Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Another boring cycling post

I've noticed over the last year and particularly this winter the increased deterioration in the roads. Potholes, cracks, surfaces washed away, lumps and bumps. This deterioration has taken place mainly along bus routes and seems to have coincided with the increased number of buses on the roads including the very heavy bendy ones.

Sharing bus lanes is now more and more hazardous. There are some potholes on my way home that are atleast 6 inches deep. Yet when they are repaired they are done so cursorily and the problem soon arises again.

The roads are maintained by local boroughs financed through council tax. Buses are run by Transport for London via the Mayors office and financed through tickets and fares.

Increased damage caused by TfL is only going to create difficulties between them and the boroughs and I can only see the problem getting worse.

Or is this only me?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Damascus Gate

After tearing through Robert Stone's memoir Remembering the Sixties I was moved to pick up Damascus Gate once again, some eight years after I last tried it...

At my first attempt I was put off by the setting (Jerusalem) and the subject matter (religious manias of one sort or another). This was back in the days when I thought people were finally growing out of the need to believe in men with white beards sitting on clouds and all that hocus pocus. But I was wrong wasn't I? There are plenty of people for whom Jerusalem matters and plenty who seem quite willing to kill their fellow men for the sake of their religion.

The anti-hero of Damascus Gate is a lapsed Catholic with a Jewish father and the book follows his attempt to find something to write about in a place where everyone else seems to be searching for some sort of Truth. It is pleasingly complex. Amid the confusion of NGOS, nationalities, religious groups, political sects and hippie nutters our man makes the large error of falling in love...She happens to be an ex-communist Sufi jazz singer named Sonia.

I am a straight to Hell do not pass go do not collect £200 kind of guy. Ask me what I believe in and I'll probably tell you about my prophetic dream that claimed Fulham would be the first side to win the FA Cup at the new Wembly. So why do I find this book so engrossing? Because other people believe similarly ridiculous things - but take themselves a little more seriously. You can't escape religious nuttery, so you might as well try to understand it. As usual I find fiction the best way to approach such a subject...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Fish and Chips

I have two chippies equidistant from my front door. One is served by a rather attractive and very smiley Polish woman. The other chipmonger is morbidly obese and no good example of his wares.

Both have similar quality food but inexplicably I prefer to go to the walking heart attack. Something to do with truth in advertising maybe.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Every Fulham has an Oscar lining

I was supposed to be off tomorrow and watching Ireland beat the crap out of England at Croke Park (I'm half Irish, not a turncoat). A truly historic event.

But then Matthew comes along and grumbles something about Man Utd playing at Craven Cottage tomorrow.

Well I can't really stand between a season ticket holder and his team getting whupped by northern boys, can I?

But now I find out that the oscars are on sky movies on sunday night, through the night and as I now don't have to work on monday I can stay up all night and watch it because I'm a grown up and can do that sort of thing.

Ah, everything really is for the best in really the best of all possible worlds...

The Most Famous Imogen in the World...

...just came into the shop.

Put Imogen into Google (task bar) and the first name to come up is Imogen Heap.

I think this means she is the most famous Imogen in the world.

Anyway she's off to Japan and was reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I gave her a proof of Michel Onfray's book In Defense of Atheism. Adam read it on holiday recently and it was so good it was abducted by monkeys. (I related this story to Imogen as an explanation for the mud spattered state of the cover.)

She seemed really chuffed and said she would bring us a CD when she's next in the country.

I had a feeling she might be famous. After several miserable failures to recognise famous folk I have perfected a sort of famousvibeometer that works to a degree.

"Adam, I think there was just someone famous in the shop."

"Who was it?"

"Er, she was called Imogen. It won't help if I just put Imogen into Google will it?"

Oh yes it will...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

And the future is... exactly like the past

'Some Second Life early-adopters, angry at the site's commercial development, have started a virtual terrorist group and bombed an American Apparel store.'

(From Popbitch)

Another True Story...

E-mail from Susan Hill this morning:

Dear Susan,

I think I should thank you for the memorable Saturday morning you unwittingly gave my wife and me a couple of weeks ago.

I'd never heard of it before, but having read your praise of Crockatt & Powell on your blog we decided to explore the shop for ourselves. Everything about the day conspired to make the experience a memorable one. We came on one of those brisk, cloudless mornings where one can't help but feel happy, and at an hour when it felt as if we had the street practically to ourselves.

