Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Knew One Way Or The Other Somehow I'd Wind Up Seeing Her That Night

Turn up the volume - pop it to full screeen - sit back and BOOOOOOGGGGEEEEEEEE

Monday, November 26, 2007


Gezundheit! Just back from a weekend in Munich. Beer, meat, dumplings, cabbage. MMMMMMmmmMMmMMmmmmmm. And levels of public drunkenness not partaken of by me for quite some time but they did keep coming over with them bloody steins and the oompah band was too much fun to even consider going back to the flat. Loads of great people getting really drunk in a very friendly way - brilliant.

And yet... Munich is definitely one of the calmest, most attractive and just plain agreeable cities I've ever been. Clean, modern and old in wonderful harmony and with just the right amount of space between buildings to make it a very human-scale place. Of course the trains work and are smooth and there seems to be a place for everything and everything in its place and it's all just really, really NICE.

And a bookshop like none I have ever seen. Five stories and more people browsing and buying books than any other bookshop I've been to, ever. Seriously, think Top Shop on the day of Kate Moss' new clothing line - that busy. Dozens of tills and HUNDREDS of people buying. Just dazzling and amazing, I had to scrape my jaw off the floor. (Hopefully some photos to come)

I reckon that if you sat down with a piece of paper and designed a proper city from scratch for the western disposition you'd pretty much come up with Munich. And they all speak english. Recommended.

Did I mention the beer?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Scores on the Doors

Lambeth council are showing their usual high levels of idiocy.

This morning we received a letter informing us that "Scores on the doors is a pilot scheme supported by the food standards agency to show how well food businesses are complying with hygiene law. You will shortly be receiving a letter telling you what the score for your business is."

Well I look forward to that letter. All this time I thought people were reading the books.

Now it turns out they were eating them.

I wonder what Amazon's Kindle tastes like? That's the last nail in the coffin for that idea. E-readers - useless - just too crunchy...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Back to the Boooooooooooks

Is this article interesting or just weird?

I can't make my mind up. I suppose as soon as you choose a list you can start to pick holes in it.

Are readers of arabic really so cut off? How many books are translated in the other direction? Is this a noble project or more cultural imperialism? I'm too tired to work it out...

David Healy

I salute you!

Ever the optimist I wonder if Fulham will turn out to be the club where his career takes off...

Croatia 3, England 2

The dye was set a long time ago...

The only revenge we can take is to buy up half of Croatia as a second home, drive up local prices, destroy communities and laugh heartily that if they'd only thrown in the towel in THAT game, we wouldn't flood their lovely country with middle-aged, equity-rich bores. Long live Anglo-Saxon Capitalism.


I ain't damaged...............

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No title

Truly, the most insane person I have ever met has just been in the shop. What do you say to an old lady who thinks the government have been reading her thoughts through her hair for 60 years, whose father was Hitler's accountant, who is Stephen Hawkings sister, who wonders where all the real white men have gone, who thinks she has a black cross on her forehead leading down to each eye, who is convinced that Moorfields eye hospital dyed her eyes a particular shade of green so they could see into her mind and didn't I know they've been doing it for years and much, much more. My head is spinning...

Because it's worth it

Went for a swim this morning. Had the pool to myself. Say no more.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Because I'm worth it

London can be a real beast. You get close to it at your peril always remembering not to take it for granted and always on the look out. Yesterday was one of those days the beast snapped. Moving house, everything the city could throw at me it did. At every turn a new obstacle was put in my way and I had to wriggle free only to face a new and more crushing block. By the end of the day I felt very small, alone and damaged.

But today, what a difference. A whole new set of possibilities presented themselves that with the stars being in alignment may result in, at the least, an interesting few weeks.

And capped off this evening by my first visit to my new gym. I've never joined a gym before. I'm not really into running or cycling on the spot or lifting weights. But this place has a 25m pool on the top floor in a big room with palm trees and a jacuzzi and a sauna and a steam room and the hottest, strongest showers known to man and it's only around the corner. By the time I'd finished swimming, sitting in bubbles, steaming and being pelted by jets of water I felt not only completely decadent but utterly and completely relaxed. (It's odd to me to look at the faces of the other members who all seem to be taking the whole thing just a bit too seriously. Do they not see the hedonistic pleasures of the modern day Roman bath house?)

