Monday, November 19, 2007

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.


  1. Most other countries seem to produce better books than the UK. I bought a virago paperback recently and I'm sure it was made of recycled loo - paper including the cover. Penguins are also getting worse what happened to the gloss covers? As a bookseller what is your experience of book quality? Are there any good publishers out there?

  2. Do we want quality?

    How many more copies of a title would be sold with better quality – but an extra £1 on the selling price?

    With discounting of books on the High Street and the big chains and distributors looking for huge discounts and better discounts being expected by most bookshops, the publishers have had to look to saving the pennies.

    With about a 6 times mark up (production cost to retail price) a saving of 17 pence in the production costs is a pound off the selling price. (Royalties are calculated on selling price or net receipts - so the authors are also being squeezed.)

  3. Are books really so price sensitive? I don't buy Wordsworth editions of the classics which only cost a pound. I do buy hardback editions of writers I like and they are very rarely included in chains discount offers.

    Also American editions don't appear to be the worst quality books and you would expect them to competing most fiercely wouldn't you? In fact they often seem to have high quality acid free paper and good covers.

  4. what's the hokusai book?


  5. Why so coy about where you ate? What if I want a big Belgian steak sometime soon? Come on - share your secret. Unless the same of the restaurant really is just a line of asterisks which would be avant garde, if hard to pronounce.

  6. I think the publishing industry in this country should publish less and make sure the books are worth buying...but we seem to be totally out of step with most of the industry!

    Marie - I'm not being coy, I just don't know how to spell the name.

    Was Pre Sale according to the better half...Adam and Fifi from Scooterworks pointed us towards the place.

    Saber - The Hokusai was

    Hokusai Manga by Bouquillard and Marquet ISBN 9782020933216

  7. PS Saber - There is a UK edition from Abrams - I've ordered it but I suspect the quality is rubbish. Will let you know...