Music labels and creditors to Woolworths are circling the assets of Zavvi, the CD and DVD chain, with both sides looking to get their hands on cash raised from Christmas shoppers.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I love the start of this video. It reminds me of nursery. We used to have dancing classes once a week and me and my little mate Frank always did our Batman dance. This involved climbing an imaginary rope ladder into a helicopter (kind of climbing on the spot) It used to really wind the teacher up. She would try and get us to follow everyone else and we just kept on climbing.
I also love this band.
Had one of their albums on I-Tunes for ages and every time a track popped up on shuffle I would think "ooh this is good, wonder who it is?" until I finally decided they were rather good.
You probably haven't seen me dance around my living room have you? The years have developed my technique way beyond the Batman stage. I can bend. And wiggle. Soft shoe shuffle. In a word, funky...
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Just a sentimental sloppy wet one from half of Crockatt & Powell...
(The other half is groaning and hiding behind a curtain, wishing I would shut the f&c& up!)
I love you, no I really really love you. I mean it you know. All of you. Every single one of you that's spent any money in either of our shops ever. You don't have to shop in our shop but you do and that's why I love you. Did I tell you I loved you? I did? A few times already? Oh...ok...but...I love you...
(Sound effect of bookseller falling backwards into pile of empty bottles.)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
Jazz musician and composer who released the enthusiastically received Smoke and Mirrors
I love the Sam Crockatt Quartet's Howeird (Cadiz Music). Sam's compositions are incredibly melodic and open, and Gwilym Simcock does the most ridiculously virtuosic piano solo on the track 'Project 1', which is worth the price of the album alone.
That from the Observer best albums of 2008 list.
Well done Sam!
Copies of Howeird should be available for sale from C & P from tomorrow. If you want an advance taste then visit his Myspace page.
US Book Sales Decrease By 20% In October
Posted at 5:27PM Saturday 13 Dec 2008Book sales tracked by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) for the month of October decreased by 20.1 percent at $644.5 million and were down by 3.4 percent for the year.
Woolworths suppliers circle Zavvi
Friday, December 12, 2008
So it is with great pleasure that I now relate this feat of outstanding blaggery performed by our esteemed colleague Stuart.
It all started at about 6pm when I overheard a telephone conversation Stuart was having with a friend.
"The Lyceum. Yeah. Herodotus, yeah. But the Thucydides was more difficult - I could only get it in paperback."
"Great conversation Stuart, I loved the progress from pub to culture." I said.
But it went further than that. On the floor of the Lyceum Stuart and his mate found an invite to the Guardian Christmas party. An opportunity for a blag. Well, tradition has it that such opportunities must be taken. They turn up, brandish the invite "Yeah, we write for the Guardian" and leap hurdle one.
Hurdle two asked for security passes.
"Oh, we lost them in the pub" says Stuart.
"Oh don't worry" says the cheery bouncer "Your names will be on the list."
At this point our man confessed to losing his bottle. He froze.
"Er, we found the invite on the floor in the pub" says Stuart's mate.
"I live just round the corner" was all our man could come up with.
"Guys, you are really going to have to work on your excuses" says the bouncer and LET THEM IN...
To a world with not one free bar, not two free bars, not three free bars but FOUR free bars.
"At first we were after beer, then champagne then we thought "why not whisky?" and by the end we were like "A mochito? Why not?"
Sadly the chaps lost focus to such a degree they were not able to tell us anything else about the party.
"There was a Northern Soul room" were Stuart's final words on the matter.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Hmmm. I had neglected to buy anything for my own supper and a bookseller's cupboard is often more or less bare. I had a look in the freezer and spied a pack of fish fingers. I'd been chatting with Nat about fish finger sandwiches earlier and it suddenly seemed like a great idea so I stuck ten under the grill and left the kitchen.
The smoke had to fill the kitchen and the hallway before it reached me where I was sipping from a large glass of red wine...(Note to concerned firemen: We do have an alarm but I had taken it off the wall and thrown it in the bedroom earlier - as it often goes off when fish fingers are cooking normally)
Man, those fish fingers were dead. Very dead. Cremated.
And then I arrive at work this morning to find an e-mail from Adam's flatmate titled Dangerous Times Call For Radical Measures aka The Fridge. It seems the fridge round Adam's is a little stinky. Or very stinky indeed perhaps.
Aren't you glad we don't live with you?
Monday, December 08, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
They remind me of all these 'Savers' in the papers moaning that interest rate cuts are punishing their good behaviour and rewarding those morally inferior 'Borrowers'.
Well, here's the story people. Savers earn interest on their savings because 'Borrowers' borrow money and all second hand books were once bought new. It's the system, fools!
Friday, December 05, 2008
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Just when you think I can't possibly be any more stupid - I am more stupid.
Ok, so here's how it went.
Today I arrive at the Fulham Road shop soaking wet after having scooted over in the rain/snow. The crew are all very cheery and seem pleased to see me. Obviously alarm bells should have started to ring right away but they didn't. I drip through into the kids room and try to open the door into the staff room. Hmm. My code does not work. I sigh and try theirs. It does not work. I can hear what sounds a little bit like sniggering from the other room. Sure enough Stuart comes through and says words to the effect of "I know you haven't got psychic powers you Southern Jessie but I thought I'd let you find out the hard way."