We then discovered, a few doors up from the bookshop, one of those wonderfully idiosyncratic cafes that are something of a dying breed in England's increasingly homogeneous cities. You may know it - it's Portuguese, I think, with an atmosphere that somehow just instantly strikes you as being unusually welcoming. I was, I admit, somewhat bewildered to find that the very friendly man who served us was wearing a pair of greasy work overalls - but then I subsequently discovered a fully operational workshop downstairs!

And as for the bookshop, not only did we love it for its atmosphere, the books themselves and the leather chair in which we took turns to browse through them, but we even had an unexpected "star spot" when Sarah Waters (apparently a local resident) suddenly entered and randomly signed a few of her books for the proprietor!

Not bad eh? The cafe is obviously Scooterworks - fifi is Italian and so is the fantastic coffee.

Comedy Night - Our Man In Waterloo Reports

Crockatt & Powell was a scene of devastation this morning after Daniel Kitson and Ivor Dembina tore the place to pieces leaving many dead and forever wounded in their wake. Laughter is a good thing but in such side-splitting quantities it can be dangerous as was proved in Waterloo last night.

After a short intro from Kitson who dealt with an 8 year old heckler and then his dad, Dembina took the stage. The Crockatt & Powell bog made an (inevitable) appearance in his set. A certain tipsy Scotsman was later to allege that he "nearly fell into it".

Then there was a break during which more free booze was splashed about the place by owners Adam and Matthew. They seemed to lurk in a dark corner all night while drinking the bar and roaring with laughter, displaying a casual attitude towards business that a year's successful bookselling has enabled them to affect.

Then Kitson took the stage and things got out of hand. Smiles expanded until heads exploded. People literally laughed their guts out. Several people had to be helped away by men in white coats. The scene was one of uproar. Fireworks were going off all over the shop and at one point Kitson was seen to spit his chewing gum into a £10 note - an allegation that was later hotly denied. "I was just holding a pound in the air and yelling I've got a pound, everybody, gather round, for we can do ANYTHING NOW!" said Kitson.

Who are these men of mystery - Crockatt & Powell? Can they carry on entertaining the public in such outrageous style or will the burning sun of their combined creative energies destroy them? Only time will tell...But one thing is certain - a good time was had by all and the reputation of bookshops being dull places was dashed to pieces.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

TeeVee I'd like to see

A new series of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria only this time for the lead role in a revival of West Side Story. Even with Andrew Lloyd Webber. And that's saying a lot.

The film was on again last night. If I had a top 10 list it would definitely be in it. (But don't even think about the other 9)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

£50 notes

What is the point of £50 notes. They're fine if a customer is purchasing £48.93 worth of books but invariably it's only £6.99 and you end up cleared out of fivers.

Who uses £50 notes?

Tourists who have no idea about the currency. I have seen and recognised that look of pained resignation as I hand over my 100 euro note in the small shop. Sorry mate.

Men of a Certain Age who go into the bank on thursday and take out a wad of 500 quid for the weekend. 'I'll have it in 50's'. (On discussing this earlier with Christine the rep she asked me if I knew why men of a Certain Age had chunks of cash in large denomination notes. 'Erm, no' I said rather innocently. 'Prostitutes, of course' she said. 'Oh' I said.)

CityBoys. I have nothing to say about cityboys.

Les Grandes Dames d'un Certain Age. 'Would you be a dear and change this. I've nothing smaller. So sorry'. This group are still living in a time whan paper money was the size of a tablecloth and had to be folded.

Romani Gypsies. This morning a woman and her elderly mother came in in full-on Romani regalia and rather handsome they looked too. They spent 30 seconds choosing a book and came to the till. '£6.99 please'. They hand me a fresh-off-the-press £50 note. 'Sorry, I'm afraid I can't change that' I say in extreme middle-class prejudicial fashion. She gave me a knowing grin and said 'Ok, I get change and be back'. She didn't. Fairplay.

And, scumbags. The ones who actually make some effort to steal from you. Like the scumbag in the flash coat on the mobile who was in a hurry and took us for £42.01 last january. Rot in hell.

So, five groups and two of those using fake 50's.

Time to dump the £50 note.

Let's start a petition.

Superstitious? Moi?

Football fans are notoriously superstitious. I am no exception.

