Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fools and their money

When my fellow Director and I come to take our company dividends at the end of the tax year one thing we will not be splashing out on is this.

Quite apart from the fact either myself or Matthew actually wear a watch why the hell would you want to spend 600 quid on a box that holds six. WHO NEEDS SIX WATCHES.

And people tell us books are expensive, jeeeez. Maybe we need to open a branch on Bond Street, start covering the books in baby Ostrich skin and sell 'em for 300 a pop to hedge funders and premiership footballers. Now that's a plan.

Short Books

We are told it's very bad form to judge a book by the cover. Shouldn't be done.

(Note to small publishers - especially poetry presses - People judge books by their covers ALL THE TIME. If the cover looks like a last gasp of 1970's design it will kill even the best of books)

But I have uncovered another obstacle to sales success. Being short.

Short novels, novellas as they are sometimes known, suffer from their lack of size. Folk pick them up, glance, look at the price and then put them down again.

Please don't judge a book by how long it is going to take to read. Some of the best books ever are very short and could easily be consumed in a lunchtime.

Feel free to add to my list below:

Silk by Allesandro Baricco

Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov

The Dead by James Joyce

The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kippling

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Sallinger

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Raw Like Sushi...

Don't say we don't take good care of you...The track below, despite being an awesome reminder of my school daze (Naima Cherry went to my primary school - so did Zadie Smith but that's another story) is the best track from the album Raw Like Sushi.

Do you like beer?

Do you like sushi?

Do you find the idea of watching a thirty something bloke, totally in love/in awe of the author David Peace eating sushi for the first time in an attempt to impress said author?

Well why not come and hang in the Buffalo Stance with us on
Wed 5th September at 1pm?

Buffalo stance

Don't You Get Fresh With ME

Monday, July 30, 2007

Oh Dear...

I blogged about the similarities between our shop and the stalls on the market outside a while ago. But I didn't realise the confusion it could cause until today. A lovely old lady came in to see me this morning. She was looking for a book by the demon McKeith about "healthy" eating. We had a copy in stock but she said she wouldn't buy it just now..."maybe next week".

It was probably the fact I had the weekend off and it's Monday but I didn't realise she was mad until after she'd gone.

Now I get it. She has just asked Manny on the fruit and veg stall outside for about the one-hundreth time if he'll keep the book aside until next week.

"Ask him in there, the book man, he'll keep it for you love..."

"I think I will have that book, but not now. Maybe next week."

"These are carrots and stuff love, the books are in there."

"Maybe you could keep it aside for me?"

"The book man's in there!"

Friday, July 27, 2007

Marie Is No 1 Bestselling Author! ! ! !

Here are our top ten sellers - Marie is top! Ahead of Potter! (Harry you are so last week)

1: Gods Behaving Badly - Marie Phillips

2: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

3: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

4: Remainder by Tom McCarthy

5: The Book of London Lists by Nick Rennison

6: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie

7: On Chesil Beach by Ian McYawn

8: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson

9: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

10: What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

Incidentally I had a peek at Amazon this am. They are twinning Marie's book with Alastair Campbell's Blair Years. Possible subtitle Men Who Think They Are Gods Behaving Badly... Are they joking? If so it's quite a funny for a robot!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


1: Never ever ever believe what those telesales people tell you on the telephone about saving you money.

2: Pay the bill.

These are two things I have learned over the past couple of hours.

Get Yer Togas On Then...

Marie's book has landed - rush to C & P now to genuflect at the altar we have created in 'omage to the great ampersand Phillips...

The book is a thing of beauty- well done Random House chaps.

All welcome for party antics and "special" signed copies on Wed 1st August 6:30

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Whatever did we do before the internet?

Erm, the same, only slower.

(Whoever the bad guy is in the Potter books is but a mere minion, a powerless demon compared to the all-encompassing evil that is BT who have held us to ransom with their bureaucratic satanicness.)

Anyway, the upshot is we still have no internet. What this means practically is that we have maybe 2 customers a day that we have to say - 'Can we get back to you tomorrow with that' (They don't appear to mind) - or we phone the publisher and ask them about a particular book. Again, slightly longer but the same result.

The other drawback is that we don't get to surf the web in our quiet moments. The upside to this is we get to pick up and read more of the books in the shop. The downside is... erm... we can't check our e-mails every 5 minutes? Hmm.

Still, I'm greatly missing doing 'research' on the net and can only hope and pray that our new, shiny ISP gets their ass into gear double quick and turns our sodding connection on.