I fiddle around for a while longer while people stand there saying things like "Yeah, we tried that. It didn't work."
So then I go out and get a crowbar come back and smash the door open.
Geller. You win. Bas$%rd.
(But you're just a bit afraid of me now eh? Remember Scott Pack eh?)
Monday, December 01, 2008
I've got so many things to do I thought I might as well waste a bit of time blogging about my ever-increasing psychic powers...
We have a combination lock on the door to the staff area at the Fulham Road shop. Ever since we opened I have been using one code to pass through it and, I discovered recently, everyone else has been using another.
Both codes worked (that's why we've only just realised there were two) until Thursday last week. All of a sudden people were unable to get through the door to the staff area. Stuart would go off for lunch. Then he would come back through to the front room complaining about the door. I would go through, punch in my code and open it. This went on for a while. One of my colleagues would try the door and come back complaining it was broken. Then I'd go through no problem.
Somehow I have managed to make the door only accept my combination. My combination that was wrong the whole time.
So don't mess. I could probably really sc£*w you up if I put my mind to it!
Friday, November 21, 2008
I'm only 240 pages in but I think she's right. Last week Dr Rick was telling me how he'd had an argument with a friend about novels of the familiar and oft spouted "but what's the point in reading novels? I want to read the truth!" variety.
We agreed this was a ridiculous argument that misses the point about good fiction (good fiction reminds the reader that Truth cannot be recorded in full - that there are gaps in our experience and understanding) and yet I was left with the lingering suspicion that it was rather a long time since I had read a book that would have met Franz Kafka's criteria. ("A book ought to be an icepick to break up the frozen sea within us")
And then The Kindly Ones arrived in the post and my frozen seas have been well and truly smashed to bits. I can't say I like the book. But I also think it's the kind of book you just can't ignore.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
You can listen to the latest sound piece from our friend Will here.
That's a picture of one of the "instruments" (part of the heating system for Myatt’s Field estates in South London)
Monday, November 17, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Scooterworks looks closed. I place my head against one of the glass panels in the door and peer inside. I can see a girl cleaning a table. The door begins to open as I lean against it a bit more. Inside it smells of cleaning products. I wait for the coffee and "N" tells me all about the kittens covered in red paint she was dreaming about and how she often screams in the night until someone wakes her up. It's a guilt thing. Catholicism has a lot to answer for I think. I tell her the Flannery O'Connor story, the one about the girl with a wooden leg. Half way through "K" has finished making my coffee - but it's in a china cup. "N" and I look at one another. "It's to take away!" We can hear Big Ben in the background - I'm late opening. I watch "K" pour my latte from the china cup into a cardboard one. "Ten pence off for spilling some?" I joke and instantly regret it. Next thing I know I hand over a fiver, the till opens and they frown. "N" smiles a wicked smile - "Just give him it in 20ps". I leave with a pocket FULL of change.
Am I awake or asleep? You decide.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I read Wise Blood on the say so of a bookselling friend some years ago. This friend and I are both lovers of Dostoevsky and he said that Wise Blood had a cast of demented characters to rival the Russian master.
He was right. Hazel Motes is NUTS.
I now have a copy of the American Library edition of O'Connor's work and if I'm ever caught without a great book to read I take it off the shelf and read a short story or two.
Yesterday I read one called Good Country People. Have I ever read a funnier, darker story? Probably not. Want to know what happens when a nihilistic wooden-legged chick gets it on with a bible salesman in the hayloft?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
As you can probably tell from my last post I was starting to get a little crazy. When this happens I take a day off and head for the woods.
I dropped Finn off with his child minder and caught a train from Waterloo to Dorking. To do this I had to change at Clapham Junction, probably the busiest station on earth. The assault was physical (barged by commuters) mental (nobody could tell me how to get to Boxhill and Wotsit - probably because the station is really called Boxhill and Westhumble. What can I say? My geography outside of London is crap.) - and aural (there was a constant barrage of announcements of one kind or another).
And then I listened to one of the announcements. It was a reminder that it was the 11th of November. At 11am there would be a 2 minutes silence to remember "victims of human conflict".
It was beautifully observed. Everything seemed to come to a halt. There were no announcements. Guards stopped blowing their whistles. People bowed their heads and stood still. For two minutes I was able to concentrate on something outside of the day to day running around and find some peace.
And then the delights of the Surrey Hills and their forests of Beech. I strode along on a carpet of coppery leaves with nothing but the small sounds of birds and the murmuring trees for company. At one delightful spot there was a huge beech tree, over two hundred years old according to the Timeout Book Of Country Walks, that marked the boundary between the Polesden Lacey estate and Ranmore Common. There was something wonderful about using a tree to mark a boundary, something that seemed to belong to an era now long gone, where the natural world was an important part of the fabric of human lives.