Anyway, the beast was calm again, welcoming me back into it's comforting paws.

'There, there now. All better now aren't you. Aren't you?'

(And now I'm going to sit and continue reading Robert Hughes memoir, slowly becuase I don't have to consume as many books as possible voraciously on my little machine that stores words)

Battle Lines

I always suspected it was true and now here's the proof.


"Why are books the last bastion of analogue?" Amazon founder Jeffrey Bezos asked at an unveiling of the gadget in a New York hotel, referring to the recent revolution in digital entertainment that increasingly has us downloading the music we listen to and even the films and videos we watch.

The assumption at Amazon, however, and at competitors such as Sony and Epson, is that it is the book itself that will become extinct. "The question is, can you improve upon something as highly evolved and well-suited to its task as the book? And if so, how?" Mr Bezos asked. " It has to disappear."

I'd say it was a pretty clear choice. Using Amazon contributes to the Death of the Book as we know it. If you love books; the way they smell, feel, look on the shelf - then shop for them at bookshops.

Otherwise pretty soon we will all be leading "virtual" lives. Think about it. You prefer the real thing...(Even though it might be more difficult and more expensive!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Belgium - Bonkers

Had a very funny lunch before catching the train back to Blighty.

We arrived and sat at a table for four - the only table available. We placed our orders. A few minutes passed and the beers arrived. Mary was facing into the restaurant and I was looking out the window. She described an "incident" where the waitress put a plate of food in front of a man at one table. He started to eat. There was a "conversation" at the bar then she rushed over, grabbed the plate he was eating from, sauntered over to a table at the other side of the restaurant and gave the food to someone else!

We were in Fawlty Towers land...

Next we were asked to move to a table for two that had become available. That was fine, no problem. We shifted and now I was the one with the view of the restaurant action. It was brilliant. The food would arrive from the kitchen and the waitress would look at it as though she had never seen food ever before in her life. What is this? What do you want me to do with it? Eh? Eh? Oh, it's food for a punter. But who? Oh look, it tells me on the computer it is for table five.

We had moved tables. I saw trouble ahead. Sure enough our food came out from the kitchen. "Huit!" came the call. The waitress looked at table 8 - where we were no longer sitting. She looked at the food. There was a loud argument. The people who had taken our places had not yet ordered anything. (Poor folk - by the time we left they had a beer each but that was all!) I tried desperately to catch her eye and managed it in the end. We had our food. But not all of it. A plate of frites was missing. A minute or two later the call came again. "Huit" I watched as our chips were given to the waitress. She put them on the counter. Another waitress arrived for work - maybe to help the muppets they had in already. She began to eat the chips.

I told Mary what was going on. "They must have three second memories" she said.

As each member of staff passed the plate of chips they would eat a couple. Meanwhile another table finished their meal. There was a hushed altercation and two of the group left. The others stood about and looked moody.

We had a train to catch. Some minutes passed and then the two people who had left returned and the group left. We tried to pay. "We don't take cards" said the waitress. "Then why do you have all those card signs on your window?" asked the ever logical Mary. Again the waitress looked amazed. "The machine dose not work" she said. "What's wrong with it?" asked Mary.

It turned out that the paper needed changing. (!!!) We managed to pay, left and even caught the train. I realised that the pissed off looking folk had been forced to send their friends to find a cash machine (that's another story - where are the cash machines in Belgium? There are none in Brussels)

Weirdly that crazy lunch was one of the highlights of the trip...