In the mean time, life goes on pretty much as normal.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Our Harry Q, Marie, Germans, Darkened Rooms etc

Of course we didn't open at midnight or dress up as owls or anything. The wisdom of this decision was made clear on my arrival at the shop on Saturday morning. There was a bloke collapsed asleep/drunk on the pavement by the shop. Manny (from the fruit and veg stall) had affixed a notice to the shutters. Harry Potter Q starts here..."I couldn't resist it" he said.

I woke said bloke up by shouting at his ear for a few moments then softened as my slightly bleary eyes met his bloodshot and blistered gaze. I went and bought him a cup of sugary tea and sent him on his way. Still, I imagine that at midnight he wouldn't have been comatose, he might have been around the shoutymentalnutter that likes to eat smallwizardypeople point.

So into the shop. The phone was ringing. It was one of our fave customers Mr Lindroos calling to say we should abandon our "left-wing principles" (Mr Lindroos - we don't have principles of any kind!) and buy the Telegraph because Marie was in it. Indeed she was (along with a couple of mentions of our "groovy" shop) She was also in the Times and the book was reviewed in the Independent on Saturday. Harry who? Potty whattie? At C & P Gods Behaving Badly is the biggest book of the year by bloody miles...

But before we get to Marie's bestseller the Potter 'ting has to be dealt with. Not only was I on channel 4 news I ended up on German TV as well. It was pretty funny. I was about to go home when they called and pleaded with me to stay while they got a crew over by taxi ASAP.

I was a little nervous. "German TV? But I don't speak German."

"Do not worry. We will make you speak German later!"

Yes, the last few days have been, as they say, proper mental. As a result I am spending the beautiful sunny day that is today lying in a darkened room while Adam and Charlie build us a new sign for the shop.

The official launch for Marie's book is in the bookshop on Wednesday August 1st. Want a "special" signed copy? Then you know where to be.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

If you are with BT change 'cos they are ripping off kids...or am I just tired and confused?

Well the phones are working again. Expert rip-off merchants BT wanted to charge £85 just to get out of bed. Luckily the Maz (my wife Mary) has loads of mates more manly then I and sent a couple of lads round to fix it - they charged us £30. For everything.

So you can phone us again. We are also in contact by e-mail - but it might take us a while to respond.

Why? Because Harry Potter is taking over the world. Normal service will be fully resumed once all the mental wizard wannabes have flown off on their brooms or whatever it is they ride these days...

Incidentally the discount bookshop down the road from us has cynically adopted our offer - kind of. They are going to sell the book for £9.99 and proudly boast that all profits will go to charity. But if they are selling the book for £9.99 how much profit will there be? That's right - ZERO - or close to it. If I were them I would feel a bit evil right about now.

As for Adam and I our halos are coming along very nicely thanks. Mine keeps blinking on and off though. Either it's faulty or it can read my not always squeaky clean mind...

Still no sign. We have learned that half our shop used to be a sweet shop. We have also learned that not having a shop sign, in fact having a great gaping scar where the sign should be, appears to have had no effect of sales. Proof that most folk don't look up often after all...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fame and Misfortune or The Signs They Are A Changing...

You may or may not have spotted some children from Johanna Primary school and I on Channel Four news last night. Our Potter offer picked up some national TV coverage - can't be bad, despite the horrors of seeing yourself on the box.

Who is that mental case I wondered? Oh, it's me...

Just after the film crew left we decided we really had to do something about our shop sign. It has been falling slowly off for a while and recent high, gusty winds with more forecast led us to take it off. In the usual C & P way we did it ourselves and somehow managed to tear the phone lines apart at the same time.


More updates asap - we will try to get it sorted asap.

Monday, July 16, 2007


A Jaguar (car) has just been clamped opposite the shop.

I will keep a look out and let you know what happens when the owner returns...

Terry Normal and the Land of Absolutely No Wizards or Anything Like That by Salman Rushdie

This is one of the funniest things I've seen for a loooong time.

Be warned, take the 'harsh language' warning seriously.

First Finns First

It's great watching Finn discover things for the first time.

We had a barbecue on Saturday and cooked some corn on the cob. (Digression warning!) I couldn't find the fire lighters so I had to use the ancient method of twigs 'n' dried leaves followed by larger twigs and bits of wood to get things started. I am an excellent fire starter though the last year has seen less of my powers. On the one hand I was mostly covered in small baby and didn't want to fill his little lungs with smoke. On the other were anxieties about the energy required to barbecue food for a small family. Surely a plume of black smoke and a pile of charcoal plus a load of flames was not particularly efficient as a way of cooking?...Would I be contributing to the future death of the planet whilst simultaneously bringing a small geezer into the thick of it?

