Saturday, September 27, 2008


Obviously I had to stay up and watch the Presidential debate last night. Hard to watch with fresh, unbiased eyes from someone so obviously biased but I'd call it a draw which means an Obama victory. He just seemed more 'Presidential', composed and thoughtful. McCain's the guy in the room to stir things up, a real General Turgidson sitting there saying we need to bomb Iran before they get the doomsday machine. You need those guys, you need the extremes to carefully consider every point of view before acting but would you put one in charge? No freakin way!

Anyways, because of those pesky time difference shenanigans (if the Earth was flat would there be any time diffence?) I didn't make it to bed until half 4 and as I'm working today let's just say, I've felt better...

...must remember to be nice to the customers, patience boy, patience...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dr Rick Wants a Book? For his Wife?

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

Poem for the day from "our" Manny

My ears pricked up earlier as, in stark contrast to the usual patter about what vegies are in season or which horses to back, I heard Manny reciting poetry. Blimey. I wandered to the door and gave him a little round of applause for his efforts.

A little Keats anyone?

To autumn

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

Something for the Weekend

I think I kind of like this album.

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.

Holiday Reading, Slight Return

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...

Ah, that's better...

It's been a slings and arrows kind of a week. Nuff said.

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

The C & P Price Gun Challange - Win a £10 C & P Gift Token

There a comes a point in every man's life when you just have to take it on the chin and admit defeat.

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...

Maureen Duffy - We Salute You!

Crockatt & Powell were thrilled to launch Maureen Duffy's 30th publication in the Fulham Road shop last night.

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...)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Just the thing!

Crockatt & Powell Ltd,

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!

Course Tutor
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.


Nah, F*** it, we'll just carry on in our own muddle-headed way

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Post Modern?

We received a letter in the post this morning from a gentleman in Swansea with two cuttings enclosed.

Dear Sirs,

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.

Sincere Thanks

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

Sign o' the times

It's only coming up to 3 o'clock but there's already been 4 people in asking if we buy books.

Normally we get 4 people every couple of weeks asking similar.

I bet they don't get the same at the other shop though...

By Royal Command

There are 2000 Signed Copies of the new Young Bond novel.

We've got 20 of them.

Out from tomorrow, reserve your copy here!

This is Vishnu!

And he is Blue! (Just like Man City)

The Creator and Destroyer of all Existences!

My reflection is captured in the picture, in the picture.

We are as one!


Monday, September 01, 2008

Bullard for England

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.

Holiday Reading or an Escape Route from the Tyranny of Choice...

As I walked in this morning I turned to the vexed question of what to read on holiday.

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...