Later I realised that the air had a taste. It tasted fresh, clean and sweet. I began to draw deep draughts of it down into my chest. Again and again I breathed as deeply as I could until I realised I was becoming quite light-headed. Moments later I experienced what folk wot exercise are always banging on about - a rush of endorphins. I physically straightened, looked at the world and my face cracked into a massive dumbo grin. Wow. Life is good I remembered.
What I found in those woods was space. Head space. A place outside of clock time where I could just...be...
Isn't that what reading provides? Open a book and you are somewhere else, in a world of endless possibility.
And what a privilege just to be alive on such a lovely day. I was pleased that amid the bustle and business of a London station we had been given the opportunity to remember those that died, that continue to die, for things the day to day running around world deems worth dying for.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Too many books? (Too many bloody Parenthesis more like) (Is that the plural? Where's that copy of Eats Shoots and Leaves) (Or was it Eat's)
As a bookseller I find it hard to avoid contact with the general public. Hmm, that didn't come out quite right. What I'm trying to say is that I meet a lot of people. And when they spend money in one of our shops I want them to know that I appreciate it, that I realise that if they didn't choose to come to C & P I would not be a bookseller.
But it's hard to make every person you deal with feel a little bit special, a little bit loved. This is something I think people often overlook when faced with a moody face behind the till. To be cheerful again and again and again and mean it is hard. Frankly it's work. Hard work. (Maybe if I were American or a convert to the consumer society I would find it effortless to say "Have a Nice Day" to everyone and mean it. But, despite spending most of my time in shops, I hate shopping and avoid it at all costs.)
Luckily I am full of nuggets of useless yet cheery information or mindless banter about the weather etc. And I am full of love and affection for our customers (especially the cake-bringing kind.)
(Apologies for the lengthy and rambling nature of this post. I could blame it on my brother who just popped in with a cd that is one hour long but only consists of two - highly repetitive - tracks. I feel as though time is standing still. But there is a point approaching, look, here it comes!)
One of the pieces of useless information of a vaguely book-related nature I regurgitate when faced with a customer who says they have "far too many books already" as they pile up a stack before me is a fragment I retained from reading Paul Auster's increasingly relevant book Hand To Mouth. It's all about his experiences as a penniless writer. In it, he talks about making furniture from books and someone just sent me a link to this pic...
(If you spend long enough in a bookshop by yourself - mostly - you may take up blogging. Or even talking to yourself.)
(It's been a very rainy day.)
(God I'm glad that's finally over and bet you are too!)
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Men of a certain age just do. not. listen...
Do I have to tune in to Sky News? Really?
Fingers crossed (although I don't think it's necessary) and if you hear a whoop and a cheer coming from the general Waterloo direction about 4am tonight you'll know that history has been made.
Monday, November 03, 2008
"F" has been bringing us cakes and ale for ages now.
And then there's Jane, brilliant author of gardening books, excellent bookseller and cake-maker extraordinaire who often brings slices in to the Fulham Road shop with her so we can "test" them.
Then there was the Polish "dirty dancing" pancake lady.
Now "B" has just dropped in claiming to want to order a book. But then, "Oh, would you like some cake?"
Yes. Yes I would like some cake.
Lemon cake. With icing. YUM YUM YUM YUM.
Oh, what a difference a cake makes!
The album is called Howeird and is probably a work of genius. No I mean really. I have heard Sam play several times over the years and he is just better every time.
Then who should appear as first customer of the day but my uncle Ian. He's also a creative chap. (He's a poet and has published several collections with good poetry publishers such as Peterloo Poets.) Ian lives on a croft in the far north of Scotland. He was down south for a couple of days, meeting a publisher who are dealing with his latest project - translations of Rilke no less!
There are a lot of Crockatts.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
2: A regular customer of ours came in and spent some book tokens she won after writing a letter to the Guardian. The letter was about busking - and I remember reading it myself a couple of weeks ago.
3: The pancake lady has given up for the day. It is 2pm and she had sold 3 pancakes...(lost money in other words - I had four free ones in the end) She is a dancer by trade and is now going off to a Fitness First where she is going to teach a class how to do a Dirty Dancing workout.
Lower Marsh eh?
So far today I have had three for free.
Cheese and Salami.
Cheese and herb.
And "el classico" sugar and fresh lemon.
"I have to keep making them so people can see me making them" she explained.
Fat Crockatt has a kind of nice ring to it doncha think?
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Friendly and humanitarian
Honest and loyal
Original and inventive
Independent and intellectual
On the dark side....
Intractable and contrary
Perverse and unpredictable
Unemotional and detached
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
There are publishers.
And then there's Penguin.
The Crockatt & Powell lads were invited to compete in a travel pub quiz, hosted by Penguin, (they do Rough Guides and the DK Eyewitness guides in case you didn't know).
*Note to other publishers who might be reading. This post is not sponsored by Penguin - but when I'm given access to a free bar and free curry I am honour bound to be a little bit OTT in my appreciation ok?*
Now for those yet to visit either of our premises in the non-cyber world travel is not a big part of our operation. Yes we sell travel guides. Yes we sell travel literature. But we're not a travel bookshop.