In fact a year on I still felt a little guilty as the dried ivy leaves crinkled and burned. But then I got the sausages on. Mmmm Sausages...

So we had a guilty barbie and Finn tucked into some corn on the cob. (We are growing some sweetcorn in our veg patch. But so far we look like growing two pieces of rather small corn. We also ate some potatoes from our crops in pots this weekend. A better yield this year but still not enough to feed us really. Why do we urban types do it? And get this - the sausages were from a farmer's market. In Peckham! How fu*ked up is that?)

Finn is a bright lad so he was quickly able to hold and eat corn in the correct manner. In fact he is probably a genius. No, I mean really, he is clearly far more intelligent than all the other kids - yeah even yours. My kid Finn is cleverer than your kid. He's going to go to a better school. The post of prime minister is already full - he'll be PM after his premiership football career is over. Jeez. Being a parent is even more ridiculous and exhausting than worrying about global warming and trying to live like a peasant from medieval times.

Alright alright, here comes the point. Have you ever seen a one-year old eat corn on the cob for the first time? It's great. He was actually growling and snarling as he tore into it with his front teeth!

Later, as afternoon turned slowly to evening, I found myself sat beside the still-warm barbecue with a pint of Guinness watching some ants crawling about on our compost heap. I got really into the compost, how it was just sitting there and gently rotting away. Slow, steady, just happening, moment by moment. Then I thought about the gasses it was slowly releasing that were KILLING US ALL. Then I relaxed still further and just thought fu*k it, it's a lovely evening.

Earlier in the day I had re-read Bertrand Russell on Schopenhauer and thought about John Gray and Adam and AC Grayling. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? That was about as deep as I got...

It is hard to know what to make of things. Ants on compost or global warming or anything really. Every time I try to think things through Finn goes and eats sweetcorn or says eeeieeio or falls over into some bushes and it all seems rather pointless.

I suspect the end of the world is not nigh. People are always talking about the end of the world. And it's always just around the corner. I'm pretty confident Finn will find a way...in fact he's such a genius he will probably be responsible for saving all mankind!

In the meantime I'll be booking Adam a ringside seat at the ICA this Thursday when AC Grayling and John Gray go head to head. Should be fun. But not as good as watching the little geezer chasing our cat Henry around the veg patch...

Saturday, July 14, 2007


We had a little box on the website that took you to lots of recommends and review pages. Unfortunately there aren't enough hours in the day to keep those pages up to date satisfactorily, so it's gone. Instead we've got a new 'newsletter' page which gives a brief run down of what's going on and new and recent titles.

Most impressively I worked out how to write the word 'newsletter' sideways. I know it's not much but little amuses the innocent.

crockattandpowell dot com

Friday, July 13, 2007

What do men talk about in pubs?

Well, two such men on wednesday night decided that:
  • Watching porn on late night uk cable channels was a bit like watching Match of the Day without the football i.e an hour and a half of throw-ins and goal-kicks.
  • The death sentence is still not right for certain criminal activities but a 'devil's island' type scenario in the south atlantic would not be out of order e.g the Falklands.
  • Dostoesvsky is 'meaty'.
  • Microwaved lamb curry isn't actually that bad when supplied with rice, bread and potato - a combination of starchy carbohydrates not altogether uncomfortable when mixed together.
  • Lock-ins are a good thing.

In the cold, hard, sober light of day such conversations should, of course, remain in the pub - like a lawyer/client confidentiality agreement - but the odd glimpse into this arcane world is surely necessary now and again.

Apis Books, Adam and Architecture

I love our shop! The space is so flexible...

We had a great event in the shop last night. The event was organised by Apis Books and involved readings from all three contributors to their second book Two Tall Tales and One Short Novel.

Heidi James, Kay Sexton and Lucy Fry all read brilliantly - you can tell they are well practised at audience control/interaction and this should come as no surprise really. Tales of the DeCongested is a monthly short story reading event that takes place at Foyles on Charring Cross Road once a month. It takes real guts to stand up in front of a crowd and read and these three are all survivors of that gruelling process - more than that they were chosen as outstanding talents to have emerged from the readings.

The shop converts from bookshop to reading/event space with great ease. Both our tables are collapsible as are the window display units. We put chairs out, other folk can sit on the window seat (space created by the removal of the window display units). One table is used to serve drinks etc the other is covered in books.

After the reading I closed up, went home, watched the news and went to bed. Alarmed at 6:30 by our Finn I'm up again and into the shop at 9am to start clearing up. Outside the market traders are setting up their stalls, placing the barrows, balancing a variety of cardboard boxes etc to display their wares. Inside I am doing the same! The chairs are cleared away, window units back in place, tables moved and our wares displayed...I think all good architecture/design should work in harmony with the environment in which it is placed. In making our shop so that it resembles a mix between a market stall, a pub and a living room Adam has achieved this.

