Category Archives: Bookshops

The Bookshop

Trailers, eh? I’ve been fooled once or twice in recent memory. Not that I go to the cinema all that often, but I did catch a couple of trailers for The Bookshop, liked them and thought I’d go and see the film when it came.

I’m almost certain it never came. Not here. And that’s interesting in itself. Why ‘trail’ a product you won’t be selling?

When Daughter was last here she assisted the old folk – that’s us, the Resident IT Consultant and me – by compiling a Netflix list of films, making them easier for us to find. And urged by positive noises on social media, we watched The Bookshop a few days ago.

The Bookshop

It had Bill Nighy in it. Not many films don’t, these days. I like Bill. He was good in this one, as well, even if he only ever has the ‘Bill Nighy’ setting. His face after reading Fahrenheit 451..!

The thing is, while it was a pretty decent film, it was nothing like the trailer had led me to expect. I don’t know the book by Penelope Fitzgerald, on which it was based. On the one hand it was another of the popular retro settings, travelling back to the 1950s, and a seaside bookshop being set up by book-loving widow is quite an attractive idea.

On the other hand, there was much nasty behaviour by her neighbours – made worse by today being 2019 – and she was far too kind and polite, as well as perhaps a little naïve. Her helper, played by Honor Kneafsey, was refreshingly observant and outspoken for someone so young.

And being me, I couldn’t help but pick holes in the authenticity of the retro-ness. But apart from expecting a different film, it was good. Not cheerful, so much.

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Plus a phantom Phantom

And another thing I discovered at Waterstones. Book, I mean.

After reading Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm, I knew I needed to read her beloved The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. I put it on my Christmas wish list and the Resident IT Consultant sourced a copy and gave me.

Because it was an ex-library copy, he took the liberty of first reading it himself, and he seemed a little confused as to why I’d want it. Well, I didn’t know, did I? Except if it was life-changing for Lucy, then…

Anyway, I was astounded to discover this very book for sale at Waterstones on Thursday. Seemed like the same cover and everything. It was – apparently – a 50th anniversary edition. Made sense to me.

Except, when I got home and searched, I could not find such a cover, and the only 50th edition seems to be from 2011 [book first published in the US in 1961].

Did I hallucinate this Phantom?

Reading it, I can understand how the book had such an impact on Lucy, experiencing it at school where an enlightened teacher read it to the the class. It’s perfect for reading aloud. Although I wonder about the many illustrations by Jules Feiffer. Did the teacher show them every page?

I like the quote [in Bookworm] from Jules, about how he’d have used nicer paper to draw on, had he known it was going to be a classic!

And dear Lucy owns at least three copies of this book. It’s reassuring to find someone who understands about safeguarding against a lack of books at some ghastly point in the future.

A little Pratchett, and some pysio

Daughter urgently required a spare pair of glasses, so I ended up buying a book.

We had dragged ourselves into town, and when it turned out an eye test was unavoidable, I realised I’d come unprepared with not a single book to hand, despite having three on the go at home.

Which is how we made it to Waterstones, because you can ‘always’ buy another book.

So I sat on a chair at Specsavers and read my new Terry Pratchett until such a time as Daughter had managed to escape all up-selling, and emerged with a new pair of glasses for very little money.

I, on the other hand, having no spare arm to hand – heh – have got myself some pysio. Yes, I know it’s physio, but I was quite taken with the Resident IT Consultant’s earlier typo for this service. And on the basis that it sounds like some benevolent little elf, I’m off to more pysio this morning.

Whoever had, has been given more

Until some years ago I admit I often felt grumpy when seeing among the books most sold during the year, the names of Jacqueline Wilson and Julia Donaldson. I recognised their greatness and that being ‘names’ and very popular, it made sense that adults bought lots of their books for little readers.

I just wanted there to be a few more children’s authors on the lists. Usually there was someone, but not many.

But at least they were there, alongside Jacky and Julia.

Now I feel grumpy beyond belief when having a quick look at the 2018 list of the 100 bestselling books of the year.

Yes, I am glad that children’s books make up a third of that top list. Although I have to take the Guardian’s word for that, since I was unable to identify all 33. And that’s so wrong. As the Bookwitch, even if I haven’t read them, I ought to know who’s who.

A third of the third – i.e. 11 of the bestselling titles – belong to the well known comedian David Walliams. This is wrong in so many ways. Jeff Kinney is there, but I can allow that. Three Harry Potters, thank goodness, one Julia Donaldson, one Kes Gray. Also one Michael Bond and Wonder by R J Palacio, both of which will be movie-related.

And some more celebrity-penned books, not all of which I actually recognise, despite people’s fame.

It seems both wrong, and unkind, to leave 2018 in a bit of an angry mood, but this is not right. Children deserve better. The world is full of really good books. I hope many of them found their way into children’s hands anyway, despite the big names hogging everyone’s attention.

Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading

I want to be Lucy Mangan. We are so alike in many ways, but I haven’t read all the books she has, nor can I write like she does. I want to [be able to] write like Lucy Mangan!

I don’t expect that will happen.

I also want to know what her house/library/bookshelves look like. I can’t conceive how you can keep that many books – in a findable way – in a normal house. Assuming she lives in a normal house.

Lucy Mangan, Bookworm

After reading Lucy’s Bookworm, I now love her parents, too. I especially feel I’ve got to know Mrs Mangan better – and that’s without the letter to the Guardian stating that the Mangans were happy to have their daughter adopted by some other Guardian letter writer.