So when we finished second, splitting the two teams from Stanfords (travel specialists) we were quite pleased.
A certain other travel bookshop was represented. To spare blushes I will not say where they finished...
And who came last? Winning actual wooden spoons? Yes, you guessed it - those brilliant folk from Waterstone's head office in Brentford.
STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS
As I'm blogging away in the Lower Marsh shop with the shutters down (Adam is opening today so even though I'm here I'm not doing anything about the shutters till he arrives - Oh! What business leaders we are!) a bloke turns up with a box marked McSweeney's Seduction Box.
It's only a bloke from Penguin called Matt (a literary marketing executive no less!) giving us more gifts.
It's a right ducking early CHRISTMAS! Hooray for Penguin, the best publisher in the world.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
1: It is UGLY.
2: When you "turn a page" the screen kind of fades to black and then comes back again on the next page. That would really bug me after a while.
3: The second page I read had two words joinedtogether like so...That's just shoddy.
I left feeling fully vindicated in our dismissal of this ridiculous toy, a classic example of a pointless technology.
If it ain't broke and has been around for thousands of years...
Monday, October 20, 2008
I knew I should have put my waterproof trousers on this morning.
Now I am going to have to scoot back through the traffic-laden and slippery streets of South London while my legs get wetter and wetter...
Saturday, October 18, 2008
I know we inhabit a virtual 'I expect, therefore I get' world now, and I'm not going to hark on about how much harder we had it in the old days, or give you a parable on how my granny had to walk 5 miles to school with no shoes on etc. That was my dad in fact anyway. I just want to point out that the average westerner could easily hole themselves up for eons without any need to approach their front door other than to sign for that online Asda shop. How can this be a good thing, 'force majeure' scenario aside?
And rather than amble out for a browse around the shops on a global warmingly kind of mild October Saturday afternoon, I'd hazard a guess at one in three of us having degenerated to this level of person, whose main aim it is to get someone to do all their footwork for them and come up with that perfect gift idea. Sorted. Do a quick google search on the subject in advance of the call since I'm on Bebo anyway? You kidding? Maybe I'm being unduly harsh. Perhaps he is an 'rsi' sufferer and not just bone idle.
So, hurrah to all the active customers, those who stretch their limbs through the doors of shops here, there and everywhere with their requests - some specific, some vague. But at least they bothered to break the armchair generation mould for an hour or two and be vague in person. Obviously, this particular cross section of customer can present its own problems too, but that topic's for another diatribe. Hurrah again!
On a final note, my joker obviously hasn't yet had their bank outsource all customer service queries to Bangalore like mine. Otherwise clearly they would never ever put a phone call in to another supplier again.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I know this is going to sound really strange, but I'm really hoping that you
may be able to help me. My sister and I visited London back in April. We
live in the USA. Anyway, we saw posters in all of the tube stations
advertising a new novel. We didn't want to buy it at the time, because we
didn't have any room in our luggage, but figured we'd buy it when we got
back home. Neither one of us wrote down the name of the book, and we can't
remember what it was! It was a mystery/thriller type novel. Do you know of
any place where I might be able to get a list of novels that were published
back around that time so that I could perhaps recognize the title?
I'd really appreciate any help you could give me!
Thanks very much.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
(Age approx 60 - Dressed in multi-coloured clothing.)
"The Queen? Pah, I'll not buy any book associated with the Queen. I'm the only Queen around here! Hah Hah!."
Customer No 2:
(American accent, maybe 25, Dressed - in a manner appropriate for the fashion magazine reading youth of today)
Me: (Age approx 23 - ok ok ok 34ish - Dressed - Brown shirt, green trousers, black jumper - a MESS OK?)
"Any strong opinions about the queen?"
Customer number 2:
"They told me before I came here if I said anything bad about the Queen the people would kill me."
Me: "I have a soft spot for her really. She reminds me of my Granny."
We have now sold two copies - count them - that's TWO (2) copies of the excellent taking the stairs by the soon to be super star author John Stiles from our Lower Marsh shop.
John if you are reading this, or if someone you know reads this (does anybody still read this?) then can we have some more? I need a stack to make a splash in our Chelsea shop.
Man, I am going to recommend your book.
I am going to press it into the gold and diamond dusted hands of the rich and famous.
I am going to persuade hopeless and homeless drink and drug addicts and ex-lepers (bloody Jesus!) to spend their hard begged cash on your book.
I sincerely hope my rabid enthusiasm does not administer the last kicks that put your literary career into a coma.
We've had a couple of hits over the years...
The Journey of an Award-winning Novel
The progress of “What Was Lost” has been incredible to watch. For a small, independently published, debut novel to be nominated for most of the major prizes is phenomenal. I was reading on Eve’s Alexandria about the journey the book had undertaken with the support of Crockatt and Powell and the blogosphere. Could you tell us a bit more about how that all happened (and big up book blogs a bit for us too while you are at it!).