Sunday morning I'm off down the road with the nipper under my arm to fetch a paper. Now I don't know about you but I'm heartily fed up with the Sunday papers. What a load of balls. The only bit worth reading any more is the sports section and I think the Sunday Times has the best sports section around. I counted my change before we left and I had £184. The Times is £2 (!) on a Sunday. Hmmm. But we know the people in the paper shop pretty well by now, they've let me off the odd 20p in the past and I pay them next day, so I was sure it would be fine. But Lo! When we arrived in the shop and I reached for the change in my pocket there was another 20p coin.

"Wow Finn, a magic coin!" I said, handing it over and receiving a vast pile of "news" in return. But in my mind the cogs were racing. I now had four pennies left in my hand. Four magic pennies. Obviously we were going to beat Spurs four nil in the cup that afternoon. I left the shop smiling, knowing we were going to win four nil. (Yeah I Know!)

Met up with Mary's brother in the pub beforehand. He was very down about Spurs and convinced they were going to lose. I sat there smugly, knowing we were going to win four nil.


We LOST four nil. I gave the pennies to Will who eyed them then refused to take them as they are obviously cursed...

Monday, February 19, 2007


Matthew has taken a large and unfathomable dislike to anything Dave Egger's, editor of McSweeney's and author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius has ever been involved with. Not unlike my irrational hatred for anything Cormac Mccarthy. The big difference is, of course, that I am right and he is wrong.

The Mcsweeney's output can be a little arch, a little too smart, a little too vacuous on occasion but on the whole and with the quantity of output I can only wholeheartedly recommend the exercise. And so many many of the pieces are just plain very funny.

Issue 22 (above) of the quarterly has just arrived from America (UK edition out 31 may). It's 3 books held together by magnets. If that doesn't sound that interesting then you just have to see it. Who says the paper book is doomed? With interesting design, printing and binding like this it's got quite a lot of life in the old dog yet.

So well done McSweeney's. Keep up the good work. (Except the next time you think about inserting a comb in the inside cover. I didn't like that one)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

Our bestselling book this week by a mile, even when you take out books sold at the launch event we had, is What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn.

It's a truly great read and deserves to do well all around the country.

There's a very positive review in the Guardian today and the Mail and Observer have already raved about it so it's not just us!

Come on people - let's make Catherine's book a bestseller - she's great, and so is her book.

Grauniad review below:

What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn (Tindal Street Press, £8.99)

Green Oaks shopping centre, built on the site of a former factory in Birmingham, is a huge commercial success - and a monster of soulless homogeneity, reducing the lives of those who shop, work or simply loiter there to the same level of blandness. One of these is night security guard Kurt, on whose CCTV screens the image of a little girl with a toy monkey appears. She bears a striking resemblance to Kate Meaney, who vanished some 20 years earlier in 1984.

Lisa, the disillusioned deputy manager of a music shop, whose missing older brother was the main suspect in Kate's disappearance, joins Kurt in an increasingly disturbing quest to discover her fate. What Was Lost is an exceptional, polyphonic novel of urban disaffection, written with humour and pathos. Kate's deceptively jaunty diary entries reveal a consumer-driven society choking on its own loneliness; a ghost story; and an examination of unspeakable loss.

A Comment on Comments...

This blog is fun.

From time to time it is more than that, in that it manages to attract attention to C & P, a tiny dot in the bookselling Universe. One of our first ever posts was a challenge to Scott Pack, then chief buyer at Waterstones, to an "actual" fight. We were surprised when he responded, then pleased to have our preconceived (though as we soon discovered ignorant) ideas destroyed by the fact he was a good bloke...

We also use the blog to let people know about events or books we are into. The example of Caroline O'Flynn below shows how we try to use the blog to generate interest in books that we feel are brilliant and deserve lots of attention but are not in all the papers etc.

Comments are always welcome.

But there are times when they are not so welcome! The internet is an amazing phenomena in that it enables us to have great, personal, bookselling relationships with folk all over the world. (We regularly send books to readers abroad who know us only through the blog!) But the internet also allows idiots and downright nutters the opportunity to make a nuisance of themselves. You may have seen a few "anonnymous" comments on the blog recently. We are pretty sure we know who is responsible and have done everything in our power to stop him from making his annoying views known. But we can't stop him from commenting as anon without vetting all the comments we receive 99% of which are fine.

In a way this is both an appeal to anon to leave us alone. Just go away.

