About two weeks before we opened mostly books, Nicki, Alex and I made a pilgrimage to Much Wenlock in Shropshire, the home of Wenlock Books. Amongst many things we learned from the marvellous Anna Dreda, two comments she made stick in the mind. The first is that "selling books is a privilege" (something the former owner used to remind her of regularly) - and we've had cause to be reminded of this ourselves this week (more below on that). The second was that "magic sometimes happens in a bookshop".
We've had quite a bit of magic in the last couple of weeks - and we thought we'd share some with you.
A couple of weeks ago, a lady came into the bookshop (heavily pregnant) asking for a baby-book recommendation for her husband. After a few suggestions, she decided to take "Fatherhood: The Truth" by Marcus Berkmann (a personal favourite of mine). She decided to vet it before giving it to her husband, however, and laughed so much she went into labour. Both her, husband and baby Lawrence popped in last week to tell us the story - and ordered "Rain Men" by the same author.
(If anyone knows Mr Berkmann, please do pass on this story to him!)
We're known as "Story Town" by at least one little girl who regularly comes in (what a poppet). And this week several people have popped in "on the off chance" that some event or storytelling might be going on. Well, Thursday sees the triumphant return of the wonderful Miss Markey of Long Furlong School for our regular storytime, next Thursday sees a drawing session with local children's author David Melling, and May 5th sees the return of master storyteller (and banjo player) Peter Hearn.
Some of our visitors don't even wait for a storytelling event - they just camp out on the steps. This is Thomas and Hugh - I hope that's Thomas on the left (post a comment on the blog guys if I get this wrong!).
Hugh seems to have read more classic sci-fi novels than me, and it was a treat to have a big discussion about Greg Bear with a fellow devotee last Saturday...
One way to hedge against the precarious financials of running a bookshop in this day and age is to get family members helping out for free. Alex is almost ready for the job:
Typically, the first customer order he handled was "Reprint Under Consideration". Always a tricky one to sort out...however, the entire backlist of Ian Rankin was far more straightforward and had him smiling again:
It's difficult to appreciate that we still haven't made it through one year yet, so our anticipation (and planning) of Easter has been as stab-in-the-dark as Christmas, and we still aren't sure what to expect. However, our new staff member Anu decided to pop into Abingdon and put together a few Easter chicks, rabbits, yellow tissue paper, and - voila - one Easter display.
Both Brenda and Anu have been doing a sterling job of running the shop ahead of our impending family arrival - isn't it great when you hire people who are actually better than you running a bookshop :-)
OK - tomorrow's the big day, so I'd better get some sleep. But...back to that "privilege" comment. A couple of weeks ago a lady called Linda came into the shop. She was very nervous, and it transpired that she had never been into a bookshop before, and, in fact, couldn't read. As we've got to know Linda a bit more over the last few weeks, it turns out that she has embarked on a very intense adult literacy course - and Channel 4 are making a fly-on-the-wall documentary about her experiences.
As part of the deal, she has someone to read books to her, and so she asked us to recommend some 'classic' reads to her. Anu and myself felt a little intimidated by this (and also the weight of several hundred years of English Literature weighing down upon our shoulders). We've done our best so far, but - we've agreed with Linda to put the question out onto the blog.
It is quite a challenge. To have someone for whom books have never been part of her life, to want to know where to 'begin'. I feel perhaps it is an unanswerable question - but if you were in our position, what would you recommend?
I'll keep you updated over the next few weeks on her progress...