My agent, Lucy Luck, deserves full credit for Crockatt and Powell’s early involvement with the book. She recommended the bookshop as the venue for the London launch and I’m so glad that she did. I was fairly terrified at the prospect of a London launch, and the image I had of independent booksellers (sadly having virtually no models in Birmingham on which to base my preconceptions) only added to the terror. I’m not sure what I had in mind, but Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady was somewhere in the mix. Instead I found Matthew and Adam who wanted to talk about the Stone Roses and share customer anecdotes.
Their support and enthusiasm for the book from that early stage was amazing. They run a great bookshop. They love books and can talk about them with love but without pretension and they are more interested in serving their customers than the empty gestures of ‘customer service’. Because of these things, people respect their opinions. Through the C and P blog, through word of mouth and other mysterious means other excellent booksellers like Wenlock Books and The Bookseller Crow on the Hill picked up on the book, as of course did literary blogs.
Everyone knows how easy it is for a book to sink without trace if it doesn’t have a big marketing budget behind it or if it fails to make the chain store promotions. Literary bloggers who seek out books, who see beyond the big promotions and who can then write clearly and honestly about those books and enthuse other readers about them are a powerful antidote to that. I sense I’m preaching to the converted here, but as Chuck D once said (it’s possible he wasn’t writing about independent booksellers and literary blogs - but I’m sure he’d extend the sentiment): ‘we got to fight the powers that be’.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
We do not have it.
She asks if she can order a copy and I say "yes".
The book arrives and we keep it aside for the nice lady.
The nice lady comes in.
Turns out she does not want to buy the book after all. No. Her husband wrote it.
Does this strike you as the best way to get a book into bookshops? Deception? Why not just be up front? Or maybe, just maybe, the book is a pile of &*&£
Thursday, October 09, 2008
What about all those excellent writers who are of African origin? For a start...
Ah well, we'll have to wait for some brave publisher in the UK/US to pay for Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio's books to be translated into English before I'm able to comment on the pros/cons of their choice.
...one day a few weeks ago a man came into the shop. His name was John. John Stiles. And he wondered if we might like to take a few copies of his novel Taking The Stairs.
I had met John before and recognised a kindred spirit. (He loves writing. A bit too much. A book nut - prepared to go way too far in the pursuit of literary dreams.)
Know what? I read taking the stairs and loved it. I laughed out loud. The dialogue snaps. The observations are spot on.
I fear it will not sell in large quantities but why not try and prove me wrong? Go into your local (bookshop) and demand a copy. If the geeks say it does not exist then give us a ring and I'll send you a copy.
At present I am reading Stefan Zweig's novel The Post Office Girl. (I was told that the only novel Zweig produced was Beware of Pity but no, The Post Office Girl is certainly a novel.) Weirdly it has only just been translated into English and is available as part of the excellent New York Review of Books classics series.
Zweig wrote at least one libretto for his friend Richard Strauss and so Strauss seemed good background listening for the minute. A quick trip to Gramex (another quirky but excellent shop on Lower Marsh) and I was the proud owner of several Strauss records.
Stefan Zweig killed himself in a suicide pact with his wife in Brazil. He was in despair, sure that the Nazis were the first stage of the death of the European culture he had dedicated his life to enriching.
Maybe Zweig might have smiled to see me sitting in my favourite green leather arm chair; reading The Post Office Girl, drinking espressos and listening to Strauss's Thus Spoke Zarathustra...
PS Don't spoil it by bringing up 2001 eh!
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
! ! !
And I'm pretty excited about it too. I knew I was good for something!
I took it downstairs to the cellar. Look mate, I said, you'd better just start behaving yourself you plastic piece of dirt. You can spin me that line about you being the crust on his uppers all day long - I ain't fooled.
Oh yes, I put the Derek Raymond frighteners on that price gun alright. A real Lower Marsh tirade with all the gestures and knuckle flexing and cockney accent and IT WORKED.
Now he's spitting priced pieces of paper for all he's worth. He's been lazing about so long there's plenty of cards and books from America that need their prices stuck on 'em.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
At Crockatt & Powell we pride ourselves on our insane devotion to - you!
Well put it this way, if you love us, we love you - more!
Wednesday was my "day off". That means my body was up early and taking Finn to nursery before the rest of me was aware what day it was. I dropped him off and he ran for the toys right away. "Bye!" I said, but he was gawn into kiddie land. Then I hot foot it to the bookshop which is closed at this point, since it is still really early. After letting myself in and dumping the buggy in our back room I leg it down the street with a box full of bags for the Fulham Road shop to catch a bus home. Whilst sitting on the bus I take advantage of a rare few moments to finish Pollard by Laura Beatty and decide it is a rather excellent book. I re-read the end and it gets better.
At home I change into my bike gear then jump on the trusty Zip 50 scooter with the box of bags. As I speed along it begins to rain and I decide today is the day I will finally get round to buying a proper wet-weather jacket. By the time I arrive at the Fulham Road shop I am definitely damp. I hand over the bags to Stuart and pick up the books I need, then it's back on the bike to Lower Marsh.