It is also an apology to anyone who has found his posts annoying/offensive in any way.

Now, back to the records...

Our website is shit


Some whizz-bang web design company phoned us up touting for business. A figure of £2000 was mentioned. We laughed in their general direction. But they persisted...

Some trendily jacketed, floppy-haired posh boy came to visit us...

First question. 'Do you have a website?'

Don't know about you but if I'm asking someone for 2 grand of their money I'll do a bit of research first...

'Um, yes' and I proceed to show him our DIY efforts. A customer wants to buy a book...

Poshboy looks at his blackberry...

'I think we can do you a really good site for two k'

Weren't you listening...

When I tell him that we have web 'presence' for zip he throws on his riduculous jacket and flounces off like we've wasted his precious time.

'Well, it's all about the impression you're trying to make' he says...

Implying that our current web thing is shit..

If indeed he's actually ever seen it...

Fuck and Off.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Definition of Irony

Me (a cyclist) was cut up and nearly run over by a Toyota PRIUS (alleged eco-chariot)

Publishers sort it out - good stuff John Wiley!

Adam posted lower down about some useless small publisher that shall remain nameless (and forever small judging by their total lack of get up and go!) that could not deliver books in a hurry.

I had the opposite experience just now.

We had a call from a customer who works locally for a large institution. She wanted to order some books for said institution - a lot of books - a lot of the same book. It was published by John Wiley.

I not only negotiated a small extra discount for our customer - thanks Lesley - but there was some urgency to the matter. The books were paid for up front and needed for Wednesday next week. I decided it would be best to have them for Tuesday, just to be sure. After a call to Wiley I was told they would see what they could do and...

...9am this morning they ring. The books were out of the warehouse yesterday and are out for delivery TODAY.

All together now THAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT

Thanks Wiley and all your brilliant customer service team. There is always a way.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Product Recall

Sainsbury's King Prawn Makhani and cans of Old Speckled Hen ale.

When combined can produce extremely adverse side effects in the bowel. Return to the supplier immediately.

shadenfrood or, just plain mean

Cycling in this morning down the main road I see a fella in a shiny sports car trying to pull out of a side street. One of those situations where two cars are trying to turn into the street and two cars trying to get out. One quickly turns, fella in sports car decides to just pull out. The little Hyundai going about their business driving normally down the main road has no option but to drive into the side of the shiny sports car.

I could see it all happening as if in slow motion.

And before I knew it, how I laughed. I even slowed down past the sports car to lob some abuse at the bloke. 'You f**king idiot!'

I am a bad person and I'm going to hell.

On the other hand... I've been nearly killed so many times by idiots in shiny cars just pulling out of side streets that this one felt like a kind of retribution. But why do I still feel guilty?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bloke in anorak with rucksack buys book!

I went to see The Seagull last night at the Royal Court and it was totally brilliant. A fantastic play, fantastically acted in a fantastic theatre space.

I can only think of my generally improved demeanour today following this great night out radiating through the shop that accounts for the bloke in the anorak with a rucksack actually buying something. Granted it was a cut-price old edition of a reference book but still...

Once again, A bloke in an anorak with a rucksack bought a book.

Blokes in anoraks with rucksacks NEVER buy books!

Sucker for Love

Inspired by this post from our fellow indie Johnathan I thought I'd better pay homage to the Romance ting.

So off I pop to local posh cake shop Konditor & Cook to purchase something yummy for my beloved. Strode in and spotted just the thing right away - a little box of three mini luvvy cakes, all pink and stuff. (Three - that's two for her and maybe one for me?) Small sign said £2.75 - fine I thought. Held out a tenner. £8.25 appeared on the till...

...when you're holding out a tenner like that you can't take it back really. They were £2.75 for one! 3 for £8.25. So there you go, mugged for love.

Once again it crosses my mind - we're in the wrong business!


Rumour has it we're in the London Evening Standard today.

Have we been shooting our mouths off again?


It's all about local artist/hero Banksy...not seen it yet...
If you look very very very closely you can see adam talking about "corporate vandalism" though he claims not to have said that exactly. Good free publicity though - thanks Standard folk.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lost Again...

So far today I have hand sold ten copies of Catherine O'Flynn's brilliant debut What Was Lost.

Why am I so excited about this book? Let's just say I have a feeling about this one. I think it's going to be the word of mouth buzz book that comes out of nowhere to win prizes and adulation...