Belgium - Brilliant

Had a great time in Belgium this weekend. We took the Eurostar from the funked up St Pancras. Everything about St Pancras is great apart from the fact it is in Kings Cross. Can't believe people think Waterloo is edgy. Kings Cross is loud, mechanical and everyone there seems to be crazy. Must be terrifying for the Belgians arriving in London. By contrast we were able to walk from the station to our hotel in the centre in about 15 mins. Was also a little irritated by all the John Betjeman reverence. Am I missing something or do his poems really suck? The statue reminded me of Paddington Bear, but that's the wrong station...The other, kissing, statue was ok. But the effect was ruined by a drunk couple who kissed noisily (ie you could hear there tongues slurping from ten paces) on the 45 from Kings Cross to Elephant in a similar pose.

Will be brief.

Beer - great - so tasty - so strong.

Bars - great - but people smoke in them - a lot - looks weird now they've banned it here and have not woken up smelling of fags for a while - not good.

Food - awesome - Fifi and Adam both said we should go to *** **** ****** and it was as good as we were led to believe. Huge steaks. Deadly choc pudding. Also ate the best omelet I've ever had.

Shops - too many selling chocolate but loads of bookshops. None of them were chains. Not a penny discount. A civilised country?

Books - beautiful. I bought a great French book on Hokusai - I literally could not resist buying it. The paper was so beautiful. The illustrations are divine. It cost 25 Euros and WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED SO WELL IN THE UK.

Flea market - best I've ever been to.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Israel 2, Russia 1

You lucky bastards. You lucky, lucky bastards.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thought for the day

'I think it's better to be overly ambitious and fail than to be underambitious and succeed in a mundane way' - Francis Ford Coppola in today's Independent.

No. 74 in an occasional series:

Seemingly profound yet totally meaningless statements made by documentary makers when they know that their initially promising series is rapidly deteriorating:

'It was the photographic equivalent of the Great American Novel.' (The Genius of Photography, BBC4, last night)

What? Care to qualify that?

It's interesting that this series has mirrored the arc of photography. It started well, as did photography in the 19th century, full of excitement, wonder and potential. Yet as the series moves on and tries to add weight to a mostly weightless topic it has become less and less interesting or relevant. Last nights was terrible with talking head after talking head uttering totally spurious and unsubstantiated nonsense.

The only thing good about it was the appearance of one of the truly great photographers and truly grumpy men, William Eggleston. The photographer Rankin made the only interesting comment although it was virtually ignored by the program and I suspect he didn't even realise what he was saying. Looking at an Eggleston picture he said, 'It's like a painting'. EXACTLY, Eggleston is a great photographer because he is one of the closest things photography has to a painter. He doesn't take photographs, he makes them. And that puts him head and shoulders above the others. He doesn't just react to whats in front of him you can see him actually imagining the picture before he takes it.

Anyway, the only way for the series to redeem itself is to have the final picture discussed; Britney Spears getting out of a limo sans underwear because really, that's all photography is good for these days. Oh, and taking pictures on your mobile of your mates when pissed.

Stilll, C&P will be selling the magnificent William Eggleston's Guide this christmas, a wonderful present.

I Had Another Brilliant Idea This Morning...

...but I'm not going to tell you what it was!

We will inflict it on the world and then sit back and watch everyone copy it.

My previous brilliant idea involved one of those LED displays...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Zombie Alert!

You all know how hard it is running an independent bookshop these days, that they are all dead and if not dead then probably dying?

Well reports are coming in that Crockatt & Powell in Waterloo are managing just fine thanks. This is "impossible" and so we must conclude that the people running it, the people shopping in it, the people coming to events in it are all dead too and that the Zombie shop has become a meeting place for fellow Zombies.

Some of them even (whisper it!) even claim to love books and reading...

Obscure Slovak Fiction? Yes please...

"A tremendous novel: powered by an uncompromising ferocious energy and exhibiting a brutally dark sense of humour that is both ruthless and exhilarating. An amazing find." says William Boyd.

What is he on about? Rivers of Babylon by Peter Pist'anek. In HB at just £12.99, lovingly translated by Peter Petro. 1989 - "Socialism" crumbles and "rubber baron" capitalism is born. If you, like me, find history books dull then this is a novel that claims to give a powerful insight into the extraordinary changes that took place through most of East and Central Europe in the late 80's early 90's.