I arrive on the Marsh and stride into the shop, all biked up. Dr Rick is there dissecting the economic state of things with another Dr (let's call her "S") who is clutching her little lad - a mate of Finn's as it happens. I hand the good doctor the book he needs whilst singing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" then leave again to park properly.
I return to find Adam attempting to fix Dr Rick's laptop. He fails. But at least he tried.
After a brief encounter with an awkward member of the private army Lambeth Council have hired to try and destroy us I leave the shop and start my day off. It's almost lunchtime by then...
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
A little Keats anyone?
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruic the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shell»
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost brook;
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring ? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I know I like a lot of Brian Eno's music and we used to listen to David Byrne's online radio show in the shop all the time - he always seemed to have interesting taste in music.
Anyway, this new album is here for free. You can buy it if you want.
That holiday seems a long time ago now.
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald I found simply wonderful.
From the opening meeting with the bank manager - "...I would like to put a point, Mrs Green, which in all probability has not occurred to you, and yet which is so plain to those of us who are in a position to take the broader view. My point is this. If over any given period of time the cash inflow cannot meet the cash outflow, it is safe to predict that money difficulties are not far away." - to the final paragraph - "As the train drew out of the station she sat with her head bowed in shame, because the town in which she had lived for nearly ten years had not wanted a bookshop." - it is a beautifully observed and written homage to the madness that drives people to run bookshops.
Next I devoured The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I loved it. Not only was I caught up in the plot but this is a crime novel that really makes you care about the characters. I found the details of Swedish life weirdly enthralling. In many ways Larsson has written a classic, Agatha Christie style, mystery but then spiced it up with sex and violence. Great stuff. Next in the trilogy comes out in January.
The final book on my holiday list was Pollard by Laura Beatty. I started off loving it and have had moments of loving it since. But is is very weird and, since I find myself in an odd state of mind at present, reading about a bag lady living in a hut in the woods means I keep wondering which of us (myself or the narrator Anne) is losing their marbles. If I had to make a comparison it might be with The Short Day Dying by Pete Hobbs - another brilliant book, poetic, moving, earthy - that is destined to sell a minute number of copies. Maybe fans of John Cowper Powys would enjoy Pollard? Maybe.
I am very much expecting Sebastian Barry to win the Booker prize btw. More on that later...
I woke up this morning feeling absolutely sh*t but slowly things have improved.
First off, the sun was shining.
Then, after an unusually tempestuous display from Finn he calmed down and was lovely on the bus. I left him at nursery looking all cheery as little people admired his dinosaur shirt.
Then as I walked along the South Bank to the Lower Marsh shop I bumped into my brother Colin. Just like that. He's popping by later after work.
The sun shone more. I sold some books.
Catherine O'Flynn's chap came in for a good chinwag. Brilliant to hear of all her success in 20 countries.
"F" ambled into the shop with a couple of Portuguese custard tarts. My favourite "F". I ask again - what did I ever do to deserve such gifts?
Then Alberto Manguel asked if it was ok if he linked to our website. Ok? We are honoured Alberto!
Then I went to Marsh Ruby for a curry. I was feeling rough. Like I might vomit any moment. But I held on and ate the lot with extra chillies. Now I feel fine. Ingrid hastled me about not blowing our own trumpet enough.
Next Sandi Toksvig popped in and called me "love" which I loved. She agreed it was a lovely sunny day and "perfect for a walk".
To top off a great day I realised that Late Junction has a Brian Eno special on the BBC I-Player.
Friday, September 12, 2008
We have a price gun.
In fact we have two price guns but the one in the new shop is easy to load. No problem. We still have the instructions.
The trouble starts on Lower Marsh. There we have a different price gun and no instructions. I have a difficult relationship with instructions. (We have a box of broken stuff as proof.) I probably threw them away.
We have been trying to load some stickers into it for about two months now.
If you can do it we will give you a £10 voucher on the spot. But I bet you will fail...
Family Values is a collection of poems.
I feel it is sometimes easy to be hard on poetry and poets. There are way more bad poets than good poets (myself included!) and enough bad poetry in the world to fill all the remaining landfill space globally. But you know the good stuff when you find it don't you? And this is the goooood stuff.
Enitharmon have produced a beautiful book for a writer who deserves the very best.
Maureen was brilliant. I'll stop gushing now. It only remains for me to pose this question.
What is the collective noun for poets? (Let's just say there were quite a few in the shop. And also quite a few broken glasses...)
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
There are still a few places available on the Introduction to Bookselling Course on Monday 6th October.
About the Course
This course is designed to provide a thorough grounding in every aspect of bookselling.
Who Should Attend?
- New Booksellers who have recently set up in business
- Anyone considering opening a bookshop
- Experienced Booksellers who want to reacquaint themselves with the key elements of bookselling
- New or Experienced Members of Staff
What You’ll Learn
- How to create and maintain a robust business
- A practical understanding of bookshop finances
- Managing the day to day tasks of running bookshop
- Increasing customer loyalty
The course will look in detail at the essential elements that go to make a profitable retail business including profit & loss and stock control, and , of course, the product itself.
It will also look at resources available to booksellers, and look at the key events that make up a professional bookseller’s life.