It all works very smoothly and is a pleasure to be in - fortunate as I spend a lot of my time here.

Adam deserves great credit I think for designing the shop (and building significant parts of it) It works so well as a space and it can sometimes be exhausting at events listening to folk who are visiting for the first time complimenting us on "what a lovely shop" "what a great space" "where did you get that wallpaper" style comments.

He's not one to blow his own trumpet so I'm doing it for him.

Well done mate.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Weekend books

John Gray's Straw Dogs and his new effort Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia are the type of books where you have an argument in your own head with what you're reading as you're reading it. I was reading the two simultaneously over the weekend with growing irritation over the gaping intellectual holes at the centre of both of them. Due to this irritation and just plain 'couldn't be arsed'-ness to articulate to myself my grievances I ditched both of them without finishing but annoyed for not finding the time to properly deal with what I thought were Gray's woeful shortcomings.
Luckily that's where people like A C Grayling come in to take up the slack and expose shoddy, ill-thought out work. If only I had a) the self-discipline and b) the talent, to do likewise. Cheers A C. (And I'm not just saying that because he came to speak at C&P last year)
The Gray books came off the back of a terrible month reading wise. I was looking forward to so many new books and was so disappointed over and over again. (I won't name any names). I should have taken my own advice sooner. After bigging up the Miranda July website as a work of perfectly formed webbiness I thought I may as well give the stories a crack - NoOne Belongs Here More Than You - and they are among the finest contemporary fiction I've come across in such a long time. The first story I read - Making Love in 2003 - had the hairs on my neck standing up and those that know me know that is indeed a truly rare event. They are disturbing, funny, sexy, surreal (in a good way) and told in a wonderful dead pan style that occasionally explodes in a small firework of imagery. July is also a director and was responsible for the 'quirky' indie film Me and You and Everyone We Know from 2005. I can well see how these stories could wind up as the darlings of Sundance but that is not a recommendation. On the page they meander and spin with a marvelous internal logic. Give up the day job, I say.
And speaking of directors turned writers or vice versa, Carcanet has a new edition of Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Ragazzi about life in 40's Rome. It would be an understatement to say I'm looking forward to that. Please don't let me down.
I finished the weekend with a Chekhov story I hadn't read - In The Gully. I'd tried it in a terribly translated Norton edition and given up after a few clumsy pages. After sourcing the out of print Penguin edition off abe I read it all. I'm not easily shocked or upset but this story had me near to tears. One devastating scene is almost unreadable. It was one of, if not the last of his stories. A great and terrible way to finish off another weekends trawl through the shelves of C&P.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Website of the Week

Someone told me the blog was in Timeout this week and here it is:

Superior Waterloo bookshop Crockatt & Powell maintains a regular blog in which it casts a frequently cafeinated eye over all manner of book-related business. As well as promoting its numerous in-store happenings and deals (buy the new Harry Potter from C & P at £17.99 and it will give £9 to the primary school at the end of Lower Marsh to spend on books for its library) , it ruminates on the latest industry news (controversial ex-Waterstone's buyer Scott Pack is a regular contributor), picks out forthcoming releases for praise, cogitates on themes in contemporary literature, records conversations had with people in the shop, and thinks aloud about US punks Black Flag. It's a real mix: defiantly local, proudly independent and well worth a look.

YAY! Thanks Peter Watts at Timeout for bringing this bollo*s to a whole new bunch of readers!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Minutemen - Ack Ack Ack

More Nostalgia...

A Symphony for Singing Bicycles

"They must be protesting about something or why would they all be dressed so similar!"

"These cyclists - all bloody lefties!"

"If there wus a copper at the end of the street there they'd get about £15,000 in fines for all going down a one-way street!"

Such were the confused and rage-filled comments of some of the Waterloo locals as the Scooterworks Singing Bicycles sped down Lower Marsh. I suppose it's predictable that the most eccentric celebration of London's Tour de France was interpreted as subversive...

...sounded/looked great to me though - Go! Scooterworks!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Not in my name

As Groucho said, I really don't want to be member of a club that would have me as a member.

It's the customers, stoopid!

We made an ordering error. A book that a customer desperately needed today for a birthday tomorrow wasn't going to arrive. Action stations! Matthew phoned around and a copy was secured at a certain shop for a mysterious Mr Perutz to collect by 2 o'clock. Armed with some book tokens I ventured off to the Charing Cross Road.