Well now I know what I'll be reading this weekend, thanks Garnett Press.

Dr Rick and I were right! DJ ROCKS



Hot on the heels of Cormac McCarthy winning a Pulitzer prize for his awesome novel The Road (My fave novel of last year) comes a MASSIVE WIN for Denis Johnson and Tree Of Smoke (My fave novel this year).
To cap it all the bloke didn't even turn up to receive the award.

He was on assignment in Iraq...

Where are the British writers of fiction to compete with the masters of the craft stateside? Anyone enlighten me?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

2 out of 3 ain't bad

They say that the three most stressful things that can happen in your life are the death of someone close, moving house and getting a divorce. As I'm not married and by a process of elimination, I can tell you that 2 of those events have happened within six weeks of each other. Compounded by me having to move this weekend. That wouldn't be so bad except Matthew is in Brussels meaning I have to look after the shop friday and saturday then move sunday, monday. Phew.

Today was particularly stressful as we also heard that one of our former bookshops, a very prominent indie, will be closing in January that will inevitably prompt loads of guff in the papers about doom and gloom in the independent book trade. (I'm not breaking any confidences there as the news is already up on the Bookseller website - but the reasons for closing are far from people not buying books but more to do with those idiots at Macmillan and naked greed).

Anyway, moan moan moan but before you break out the kleenex and violins for poor old me my spirits have been instantly lifted by stopping and listening to a rasta playing Gershwin's 'Summertime' on a plastic saxophone outside woolies on Denmark Hill. Oh sweet joys!

And atleast I get to go to Munich next weekend to stay with my ex-girlfriend and her new husband. What could go wrong there!

Monday, November 12, 2007

I don't remember that conversation.

Strange to start first thing monday morning and find yourself quoted in the New Statesman. (Follow the link at the bottom)

More importantly though, the Bike Won! My weekly guilty pleasure, Top Gear, had a race last night across London from Kew bridge to City Airport between a bike, a boat, a car and public transport. The look on Clarkson's face was priceless. Cyclists of the world unite!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Guerilla Gardening

Last year I was on the way home after (yet another) bookshop party when I saw a bunch of hairy people on a roundabout (St George's Circus) digging. Weird time for the council to work I thought. And none of them are wearing council gear. It must be an alcohol induced hallucination, that's ok then...

But the plants were still there when I walked past the next day.

Then I saw a thing in the papers about Guerrilla Gardening and the penny dropped.

And now the Guerrillas have joined our merry band of PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS THAT WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN IF CONVENTIONAL WISDOM WAS THE LAW and named us as the exclusive stockists for their hand-harvested lavender pillows.

They really stink! But of lavender, so that's ok!

EX-Worker now turned bestselling novelist Marie can speak guerrilla - if there is a high enough demand I might try to arrange a reading from Gods Behaving Badly at our shop Christmas party - in Guerrilla lingo.

The pillows are £10 - all proceeds towards future gardening projects. We make NIL ZILCH NOTHING but love...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Wooden Zebra Loses A Leg...(The first in an occasional series about the destructive effect of children on their toys)

Once upon a time in a land far far away there lived a wooden zebra called Ken. Ken had been carefully carved from a small chunk of wood that was used to prop open the door of a shed by a little man called Ken who worked for a mechanic under some railway arches in South London.

Ken made Ken in the spare moments when the garage wasn't busy. He would peel back some wire fencing and go and sit in the allotment that ran alongside the garage. As he carved wood he liked to smoke and ruminate on how he would kill his boss. By the time he had chipped a few slivers of wood off the block and made a Zebra he felt much better. He could face going back to the garage and smiling in a slightly forced way at the man he had wanted to kill just a few minutes before.

So Ken's manufacture involved the transformation of Violence into Love.

One day Ken died. So it goes.

When the council came to clear all the stuff from his flat they found it was full of tiny carved animals. They were carved from wood and some of them were painted with crude, tar-like paint. Ken had no family or friends so the council chucked all the animals into a tin and sent them to the dump.