The last book I felt like this about was Stuart, A Life Backwards. Before that it was We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Small publisher plus unknown author from Birmingham = ?

It's up to you lot.

Let's make Catherine's book a bestseller.

A good start would be coming in to C & P and buying a copy. (In fact anyone setting foot in C & P over the next few weeks may well find they have bought a copy without meaning to!)

Of course you don't need to move from your computer screen.

Send us an e-mail and we'll take it from there.

Customer Service

We have a big order from an educational institution. Most of the stock has to be sourced from America. I e-mailed a list of around 50 isbn's to Baker & Taylor, our American wholesaler and the next morning a spreadsheet arrived in the inbox with availability and prices and the order fulfilled.

I can't think of a single supplier in this country that would be that damned efficient.

Yesterday I phoned a small publisher about getting some of their stock down for an event we're hosting - for free.

'Now, that would mean me parceling them up, getting my coat on and going down to the post office thingy and that's going to cost you money I'm afraid.'

Shove your books up your arse.

This one's for free

Do you ever have those drunken conversations where you pitch tv shows you'd like to see?


12 boys. 12 girls. All signs of the Zodiac, natch. Audience chooses one of each after some kind of talent show. One of them gets paired off with their ideal star sign partner, the other with the worst possible astrological match. They come back next week and much enjoyment is had.

How would this not work?

Last night we were pitching great websites we'd like to see. I think we've come up with a banker. But I'm not telling you lot. This time next year, we'll be millionaires.

It's like the opposite of MySpace.

What fresh hell is this?

Do they really know what they're letting themselves in for?

I was only 23 minutes late

It would appear my alarm clock only tries to wake me up for an hour before the snooze button goes back to, um, snoozing.

Good reason though.

Great launch party for Catherine O'Flynn's What Was Lost. Lots of lovely people from somewhere outside the M25 and, we think, a good time had by all.

But I'll leave Matthew to post. I think he may have more things to say as I have to go and clear away a few wine bottles.

Only the second time in 14 months I've opened up late. That has to be good, doesn't it?

Monday, February 12, 2007


Matthew and I's old boss is opening a new bookshop in Bath, a town of 160,000 that already carries 2 independents and a big Waterstone's.

The London borough of Lambeth numbers some 260,000 souls and has, erm... us, a book warehouse and an indie on Clapham High Street.

There must be some untapped market potential there somewhere. Don't ya thunk?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Coffee + Great Book = Bookselling Mania

Ok, if you only buy one book today it has to be What Was Lost...

You want a travel guide to Prague? Why? Are you out of your mind? Going to Prague? Cancel the trip. It means nothing.

Read this book!

Hello mate, you need to read this book!

You are the police?

So what - read the fuc*ing...

adam - I have been arres

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

We have an event on Monday night, the London launch of Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel What Was Lost.

There's been plenty of review coverage already, all glowing, and the publisher Tindal Street Press have a good track record. (Remember Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall - Booker shortlisted a few years back? That was Tindal Street)

I started reading the book yesterday afternoon and I can't bloody put the thing down.

How many times do you read about "astonishing debuts"? Yeah, you don't have to tell me I know. Jaded is my middle name when it comes to publisher blurbs. But...


It's brilliant.

If I were you I'd get down to Crockatt & Powell for 7pm on Monday. Not only will you get to hear Catherine read you can also get her to sign a copy for your collection (after she wins a few prizes these babies will be like gold dust) you can also buy one for yourself and if you have any friends buy copies for them too - it's one of those books.

An exciting book.

An astonishing debut...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A True Story...

We have a lovely little book/pamphlet in at the minute called One Eye Grey. It's an homage to the Penny Dreadful and is just perfect for the nether regions of Waterloo.

A bloke walked in the other day and asked for a copy. We sold him one and had a brief chat.

"You're up against it I suppose. I mean look at that" he said, pointing to a copy of Sarah Water's The Night Watch. "You can get that for half price in Waterstone's at the minute."

What can you say to that? Nada.

"Those are signed though, Sarah's great...lives locally..." he was out the door.

Oh well.

Next day he's back.

"Can I get one of those signed copies of the Night Watch now?"

Of course we only have one copy left. It's in the window and it's not signed.

"We do sell books from time to time you know" I say.

"Yeah, I suppose you do" he says. "I'll take it anyway, even though it's not signed."