A friend of mine often mentions the fear induced in millions of people by the four minute warning so ‘popular’ in the 1980s. I’d almost forgotten about it, and never really worried all that much. Little Lucy was extremely concerned, but was reassured by her mother, who clearly knew what the child needed to hear. Basically, it would be in the news, so they would be prepared. They’d not send her to school if the end seemed imminent, and they would all die together at home. Problem solved.

Bookworm is about what one bookworm has read – so far – in her life of loving children’s books. She is not repentant (I must try harder), and will keep reading what she wants, as well as keep not doing all those ghastly things other people like, if she doesn’t want to. That’s my kind of bookworm!

This reading memoir is full of the same books we have all read, or decided not to read, as well as some real secret gems I’d never heard of and will need to look for. Lucy rereads books regularly, but doesn’t mention how she finds the time for all this.

It’s been such a relief to discover that she dislikes some of the same books I’d never consider reading, and even more of a relief to understand how acceptable, and necessary this is. Lucy even has the right opinions on clothes. Very useful to know there are sensible women in this world.

I had to read Bookworm slowly. I needed to savour what I could sense wouldn’t last forever. Although one can obviously reread Bookworm, just as one can other books. (Where to find the extra time, though?)

Growing up a generation – not to mention a North Sea – apart, we didn’t always read the same books. But by now we sort of meet in the here and now, and Lucy ends her book by listing a number of today’s must-read authors, and her judgement is almost completely spot on and correct.

So to summarise; I can read the same books. I can probably not store as many in my house. But I will never be able to write as well. (And I rather mind that.)

(According to Lucy, she loves her young son more than she loves books. Bookworm was given to me – after some hinting – by Daughter, whom I happen to love more than books too.)

Spending in my time

I was feeling a little bit smug. Just a little, because that sense of witchiness I wrote about the other day, stops me from complete, outright smugness. I know about karma and how quickly it arrives.

As a foreigner, I’ve never been quite sure what it means when friends, or strangers for that matter, ask if I’ve done all my Christmas shopping yet. I mean, what counts as Christmas shopping? Is it any buying before The Day, or does it have to be Christmassy, or do they mean the presents? I tend to play it safe by muttering something indistinct and look as if I’m in pain. (Just like any other day.)

So I thought about the possibility of being asked this some time soon and felt I could reply ‘yes’ to the question. There were going to be few presents and I wasn’t unprepared. And I’d more or less decided no one wants to know if I’ve got my Brussels sprouts in yet.

This is where karma in the shape of Dodo struck. She and Son are hosting Christmas, and by the sound of the preparations – yes, we can hear them all the way here – they are doing great. Which will be why there were instructions about presents.

Which will be why the very next day I headed into town to shop till I dropped. It was all right, really. Very clear and sensible instructions left me scooping ‘stuff’ into a basket in next to no time. I even went home and wrapped it all.

Which will be why I feel I’ve almost bypassed the karma and can yet again reply ‘yes.’ Should I be asked.

I also popped into Waterstones for a little look. Was gratified to queue behind a lady who had brought a copy of the Guardian Review, folded to reveal the crime review page, from which she requested various books, carefully spelling out any odd names. Very sensible.

Also in that shop, I discovered Harry Potter rucksacks. There was a nice red one from Gryffindor, and a black one for Hogwarts. I am relieved that I am both sensible and not in need of more rucksacks, so I was – mostly – safe. They were cheap, by which I mean they cost nowhere near the price of a real Kånken rucksack from Fjällräven, the style of which they were sort of copying.

I saw a similar copy in St Andrews earlier this year at the Students’ Union shop, so if you’re not going for a real Kånken, the thing to have is clearly a fake. I have used the real thing for about forty years, and have gone through a great many of them in that time.

This is where I get confused about my behaviour. Because I’ve been nowhere. I looked at bags in John Lewis a week ago. I saw how much they cost now – the same as in 1980 plus lots and lots of inflation and currency exchange rates. And soon after (last week, I mean, not 1980) I told my companion about the price, as we stood looking at someone carrying a Kånken. Who promptly turned round and looked at us and my whispering. But who was I with? I’ve not been anywhere, and not in company…

Killing me

I don’t know if you noticed me mentioning Fleshmarket Close last week, and how I avoided walking down it with Helen Grant? It pays to be careful around someone like her. Helen likes horror, and kills quite a few people – characters – in her writing.

Some time last year, I think, I might have moaned a bit on social media. I wasn’t bad, but Helen must have thought I felt worse than I did. Which was kind of her. To notice, I mean. And she then asked if I’d ‘feel better’ if she put me in the short story she was writing just then. Which was kind of her.

Not one to turn down an opportunity to feature in fiction, I agreed. Helen made it quite clear I wasn’t going to survive.

Rosemary Pardoe, A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror

Well, last week Helen handed me my own copy of the anthology where her story is published. It’s called A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror, edited by Rosemary Pardoe. That’s why I felt that avoiding dangerous-sounding narrow alleys in the dark might be at least a little sensible. Just in case.

There are many more stories in this anthology, but I dived straight in to read ‘mine’ first. And I feel it needs to be mentioned separately.

The Valley of Achor is of course not about me. It is far more about Helen herself, or someone like her. Someone who likes old ruins and who doesn’t mind crawling about in the cold and the mist, actually touching ancient stones and other weird things.

The only thing I’m sure about is that I have stayed in the B&B where ‘I’ stay in the story. Minus the whisky, of course.

And just like you should never walk up those deserted stairs in that haunted house when you’ve heard an odd sound in the night, then I’d not have…

Oh. No.