There are loads of folk that scavenge a living from council tips. One of these was a lady who prided herself on her brilliant eye for a potential bargain. She spotted the tin of animals and took them home to clean. A week later they were on her brickabrack stall down the market.

It was a cold and steel-grey Saturday afternoon. The lady was on the point of packing up when a scruffy bloke stopped, a pasty half in his mouth. Something had caught his eye...

"How much is this" he said, holding a small wooden zebra towards her.

"50p love"

He handed over a coin and walked off with Ken.

It so happened that this man was rather sentimental. He had always been fond of small objects and there was something about Ken that had grabbed his attention. He would take it home and give it to his small son Finn.

Finn loved the zebra. It came with him on trips in his buggy. Pretty soon it began to rival the plastic dinosaur as a method of entertaining Finn on the bus. (Finn and dad hated the bus and only used it as a last resort. It was far better walking about.)

Then one day they were on a 68 and it was packed. There were roadworks on the blinking Woolworth Road and everyone on the bus was wishing they were somewhere else, particularly Finn. He started to yell and yell. Nothing would calm him down. Dad gave him Ken, the zebra, as a last resort but Finn was angry and hurled the little zebra onto the floor so hard his leg snapped off.

"Oh..." said Finn.

Dad was gutted. He loved that zebra and was hoping Finn was going to love him too but now he was broken.

What dad didn't notice was that now Finn was calm and quiet. Ken had taken the Violence and turned it into Love.

So it goes...

Our accountant informs us...

...that we can have a staff christmas party and claim it as expenses. Cool. So we've decided to splash out and go to a swanky London eatery. Trouble is, which one? A booksellers salary, even a bookshop owner's salary isn't exactly consonant with swanky London eateries so our experience of same is somewhat limited.

You can help. The limit is £150 a head. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Channel Four phoned up wanting to play a "trick" on you that involved secret cameras and hiding mobile phones around the shop.

They were going to pay us One Hundred Whole quid...

...but I said NO.

Hope you'll do the same for me one day mate.

Oh! What a beautiful...

I walked quietly for a good distance on this road, thinking my own thoughts with the front part of my brain and at the same time taking pleasure with the back part in the great and widespread finery of the morning. The air was keen, clear, abundant and intoxicating. Its powerful presence could be discerned everywhere, shaking up the green things jauntily, conferring greater dignity and definition on the stones and boulders, forever arranging and re-arranging the clouds and breathing life into the world. The sun had climbed steeply out of his hiding and was now standing benignly in the lower sky pouring down floods of enchanting light and preliminary tinglings of heat.

A lovely morning and those are some lovely words from Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Help! Help! My trousers are collapsing...

Like the tombliboos after a drum-roll I am in danger of losing my trousers...

My sister has so far failed to buy me a pair of jeans for my birthday (was in September) and now two of the belt loops have broken on my LAST PAIR OF FUNCTIONING TROUSERS. I have to wear a belt with these as they grip below the belly where I am quite skinny. (I try not to think about the belly. It grows and shrinks depending on the number of football matches I have attended recently)

My shoes have holes in the soles.

Gadzooks - good thing we're not in this for the money!

Still, life is sweet and there's always In The Night Garden to watch when the going gets tough.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

It's in English!

Happy now

I've got Arsenal v Man Utd teed up and ready to roll on the laptop. Thank you Internet.

(Although the commentery is in Thai but hey who cares when you've got free footie)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

And as if by Magik...

A new edition of War and Peace arrives translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

So who wants to buy me that for Christmas then?


Our website has been untouched for too long due to my computers continued resistance to working. However, in the post today from Fawzia - PCRescue magazine with a free disc, The ULTIMATE BOOT CD. Fingers crossed.

Not the best way to start the day

A truck delivering 'food' to Iceland 2 doors down has just pulled up outside the shop. A giant photograph on the side of the truck of a greasy cheeseburger with limp lettuce is filling our front window.

Not good.