Friday, October 31, 2008

What A Lovely Afternoon...

A classic Marsh afternoon.

In other words plenty of fun (though not as much coffee or beer as usual) a nutter or two and regular after regular entertaining me with witty banter and bookish conversation.

Somehow managed to make a few quid as well...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Camberwell Blog

This is a local post for local people.

It is a well documented fact that I love Camberwell.

Here is a blog for other Camberwell lovers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

more random Marsh stuff

1: Our lady friend from the Jamaican embassy came in and we discussed Barack Obama. She has a bottle of Champagne on ice and said she would "smash it up" if McCain won. She also said the Jamaican president really appreciated the book we suggested he should read - Negro With A Hat by Colin Grant.

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?

Pancake Mountain...

At the moment we are selling our electricity to a Polish lady who using it to make pancakes on a stall outside our Lower Marsh shop.

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


Great article by John Lanchester in the LRB:

'We grew obsessed with the price of our houses, felt richer than we should, borrowed money we didn’t have, spent it on tat, and now that the downturn has happened – as it was bound to do – we want someone else to blame. Well boo fucking hoo. Bankers are to blame, but we’re to blame too. That’s just as well, because we’re the ones who are going to have to pay.'

This Is The Dawning...

Aquarian Traits

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

I have just discovered that Sarah Palin is an Aquarian, like me. This is alarming...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Something for the Weekend

This was playing in Scooterworks on Lower Marsh when I dropped in there for my morning fix.

"L" fell off her bike yesterday and had a bruise on the side of her face.

I thought it was just her latest make-up style until she told me about her fall.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crockatt & Powell "Win" Pub Quiz

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.


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

Sony e-reader

I wandered into Waterstone's today and they had a Sony e-reader you could play with.

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's not going to stop raining in the next hour or so is it?

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

The slothful shopper

A chap called to ask if C&P sold joke books and, if so, which ones we had in stock. Judging by the tone of voice, the customer was clearly young and able; by the latter I mean not physically incapacitated or stuck under heavy machinery. This kind of lazy, 'general enquiry' armchair shopping really incenses me.

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

Someone needs help

The following e-mail arrived today...

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.

any ideas?

John - We've sold out...

taking the stairs has gone from our table...

John, you phoned our Fulham Road shop this morning and spoke with Jane.

We need more copies for both shops!

Give me a ring today on 020 7928 0234 or I will be way out West tomorrow on 020 7351 3468

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To Queen or not to Queen

Customer No 1:

(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."

John Stiles Sales Sensation!

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’.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How NOT to get your husband's book into Crockatt & Powell...

A lady comes in and asks for a book.

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 &*&£

Loopy Lulu

Bob Young, Lulu founder and CEO, said, "With the credit and capital markets frozen solid Lulu couldn't continue burning through money at its previous pace. We're very disappointed."

I bet you are mate!

Burning through money? Chance would be a fine thing...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

And the Nobel Prize for Literature goes

I loved what the Swedes said about Europe being the "centre of the literary world" after having a go at American writers for only being concerned with American things. (Astounding how stupid people who consider themselves to be intelligent can be eh?)

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.

Is that the first book on sheep you have sold?




PS If you click on the picture you get to see all the guts and stuff and the little sheepy stomach mashing loads of tasty grass.

PPS No sheep were disemboweled during the construction of this blog.

Taking the Stairs by John Stiles

I hesitate to blog about this for fear of being inundated with shite books but... 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.

Stefan Zweig + Richard Strauss = Literary and Musical Ecstacy

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

Don't ask, don't tell

Waterloo - 06/10/08 - 11.34pm

Lower Marsh - 08/10/08 - 14.34pm

Friday, October 03, 2008

And the Winner of the Crockatt & Powell Price Gun Challange is...

ME me ME me ME me ME

! ! !

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.