I raise my eyebrows.

"Well I went back to Waterstone's. I asked if they had it and they said "Yeah it's upstairs" I just thought to myself, you know what? I don't want to buy it from you lot, I'm going to go back to that little shop where I got the penny dreadful - so here I am."

I smiled the gormless smile that I save for joyous occasions. And then we had a great chat about hidden London, Iain Sinclair, Psychogeography, dispatch riding...

Why shop at an independent when you could save money shopping at Waterstone's or on Amazon?

Why indeed...

BTW plenty of signed copies of the Night Watch in stock now. Thanks Sarah!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A very boring cycling post

I bought myself a cycle computer for my birthday. The information I gleaned this morning is:
  • I reached 34.4mph going down Latchmere Rd.
  • Battersea Park is 0.6 miles long.
  • The 'long' route I take in to work is 9 miles exactly.
  • The 'short' route home is 3.8 miles.
  • I got to 24.7mph on the flat along Millbank.
  • I have traveled 25 miles since fixing the thing to my bike.
  • At 6.3 miles, the constituent parts of my left knee felt like they were about to disassemble in an excrutiating rupture of bone and cartilage.
  • At 6.6 miles those same parts miraculously and thankfully, painlessly reassembled themselves into something approximating working order.

ps Matthew has insisted I work the morning shift tomorrow which means, if the weather man is to be believed, cycling through a driving 4" of snow on my skinny, slick tyres. I think he wants to collect on the insurance...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Marie's Book is Very Good Looking

Our one and only ampersand called in today to show us the cover of her book.

We put it on display with a whole bunch of other new titles and it stood out from the crowd.

Brilliantly written, sexy, funny - and good looking too! That book is going to make other books jealous. I'm sure I could see Suite Francaise and Mother's Milk edging towards Gods Behaving Badly with eye-scratching and hair pulling on their minds...

Monday, February 05, 2007

New newness.

I been fiddlin' with the old website again. Try, click on 'Blog' on the left and the blog will reappear in the window of our webpage!

Hopefully, as we add to the site it will all cohese into a seamless and magnificent whole... or not.

Days out.

Armed with a road map and the Good Pub Guide my mate Olly and I head out to towns and villages within a days reach round London that neither of us have either been to or know anything about. Yesterday it was Arundel's turn.

As we were hurtling down the B2139 we prepared our visit with Ol reading this poem:

An Arundel Tomb

Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd -
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.

They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly, they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

Philip Larkin

O f course the tomb Larkin's describing is in nearby Chichester Cathedral but that didn't stop us visiting the cathedral in Arundel and the churches and trying to scale the ramparts of the castle in vain search of the eponymous resting place.

We liked Arundel. Above all, it's victorian gothic fraudulence. The cathedral was built in the 1870's in the style of the 1370's and the castle was largely reconstructed around the same time lending to it's particularly storybook look - very like the castle from the Shrek movies.

It was a perfectly agreeable town, not too affluent as to be snotty and repellent and not too poor as to be run-down and depressed. A half of Harvey's in a pub filled to the brim with 30 somethings listening to the Blues and everyone heroically smoking for England left us pleasant and relaxed much like the soft, winter sun outside.

We thought that because it wasn't one of those 'authentic' english medieval towns and it was a constructed pastiche it sort of took the pressure off everybody living there. It didn't feel like a barely-living museum as those other places can, stultified by their conservative, conserving inhabitants.

Anyway, a stop at the Skimmington Castle just outside Reigate for more Harvey's Sussex Ale and a view over the South Downs more than made up for the hour and a half it took to then get from Croydon to Peckham.

What more could you want - country lanes, beautiful light, rolling downs, real ale by a real fire, a castle - with a moat, and wonderful poetry. Ahh.

I turned 36 a few days ago. I have officially become middle-aged.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It must be the sun...

After yesterday's fantastic sale of Beautiful Evidence, we've just sold this today.

Oh, joys. What wonderfully discerning customers we have.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Language is the process that lashes experience to the intellect. Discuss...

I'm reading Prime Green by Robert Stone at the minute.

Here's a small extract:

"I have come to believe that language, a line of print, say, is capable of inhabiting the imagination far more intensely than any picture, however doctored. The same principle applies to the novel, if it works. No Hollywood flick, no movie of any provenance, can ever provide an experience of the battle of Borodino as intense as that provided in Tolstoy's pages. Descriptive language provides deeper penetration , attaches itself to the rods and cones of interior perception, to a greater degree than a recovered or remembered image. Language is the process that lashes experience to the intellect."

