Day Four at the Wee Treasure House

 

A ‘JR Hartley’ moment, a ‘it had to happen’ moment and a  mission accomplished…

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It was World Book Day today so I had the brilliant idea of running a 20% off all books day in the shop. However, I don’t think there’s a career in marketing beckoning to me as we weren’t exactly swamped with customers –  but we did sell eight books.

I had a bit of a serious browse myself today and have picked out some possible purchases. Yes, it had to happen! I knew I’d succumb eventually. I’m working in a bookshop, for goodness sake – a wonderful, jam-packed space full of real, actual books.

Below are the four frontrunners from this wee treasure house of a bookshop.

  • A volume of The Penguin New Writing series from 1941, original price 9d (4.5p for those of you who don’t remember the ‘old’ money in the UK). It has an ad for Grey’s cigarettes on the back cover.  On the last page, there’s a list of books to be published later that same year. The list includes E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End and Robert Graves I Claudius. The book contains essays and extracts by Stephen Spender, Louis MacNeice and C. Day Lewis to name only a few.

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  • The Rambler’s Countryside Companion by E. Mansell is a 2009 reissue of a 1952 original walkers’ guide. I love the pipesmoker guy on the cover.

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  • A Wild Adventure by Tom Pow is a speculative verse biography of Dumfries man Thomas Watling who was transported to Botany Bay in 1789 where he became the penal colony’s  first professional artist. I attended a talk given by Pow at last year’s Edinburgh Book Festival and was very impressed by him, so this book just sits there beckoning to me.

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  • The Longest War by Jacobo Timerman was picked out by Iain for me. This is the Israeli journalist’s personal memoir of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. I have only skimmed the book briefly, but it seems Timerman is a man of tolerance , peace and justice and he seems to have foreseen the situation that now prevails in today’s Israel, something I guess he finds lamentable, as do I.

The theme of this last book forms part of one of my own novels and pervaded today’s lunch date. I was taken out to lunch by Sarah, one of the members from one of the local writers’ group whose meeting we hosted yesterday evening in ‘our’ flat above the shop. I’ll be doing a separate post about the meeting and the lunch very soon.

The JR Hartley moment in the shop this morning was charming. (For those readers who are too young, or who aren’t from the UK, so won’t know of this reference to an old but classic TV ad there’s a Wikipedia explanation below). A couple came in and the guy was looking for a years’ old copy of the Sparky annual. It turned out he’d designed/drawn the cover but didn’t have the book and was now very keen to get it. Sadly it isn’t in the Open book’s stock.

And finally, I completed the tidy up of the children’s fiction section toady. It’s now all sorted by age and the shelves labelled accordingly. Hurrah!

Another good day in our bookshop-keeping life.

 

From Wikipedia: J. R. Hartley is the name of a fictional character in a popular British advertisement promoting the Yellow Pages which was first shown in 1983.[1]

The advertisement shows an elderly man (actor Norman Lumsden) asking in several second-hand bookshops for “Fly Fishing by J. R. Hartley”. Every attempt fails, and the next scene shows him at home looking dejected. His daughter, sympathising, hands him the Yellow Pages (the UK’s telephone directory for local businesses); in the next scene he looks delighted as his end of a telephone conversation reveals that a shop has a copy of the book. He asks them to keep it for him. He responds at dictation speed to a question: ‘My name? Oh, yes, it’s J. R. Hartley.’ The advertisement ends by promoting the Yellow Pages.

 

 

 

 

A Serious Collector and a Spooky Kettle

 

Days two and three at the Open Bookshop

'Our' bookshop
‘Our’ bookshop

We had quite an assortment of people in the shop yesterday, some customers, a man from the local council and someone wanting to sell books to the shop.

The man from the council had lots of questions to ask about the shop and flat and rather flummoxed by the notion that we aren’t the owners of either. When he got his head round this fact, having been even more flummoxed by my explanation of who we were and why we were in the shop and flat, he left to pursue his enquiries elsewhere.

We caused further consternation when we had to tell the prospective seller of books that we didn’t have the authority to buy his books from him, but he seemed happy enough to go and ask the people with the authority after we pointed him in their direction.

We had one very serious book collector in – serious in the sense of his passion for collecting old books, not in his demeanour, he was actually very nice and friendly. He made a serious purchase including four beautifully illustrated volumes on wildflowers.

Another very charming gentleman came in looking for books on the history of the local railway, but alas there are no such volumes in the shop. However, we did have a pleasant chat about trains and railways in general. He even declared himself a fan of the new but somewhat controversial Edinburgh trams. He said he just loves anything that runs on rails. I do hope he will find the books he was looking for.

It was another very cold day but we gave each other time off to go out and explore the town a bit. We both headed for the harbour and wildfowl reserve, but it wasn’t a day to linger outside. After closing the shop we went to one of the local pubs for a pre-dinner drink. I did enjoy my whisky sitting by a lovely, warming log fire.

Today I continued with the sorting out of the children’s fiction section. I would never have thought that sorting books could be so tiring but it’s hard work. However, it’s also satisfying and more day should do it. I’ve almost finished sorting the books into age-appropriate sections and one lady who came in was very complimentary on the new layout. This gave me a warm and happy feeling 🙂

My first ever attempt at window-dressing
My first ever attempt at window-dressing

I have also done a children’s book window display. It’s for very young children – well more their parents actually – with suggestions for bedtime stories. It looks okay to my unartistic eye.

This evening we are hosting the monthly meeting of a local writers’ group at the flat and I’m looking forward to meeting them and joining in with their meeting. I’ll report on how it goes in my next post.

And I can’t leave without telling you the story of the spooky kettle. The kettle in the flat is the weirdest piece of kitchen equipment I’ve ever come across. Sometimes it will allow you to switch it on, other times it won’t. But if you get cross and decide to put a pan of water on the hob to heat instead, it immediately works. In fact now all we have to do when it’s playing up is put the ring on, on the hob, no pan of water necessary, and then press its button and voila, it works.

 

 

 

 

Day One at the Open Bookshop

interior of the 'Open Book'
interior of the ‘Open Book’

It’s day one for the husband and me in our fortnight as booksellers-in-residence at the Open Book in Wigtown. I blogged about the background to our involvement in this project here. The shop is well-stocked and has an eclectic selection of second-hand books. Outside, it’s been a bitterly cold day with snow flurries, but the shop is cosy. We had four visitors to the shop this morning and then while I nipped up to the flat for a bit of lunch, the husband had six more people come in and he made a sale.

As I write this just after 4p.m. we’ve had a total of thirteen people in for a browse. One lady  – an artist – was looking for hardbacks with no pictures or photos and with page edges in good condition. The subject matter wasn’t important. This was an intriguing brief! It turned out she does paper-folding using old books. She didn’t have much time to browse, so I said I’d pick some out for her and to come back when she has more time. There’s now a small bundle awaiting her inspection.

Sci-fi section all sorted
Sci-fi section all sorted

Husband has done a tidy up of the science-fiction section and I’ve made a start on the children’s section, but it’s going to take a few days I reckon to get it a bit more child-friendly.

Children's section is a work in progress...
Husband Children’s section is a work in progress…

So a fairly busy and productive start.