Running your bookshop with passion and making sure customers come back to you time and again is vital to the success of your business. You will find out how to make your shop a part of your community and a unique and desirable destination.
And this is also a valuable opportunity to network with other booksellers and to benefit from the experience of one of the UK’s most successful booksellers!
Your tutor for this course is the highly-respected, experienced and award-winning bookseller, ***************************
Places on this course are just £195.00 + VAT (£229.12) each. This includes lunch and a free copy of the BA’s Complete Guide to Starting & Running a Bookshop normally priced at £28.00.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Enclosed are Two Cuttings of books I'm looking for.
Can you help with this request, if so Please find enclosed a S.A.E for your reply also Charges etc.
If you're unable to assist Could you Please forward the Cuttings back.
Blimey. That hasn't happened before...
I am in the process of composing our response. Both books are available. We shall see how the relationship develops.
BTW I am in no way intending this as a mick-take post. I think it's great that snail mail might be used for such things. I also feel pretty sure this is not a gentleman likely to be using the internet much. Maybe I'm wrong. But I don't think so!
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008
Well done Jimmy!
This picture was taken in the downstairs of a pub just before Bullard came back from his awful knee injury. I am the one with the red eye on the right. It was my mate's birthday and that's why he's getting a hug.
What can I say? Bullard kept us up last season and is a real "old skool" footballer (see haircut!)
He is also a top bloke. Not only did he agree to pose for pics with the "Sombrero Crew" (don't ask) he phoned my wife on another occasion to promise he was staying at Fulham.
I hope he gets a game for England. If he does, I predict nothing less than 100% from one of the few Premiership players to still have his feet on the ground.
First on the list was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - the latest greatest Scandinavian crime writer. Fulham Road Claire said this was the book she enjoyed most on her holidays and I have heard and read many other good things about it. One down.
Then I thought I'd try Pollard by Laura Beatty. Fulham Road Jane said this was fantastic (has to be a good sign when a bookshop owner is taking book recommendations from his staff eh?) It is about a lady who goes off to live in the woods.
Last of all I thought I would take The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald. I have avoided reading this for bloomin ages now, knowing that the bookshop involved does not have a happy ending. Maybe I've grown up or something? (Maybe not) But I felt it was time to face it.
A few paces later, having admired a Buddleia growing amongst a cluster of cans of special brew, I realised I was drifting into a mistake. Choosing holiday reading like this is bound to fail. I'm not on holiday yet and so my mood and mind are centred on work stuff. The Bookshop was obviously chosen because I feel close to the central situation of the novel. But in Cornwall I won't be thinking much about bookshops. (I hope) Similarly Pollard taps into my "I need a holiday" feeling that has most of me screaming "Run to the woods and hide!" (A similar mood has me hanging around the compost heap at the bottom of the garden)
All the best holiday books I remember reading are ones I didn't choose myself but just sort of came across whilst away. I remember reading Red Dragon by Thomas Harris one summer and being totally terrified. Similarly JG Ballard's The Unlimited Dream Company took my brain to pieces and put it back together again after I casually picked it off a dusty farmhouse shelf. John Gray's Straw Dogs started an argument that lasted most of a holiday.
But how do you choose without choosing?
I walked onward. My head was starting to overheat in the morning sun - crazy weather or what? - so I took it off and put it in my jacket pocket. (The hat, not my head)
I remembered Dr Rick telling me about Robert Frost's great poem The Road Not Taken. It is regularly polled as the nation's favourite poem in the United States - a country that LOVES to choose. And yet Dr Rick reckons (and Dr Rick is always right people!) that the last line is in fact a joke.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Choosing one road or the other has in fact ended up making very little difference. The act of choosing, the illusion it gives us of control, is elevated to absurd heights. What I choose to read on holiday will make very little difference. There is no perfect book list for me. I will just choose three and I might like them or I might not. The probability is that I will find something else whilst I'm away and love reading that. After all if past form is anything to go by I'm better off leaving the choosing to chance...
I still feel that there are certain books that call to you though and I will probably take the three mentioned above.
To Be Continued...
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Finn's nursery was closed for a few hours the other day so I had to look after him in the shop for a while. As soon as he'd finished dusting we sat down and read some books.
One of the books he chose was called Lost and Found by a bloke called Oliver Jeffers. The story involved a boy finding a Penguin on his doorstep. He assumes the Penguin is lost and sets out to row him back to the South Pole. They make it but it turns out the Penguin wasn't lost after all - he was lonely. There is a happy ending. I thought it might be a bit long for him at first but he sat there quietly enough. We went on to read a couple of other books and I thought nothing more of it.
The next morning I could hear Finn singing in his cot. I went into his room and he was singing row row row your boat and clutching the cuddly Penguin he got from London Zoo. Blimey.
I bought the book next day and now it's a firm favourite.
This Oliver Jeffers bloke must have something special I thought. I looked into the matter and discovered he's the chap behind The Incredible Book Eating Boy and How To Catch A Star. He's won many prizes. Then I dimly remembered a rep talking about The Incredible Book Eating Boy with great enthusiasm. Maybe I should have listened...But then publishers are always banging on about how great books are, books that soon show their true colours by not selling anywhere near as strongly as expected.
