Category Archives: Blogs

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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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.

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.)

Making its mind up

Went to Waterstones a few days ago. Well, I was in town anyway, and I also happened to want a new book. (I’m working on being more in control, by not always asking for free books.)

Children’s books are upstairs and I went straight to the lift, on account of being lazy. And also the stairs are tall-ish, especially when you come down.

The lift was already there. It let me in. I hit the button for up. After some non-action, the doors opened. Pressed the same button again. And this is where it becomes a blur in my memory.

The lady voice thing that says whatever the lift is doing, suggested all manner of things. Going up. Going down. Doors opening. Over and over again. I looked at the closed doors (whatever that lady was saying), decided I didn’t like it and pressed the open doors button.

Luckily they did open, after some thinking about it, and out I stepped.

Marching over to the steep stairs, I heard the lift lady still talking nonsense. I hauled myself up, and after finding the book I was wanting, trekked down again.

I’ll have to consider whether I go back. Don’t want to try the lift again, and I don’t really appreciate those steep stairs. If you like the word user friendly, then they aren’t.

Why is it that even quite modern buildings, in public use, are falling to pieces so soon? This part of the shopping mall was (meant to be) opened on the day of Diana’s funeral.

Did the malfunctioning of the lift have anything to do with the bucket collecting drips of water at the front of the shop? Where was the water even coming from? Upstairs?

Call me fussy, but…

Rosamunde Pilcher

I was sorry to see that Rosamunde Pilcher died last week. On Bookwitch’s birthday, no less.

94 is a good age to reach, and from what I understand, she was well until Christmas. I’m relieved that there wasn’t a long period of suffering for her.

One thing I didn’t know, was that she lived not too far away from me, in Dundee. I think I was so into the Cornwall image that I assumed Rosamunde lived somewhere romantic like that. Instead she was romantic in Dundee.

I still intend to reread Winter Solstice some December. It’s the perfect lead-up to Christmas book. I didn’t read all that many of her novels. It was Mother-of witch who was the big fan, liking the romance and attractive settings, with no need for dead bodies all over the place.

We are twelve

Actually, any colour marzipan would do. I’m not fussy. Even black. Black cake would taste as cake-y as any other, wouldn’t it?

It’s odd how Swedes – almost to a [wo]man – turn to garishly coloured marzipan-covered cake when there is something to celebrate. There are plenty of different cakes, mostly all very yummy. But when it comes down to it, it’s the marzipan we go for. Generally green, but pink for Valentine’s, orange at Halloween, white for end of school celebrations, yellow at Easter.

Prinsesstårtor

The Swedish Gender Equality Agency, headed by Lena Ag who’s an old acquaintance of mine, was set up a year ago and was then supposed to be scrapped during the recent period when the country was without a government. Luckily someone saw sense and they are now continuing in business. But the thing is, there was cake to celebrate the future. (I borrowed Lena’s photo of their selection of cakes. All in colourful marzipan.)

Equality is great, but I’m afraid I was more taken with the cakes…

I’m so shallow.

And jealous. Bookwitch is twelve today and would love to encounter even one of those cakes on her kitchen worktop.

I mentioned black marzipan. The Bookwitch dining room is finally turning completely white after two years of being the wrong colour. So I’ll celebrate by enjoying this whiteness instead.

And there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with jam on wholemeal toast.

Getting the giggles

I had no idea what it was about, but coming across this YouTube clip a few days ago, my spirits lifted. Considerably.

Having watched it again, I still don’t really know, which is understandable as I don’t watch This Morning. But I’m sure most of us recognise the situation; where something that is often very minor, suddenly makes you laugh until you cry and you can’t stop. When eventually you do stop, it’s the work of a split second to get going again. As Phillip and Holly do here.

I don’t often refer to such laughter and abandonment on Bookwitch, but I seem to recall the tulips. The memory of them still make me feel very jolly. What was so good that time was sharing the merriment with someone. I’d like to think I departed from that job, being remembered for being fun.

(Yeah, I know. You’re surprised, because these days I look quite thundery most of the time. But that’s only on the outside.)

I have a collection of cuttings, collected from all over the place. They are very funny. At least, I think so. They are the kind that would make me laugh all by myself, needing to wipe away tears of laughter. There isn’t usually any need to actually look at them, as the memory of first finding them can be enough to set me off. (The pineapple juice?)

I suppose I assumed we were all a bit like that. Not necessarily collecting cuttings, but enjoying a good explosion of laughter when it hits you.

Many years ago, I decided to be proactive at finding some social life after we’d moved to a new town. I had seen an article in the Guardian about the National Women’s Register, and it sounded like just my kind of thing.

The first meeting was OK, if nothing special. The next meeting really tickled me, as the topic was going to be funny things that make us laugh. I brought my whole collection.

It didn’t take me long to discover that what these women found funny was, well, not very funny. There were no laughs and my cuttings stayed in my bag.

Now, tulips, on the other hand…

And Golden Wonder potatoes!