I found my way to the right desk and waited. And waited. And waited some more. You see, there were two members of staff but only one was attending to the queue of 4 customers waiting to be served. The other was merrily chatting away to a publishers rep ordering new titles for august and september, studiously ignoring us wallet clutching punters.

Now, I was under the impression that the reason our bookshop and other bookshops exist is to SELL BOOKS TO CUSTOMERS. FOR MONEY. Apparently this bookseller thinks bookshops exist so she can spend her day chatting amiably to publishers about lovely books and authors. She is by no means alone in this behaviour in the booktrade. Bookshops are a bit notorious for it and it's wrong, wrong, wrong. When are they going to get it through their thick skulls that it's all about THE CUSTOMER, STOOPID!

What are friends for?

In this MySpaceFacebook world where friends are hoarded and displayed like trophy heads I am constantly forced to ask the question above.

Particularly when they start telling people they have just met at parties in bookshops about embarrassing incidents from your teenage years...

Adam and I seem to be gorging on nostalgia at the minute. I think it's probably a sign of some sort of mid-life crisis - kind of worrying as it suggests an early death for both of us.

So thanks to Toby, here's a little more.

I was in the park with a girl and we were engaging in the kind of lengthy tonsil tennis that teens enjoy. She was a brave girl. At that time I had long greasy hair, didn't wash much - in fact I probably should have had a health warning stamped on my forehead. (Amazing what being in a band can do for a spotty, greasy kid!) Still we were engrossed and rather enjoying ourselves when shouts of Eurgh, Dirty, Eugh Look At That etc penetrated my love-scrambled teenage brain.

We parted, drew breath and received a volley of verbal abuse along the lines of Dirty Lesbian etcs. A group of blokes were shouting and gesticulating at us. They came closer in a vaguely threatening way. Then they stopped...

"I think that one's a bloke" said meathead no 1.

"Fuckin 'ell" said another.

They left.

So there you have it. I was mistaken for a lesbian.

I like to think it was a useful lesson for a white middle-class bloke to experience a bit of ignorant prejudice. But some of my mates just think it's bloody funny!

Timothy Phillips - Beslan: The Tragedy of School No 1

Finn isn't the only one staggering about this morning. There was a great party at C & P last night to celebrate the publication of Timothy Phillips's new book on Beslan. Now this does not sound like the kind of book to party for - the shocking events at Beslan appalled the world - and yet there is real cause to celebrate the existence of Timothy's book. After working for the BBC translating accounts from survivors for a series of documentaries he has used the words of the people of Beslan to construct a compelling account of the tragedy. It is, as the editor said, a necessary book that places the Beslan massacre in context and gives voice to those most affected. Essential reading for anyone attempting to understand the complex politics of the Caucasus.

So we were pleased to party hard with Timothy and his many friends. He's a great bloke, he's written a great book and I'm sure there will be many more great books to come in future.

In fact Granta are now officially the hardest partying publisher. Not only did they drink all the wine for the event, they drank into our emergency shop supply. And then dragged those still standing off to the pub next door...

Granta - we salute you! I was also pleased to meet Lynsey Hanley who did a great job selling her superb book Estates to my mate Toby who grew up on one and also to the one and only Lee Hill (author extraordinaire of the greatest Terry Southern Biog EVER WRITTEN - check all the references on this Wikipedia entry) who is going to buy another as soon as I order it in for him.

Thanks to Toby and Lee for attempting to introduce me to Facebook. Sorry lads, I'm too busy for all that socialising stuff...

One Small Step for a Boy Means Big Trouble for Mum and Dad

Just days before his first birthday Finn has started walking. This is great to see but also means we need to embark on a new phase of flat safety. Now that his head will be on a new level there are a whole load more corners etc to bang into...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

More Kate Nash

This is either one of the best songs ever written or one of the worst.

How to do a web thing for your book

After moaning about book trailers a few posts back I thought I'd link to an author website that promotes their book just about perfectly. HERE. (Thanks to Jon who flagged it up a few months ago on the Bedside Crow - I'm only reminded of it now as a customer just bought one)


At one, very early, point in my life this was my favourite song. It's now 30 YEARS OLD. Thirty. As in three - oh. I really don't like this ageing nonsence.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


So much to rant about today I don't know where to start - Bad translations, Global warming, useless management, dodgy philosophies...

Maybe I should just keep my thoughts to myself.

When they asked if I'd like an Espresso what did they think I was going to say?

...a struggling father, short of sleep, phoned by the friendly man from the Telegraph.

"Would you like an Espresso..."

"Oh yeah, mate, that would be fantastic cheers."

Now it looks like we've started a revolution in publishing or something...

And to think I went into bookselling for a quiet life!