to highlight his book.

Arrive from 6:45 for a glass of wine or juice. The event is free.

Can you keep a secret?

I'm not meant to tell ANYONE about ANY of this. It is all really secret and if I let any of these cats out of their bags I will be hung drawn and quartered FOR STARTERS.

But you know how it is.

It's sooooooooo HARD to keep secrets...

I mean this is really quite exciting, life changing, you know. BIG NEWS.

(You won't tell a soul anyway - I know - I can trust you...can't I...)

Ok, it's like this...EUK...

Marie here - I'm afraid Matthew won't be blogging for a while. (Squealer!) I'm locking him in the cellar (which is rather smelly at the minute)

Oooooo it's cold as well. And dark. What's that scratching noise? I think it's a rat...Oh no! I'll keep quiet next time I promise just LET ME OUT.



They've gone home.

I'm going to have to sleep down here. At least there are some cardboard boxes.

Friday, September 22, 2006

We have the same trouble at C&P

Do you find it hard to stop your books from groovin'?

Birthdays - A Two Edged Sword

Well, today is my birthday...hoooooooo ray.

It's the first birthday I've had since the birth of my own son Finn. That makes it seem more important somehow, like I am starting to realise why my parents love me or something, like I'm maybe even growing up a bit?

I've had thirty two birthdays now and my hair is thinning, my belly growing, my interest in politics and experimental novels diminishing - in other words I feel middle age rushing on.

And yet I still have a bloody minded determination to do things my way, to fight against the world (that says independent bookselling cannot work these amazon days - that whispers "you'll never make any money" - get a proper job - nobody is interested in authors reading or silly radio shows) and win, to create the best bloody bookshop in London if it kills me!

And just now a bloke was in the shop, came up to the till...

"Need a hand with anything?"

"No - I'm looking for gaffa tape and just saw this place for the first time, thought I'd pop in. Do you know what? I'm not going to buy anything now 'cos I'm only meant to be away for five mins but I think this is probably the best bookshop I've ever been in. I'll be back."

Thanks mate - Happy Bloody Birthday Me!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I picked a hell of a week to give up drinking

So I woke up and my flatmate had me pinned me down. He was crying and shouting 'I have to adam, I just have to' and he took the knife he was holding, cut off my ear and ran down the hallway. I was pressing my earless head into the pillow to try and stop the bleeding... and then I really woke up. It took a good 20 seconds to have the courage to put my hand up and feel that my ear was still there.

I put this down to watching the Stephen Fry documentary on Manic Depression that night. While I was watching it I was sort of nodding along and thinking that didn't everybody feel like that a little bit, that didn't everyone have visions now and again? Extremes of euphoria and depression accompanied by excessive self-medication to even ones state of mind out is surely just called 'being human'. Apparently not. Oh well.

And then on top of that, last night I sat through two films. Firstly 21 Grams probably the most harrowing and relentlessly depressing movie I've ever seen. I liked it a lot. Then The Descent one of the most seat-jumpingly scary films I've ever seen. I liked it a lot.

I've not been self-medicating this week and everthing has been sharper and more focused with greater clarity but as David St Hubbins might have said, a little too much f***ing clarity. Intense visions of altered states coupled with spending all day doing two months worth of petty cash receipts and putting old invoices onto the software programme I think it may well be time to indulge in a wee libation or three. I have tomorrow 'off'.

(My dream reminded me of the opening to I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, a spankingly great novel about a man and his scizophrenic brother. It's a hell of a start...)

Where Have All The Prophets Gone? (Plus loads of Parentheses)

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the beginning, around the time we (well, I) challenged Scott Pack to an "actual" fight (it's a long story, the details of which can be seen on our old blog) I was forever blogging about The Prophets.

There was Death of the Book - obvious what he was on about. His visionary experience occurred when he held one of these new e-readers in his hand. "I saw it, very clearly, the death of the book..." He was an obvious GOB (gadget obsessive bloke) though and lo and behold the book still survives. Have not seen him for a long while.

Then there was I and Eye - a Rasta who tried (and failed) to enlighten us. He once showed me pictures of him with his arm around Big Youth but sadly years of searching for enlightenment (smoking tons of weed) had left him a bit brain damaged. He ended up harassing Marie about an allegedly low cut top and was never seen again.

Last, but by no means least, there was Flashing Helmet. I knew we were famous when I overheard someone on a bus yell "it's flashing helmet" as he cycled past.

But the flashing helmet has gone. (He used to wear a hard hat with flashing red lights taped onto it) It has been replaced by a rather dapper green hat. I await the coming darkness of the winter months with interest - will the flashing helmet return?

Fortunately the Prophets keep coming.

Only yesterday there was the lady who, after a long ramble about trees and subsidence (I insisted trees are blamed for house collapses unfairly. The hot summer has caused lots of subsidence - trees (also knackered by the hot summer) have fu*k all to do with it!) She was thrilled and launched into a long story about how she had taken a shower in the hospital. ("I was just walking along the corridor when I saw this open door - there was a shower in there! Well, I couldn't pass an opportunity like that so I hopped in. Now I think they might be after me" (looked over shoulder) "But it was a lovely cool shower.") After a great deal of smiling and nodding on my part she dropped her bombshell.

"Of course, I'm from another planet."

Just beautiful...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Manny: The Denouement

I asked Manny why his stall wasn't here yesterday. He told me that when he woke up at his usual hour of 3 a.m. to go to the market he decided that he couldn't be bothered to come in. So he went back to sleep, and then when he woke up at the far more civilised hour of 7.30 he got up, went and got his hair cut, and spent the day in the pub.

Sounds very sensible to a girl who struggles to be up at 7 a.m. to open the shop at 9 a.m.

Matthew is more concerned at the tempting / disastrous example it sets to those who are their own boss...

Manny's back!

So is Crapital Gold. Silver lining / Cloud etc.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Do you get many orders?

A customer wanted a book that was only available from Haynes. As we don't do much in the way of car manuals we don't have an account with this particular small distributor. So when I phoned Haynes and established I was a trade customer the helpful operator let me know that as a new customer I could have the item for cover price with postage on top.

So let me get that straight... we get no discount with which to pay rent, rates, electricity etc. and then we give money away by paying for postage too which we can't palm off onto the customer. Erm... So how do we keep the business afloat I wonder?

The nice woman asked me if that was ok.

No it isn't bloody ok.

London 2, 'Oop North 0

Excellent footballing day yesterday...

But... I'm very scared at the moment. Manny and his veg stall has disappeared! It's tumbleweeds out there... Does he know something we don't? Or has he just gone on holiday...

Come back Manny! Even if we do have to listen to Crapital Gold all morning!