My point? Oliver Jeffers has "it".
But what is "it"? That's just one of those questions really. What makes one thing art and another dross? What is the thing that makes you love that person? Why FFC?
I suppose that's the human condition. We all want "it" without having the slightest idea what "it" is. And then advanced capitalism lets rip with the whole creation of desire/commodity ting and makes money out of our desperate need for "it" by pretending to have discovered what "it" is and selling it to us...
Patent Leather Moleskine anyone?
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
They are covered in Italian patent leather (shiny).
They are red.
There are day per page or week per page.
That means there are four kinds.
THERE ARE ONLY 300 OF EACH KIND AVAILABLE IN THE ENTIRE UK.
If you want an extra special pressie for someone then get in touch quick as these really are super limited.
Beauty and style come at a price - pocket daily £38 - pocket weekly £35.
Buy from here.
*Ok, not completely exclusive. But certainly very hard to find...
Friday, August 22, 2008
Been thinking the same thoughts as I've been re-doing all this website and blog shenanigans. What is it we do? What is the website for? The Blog? We are Booksellers, we sell books. In a shop, a real live shop. We're not html whizzes and we haven't got the cash to pay the real whizzes to do it for us. The websites should be a reflection of the DIY ethic at C&P towers but not even attempting to be too slick because to be honest we're just not even approaching the foothills of slick.
I like to think on Seth's twin bell-curve we're just about half-way up 'Real'. But then I've never been to good at self-evaluation. I'll settle for competent. That'll do me fine...
Or, as a friend said to me the other day as I showed her v4.7 of the ever-evolving C&P web presence; 'You know, some people have a talent for this website stuff. You're not one of them.'
How many peeps came to the last one in may again? A 100,000 you say! Really? Gosh, I'm sure we could sell a few books if we really try very, very hard.
NO, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kist
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globèd peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty — Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
1250-1900, 1919 edition)
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I'm in one shop by myself and adam is in the other shop by himself.
Crockatt & Powell.
This is all messed up! I thought being a company director was all about creaming millions by fleecing idiots. Aren't we supposed to be sunning ourselves on a beach somewhere whilst beautiful chicks create a breeze with their athletic belly-dancing?
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
I hauled myself out of bed, staggered to the kitchen and downed as much coffee as I could before walking from Camberwell to the River in the rain. Finn was yelling "I wan go bookshop with daddy!" as I left and generally acting sad that I was going - something that kept me in a cheery mood most of the walk as I had started to wonder if the little chap knew who his dad was. He also claimed to have been dreaming about Fulham last night - something else guaranteed to put a smile on my face - though nightmares would probably be more appropriate since we just lost to Hull. (Hull!)
Lower Marsh always looks worse on a rainy Monday. I decided I needed more coffee so swerved into Scooterworks for a takeaway latte. Fifi was there and so was Craig. I was feeling so anti-social I just muttered a hello and went to sit by the back door until the drink was ready. With a weak smile I left, realising I had just done my bit to confirm the stereotype of booksellers being miserable people.
So far so Monday. Hauled the shutters up and got splashed with muddy water. Grrr. Opened the door. Turned on lights. Went to have a quick "p" before the first punters arrived and...
HOLY COW BATMAN!
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BOG?
Thankyou. We are not worthy. Thankyou. I will say it again - thankyou.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
If ever you're desperate for a slash, and all options have been razed to the ground Armageddon-style leaving C&P as Last Man Standing, take my advice: cross your legs or use the street. I climbed the boys' rickety backroom stairwell to The Toilet this morning, itself an assault course for the hardy, and returned in a sheen of sweat feeling nauseous. I almost pitied the hideous eyesore that serves as the 'petit coin' with its air of neglect. Even the mice don't go there anymore. Hours later, having tackled it with a cleaner containing formaldehyde, it's now feeling less sorry for itself, if not exactly proud....... and one is less likely to contract a rare form of bowel disease. Which, of course, is an added bonus.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I would write under the name Egbert Tooler.
I'd be happy with 1% of Tolle's sales.
In fact I'm not joking any more - let's make this a pitch.
The Power of Noo by Egbert Tooler
Have you ever done something really bad and wished the ground would open up and swallow you?
Have you ever walked into a black tie event with a purple bow tie on?
Have you ever walked into a party and seen someone in exactly the same dress?
You have? THEN YOU MUST BUY THIS BOOK IT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE AGAIN AND AGAIN.
IF YOU WOULD JUST READ THIS BOOK ALL YOUR PROBLEMS WOULD VANISH.
Not convinced? You want more detail? Ok, the Power of Noo works like this. When/if you find yourself in one of the above situations you just close your eyes and count to 10. Then yell NOOOOOOOOO as loud as you can and you'll feel a lot better. Soon after you will realise your life is perfect and it will stay that way forever.
PS If you (yeah you) nick my idea and publish this book I will hunt you down and eliminate you.