That last sentence caught me, I stopped reading, I read it again...Somewhere in that sentence he has captured a little grain of Truth. That's how I know I'm onto a writer I love. Here, at last, is someone that can express in words something I have always felt. I've tried to express a similar sense of the power of words in the past but always failed. Stone nails it.

BTW Prime Green is not yet available in the UK.

Except at C & P of course - just £15.99...

Bookselling Joy

My day has just been made. I'm off home now.

A nice customer just bought this.

If you stock it, they will come.


I knew I'd warm to Cormac Mcarthy eventually...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Force of Destruction

I'm pretty dangerous at the moment...

So far this month I have:

Broken our metal shutters.

Torn a padlock apart with my bear hands.

Broken our heater by sitting on it.

Broken a light fitting by twisting a bulb anticlockwise rather than clockwise.

Bruised both my shins beneath the knee somehow. (Possibly jumping around at football?)

What's next?

The LEAST important day of the year

Saturday 21st July. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. £17.99!!!

Already on sale at Amazon for £9.99.

The one sure-fire, cash-cow, golden-goosed money tree for all of us and those lousy bastards at Tescos and Asda are going to ruin it for everybody because they want to put the REST OF THE WORLD out of business so they can finally be proved the WINNERS.

HP7 could keep us booksellers going all year. The only winners are Bloomsbury who inflate the cover price to accommodate the discounts and Rowling and the punters, of course.

But they could sensibly price it at 12.99 and nobody loses. That's a good price for the punters, us, everybody. Nobody suffers, everybody wins. Is that TOO MUCH TO ASK or am I just a hopeless old communist throwback.

When We Were Bad

Last night I was wined and dined by the lovely folks at Macmillan at a posh French joint in Soho. (so posh there were only two things on the menu I could face eating! Everything else seemed to be in squid ink sauce!)

The dinner was to celebrate Charlotte Mendelson's new book When We Were Bad, published in May. I have started reading it and it's great stuff so far, but Picador are very excited and think they could have a big literary seller on their hands. Sounds like I'm being paid to say all this eh?

Nope, not a penny. The fact is I usually hate publishing dinners/drinks but this was a good one. Charlotte was a real laugh, friendly, intelligent and very down to earth. Not only that she has read our blog. And been into the shop. Top marks Charlotte...My old mate Glenn Collins was there as well and that helped the night to fly by. He was a great supporter of Love in Idleness back in our Pan Bookshop days. Charlotte rememberd coming in to sign copies on the same day as Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat). At that point Harris was huge and selling books effortlessly. Charlotte was a debutant. It was the Time of Topping at Pan and two authors at once meant the cakes were on hand in vast quantities. Charlotte admitted to having eaten cakes from Maison Blanc before only to be slapped down by Harris in a kind of "I'm a Northern lass - we didn't have cake in them days where I grew up - only rock cake made from real rocks". Poor Charlotte left rather upset only to find Glenn chasing her down the street in heroic fashion. He gave her a book (I forget which - bloody wine) and the day was saved.

I managed not to say anything too stupid. (Though I have to confess that while discussing the Macmillan offices in Kings Cross with their sales director I said the only time I'd been there I was propositioned by a "lady of the night" despite it being ten in the morning. The sales director then proceeded to tell me that was peak time...At this point conversation around the table paused and I began to blush!)

But really the main reason I had such a good time was the brilliant wine. Er no, well it was good but - I say again -

Charlotte Mendelson ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What we are currently listening too...

After working in a shop for several years with no music it's such a relief to have some quality tunes playing in the store to help us through the day. The best thing is being able to choose. In Waterstoney days it tended to be the same management-approved easy-listening over and over again which slowly drove us all mad. Here, luckily, Matthew and I have similarly eclectic tastes which has seen us swing from Glenn Gould playing Mozart piano sonatas, the ever-present Late Junction, Steve Reich, Scarlatti, Phil Spector, Amadou and Mariam, Joanna Newsom and some Argentine Tango.

This week though we will be mostly listening to David Byrne's new playlist called appropriately enough, Icicles - Northern European contemporary music. Mr Byrne, you have excelled yourself, as usual.