Monthly Archives: February 2019

Death of a bookshop

From now on it will be a lot easier to describe where I’m going, if I’m going into our holiday town to buy books. I’ll be going to the bookshop. There will no longer be two of them, the ‘antique’ names of which I still cling to, in order to tell them apart. Meijels Bokhandel and Larssons Bokhandel.

Now Halmstad Bokhandel (my Meijels) has been declared bankrupt. It has operated under that name for thirty years, and before that it was Meijels for 27 years. Which means that there was a time in my life when that shop on the corner of Brogatan and Hantverksgatan was not a bookshop, but I don’t remember that. (Back in those days we only went to Larssons, where Mother-of-witch had one of her students. The ‘middle Larsson,’ I believe.)

But Meijels is ‘mine,’ because it’s where I once had a holiday job, and it has always been the place I go to first when I needed a book or stationery.

It is obviously a case of death by cyberspace bookshops. While Amazon has barely got its teeth into Sweden, there have been several internet based bookshops, selling books cheaper, and faster.

Apparently the 83-year-old owner of Halmstad Bokhandel has – more recently – worked in the shop himself, along with his two sons, to keep costs down. But they have to eat too.

I don’t mourn just the death of a bookshop. It’s the fact that soon Halmstad will be nothing but pharmacies and bars and kebab places. They are all lovely, of course, but a town needs a bit of normal shopping as well.

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Mortimer and the Sword Excalibur

Joan Aiken and Quentin Blake, Mortimer and the Sword Excalibur

I’ve come to the end of Joan Aiken’s short books about Mortimer, the slightly naughty raven, and his Arabel Jones. As I have probably said before, these books are a lovely piece of time travel, back to that underestimated period that was the 1970s. It shows that anything you write about ‘now’ will one day mean travelling back in history, if you are only truthful enough about what it’s like now.

I suppose the title gives it away somewhat, but this is a story with an Arthurian flavour. Mortimer shows an unsuitable amount of enthusiasm for the neighbour’s lawnmower, and that is pretty much it. I can see where Arabel’s mother, Mrs Jones, gets annoyed with the family’s pet raven.

Arabel herself is being ‘threatened’ with a new dress. Pink. What’s so fascinating about that is that this is how it was; the making your own clothes, and how you made them, showing Joan Aiken knew a bit about dressmaking, which is now rather a lost art.

As for that sword, well…

(Mortimer-ish illustrations by Quentin Blake)

Seeing clearly – Andrea Levy

Andrea Levy

I was sorry to see Andrea Levy has died. She was my age, which makes it feel so much worse.

Never having read any of her books, I still have that opportunity. An author leaves so much behind. But I don’t know why I didn’t before. There was time before I got caught up with non-stop children’s books.

Actually, I might know. There is a difference in how the press writes about a living person and how they are portrayed after death. I keep saying it’d be nice – for everyone – to read more about someone now, rather than save so much for when it feels too late.

I ‘met’ her once in Edinburgh, and having revisited that day just now, I do remember how appalled I was at the way the press officer held her glasses while the photographers did their thing.

Andrea Levy

But I suppose there are worse things in life than grubby lenses.

On the Come Up

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been on all the lists, including, strangely enough, IKEA’s. I was aware of the book. Well, you can’t help being aware, but somehow felt it might not be for me.

Angie Thomas, On the Come Up

So when I wanted to read something by Angie, I decided to go straight to her second novel, On the Come Up. I’m not sure I know exactly what that means, but it doesn’t matter because it is Absolutely Fantastic.

Bri is 16 and wants to be a rapper. She and her brother live in poverty with their unemployed mother Jay, who must be one of the greatest fictional mothers ever!

I’m not sure whether the story is set somewhere real, or made up, but it feels very true. Bri and a few of her black friends are bussed out to a white school, where their parents hope for a future for their children, and the school hopes for more funds for taking them. It’s a school where the guards on the door unfairly target the black students.

Bri’s dead father was a famous rapper and she wants to be like him, except more like herself. It’s a hard world, and a dangerous one; white police on one side and enemy gangs on the other. Drugs. Violence.

Now, I know virtually nothing about rapping; what makes it good, or even why you do what you do. I’m old and white and I don’t get it. But I love this book. I’d have liked a soundtrack, just to keep me in there with Bri and her friends, and her drug dealing aunt and the neighbourhood children.

Yes, I know. I sound like some idiotic old white Witch. But this is one great book, with characters you’d like to meet.

Read it, even if you are a bit old.

Angie Thomas, On the Come Up

(I bought my own copy, so feel less guilty about saying that the UK cover above does rather less for me than the US cover, top, which seems much more Bri.)

Love is all around us

At first I tried to brush the blossom off, before I discovered that it was part of the book cover of In Blossom by Yooju Cheon.

This beautifully monochrome picture book with pink blossom is rather romantic. It fits in with how some of us might feel today. Cat comes to sit on the bench under the cherry blossom to eat her packed lunch.

Soon after Dog comes to sit next to her, to read his book. And the dangers with cherry blossom is how it might blow from one sensitive little nose to another, and then…

Yooju Cheon, In Blossom

In Teresa Heapy’s book Loved To Bits, her illustrator Katie Cleminson shows us what one little boy’s teddy looks like. Looked like.

Because during all those exciting adventures the boy and his ted have, bits of him fall off. It can be hard to have fun and not lose the odd ear or arm.

This boy loves his ted, no matter what, and eventually when there is less of him, it makes ted even more loveable.

Teresa Heapy and Katie Cleminson, Loved To Bits

Recruitment of authors…

I don’t mean that, of course.

Apart from the fact that I realised I’d not been invited to the Chicken House Big Breakfast 2019, I was really pleased to find this YouTube clip from that Witch-free event.

I’m still a bit surprised that Maz Evans is a girl. I tend to think of her as a boy, but of course she’s a girl. One of those authors paid 8%. She’s the kind who writes her own books (unlike some, who are not named).

This is a poetic, not to mention humorous, speech. There should be more like that. Maz tells it like it is.

Next time, invite me. I can always say no. (I didn’t, did I?) Or it could take place in Central Scotland.

Impressive

That’s me, that is.

Daughter was flabbergasted to discover her old mother was capable of finding a webcast from the conference she’s at, and that I watched her give a talk. Live. (It was worth a try. Beginner’s luck, perhaps, but I found it, and even sent it on to the Resident IT Consultant to watch as well. So we sat in separate rooms watching our child say stuff about stuff we know virtually nothing about.)

Helen Giles in Baltimore

But anyway, the webcast. Don’t tell me it exists if I’m not meant to look for it. My evening meal suffered a little. I managed a rush job of slice of bread with cheese and an apple, as the webcast from Baltimore started in what was their early afternoon.

Daughter was pretty impressive too. Obviously.

(But not as much as I was.)