Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Tuesday, 10 December 2013

THE SHOPS I MISS THE MOST

Back in the day,when I was five years old, my mother enrolled me in the local library. It was situated here in Paignton where the old Liberal Party headquarters had once been. To get to the books one had to climb a couple of flights of - to my young mind - very wide stairs. Creaky double doors, one had to push open with both hands, opened into a big space with floor to ceiling bookshelves, all with their headings - POLITICS, SCIENCE, GEOGRAPHY, FICTION ...and the rest. The books I loved the best were the ones in leather covers with very thin, tissue-paper like pages one could almost see through. They crackled when I turned them with a bit of lick on the end of my forefinger - sacrilege, I know, but I was only little. It wasn't long though, before I wanted my own books. For Christmas each year my dear old Aunt Frances always bought me an Annual of some sort....I remember Girl when I was older but not what I had before that. My father gave me 2/6d a week pocket money which was just about enough to buy cheap versions of the classics back then. Woolworth's sold them - hardbacks with quite garishly illustrated paper covers. I still have some of them. The town had a couple of stationers' shops that sold books as well, so I was pretty much set up for book buying - being able to hold it in my hand and sniff the pages (old books always had a smell about them, didn't they?)before taking it to the counter to be paid for and wrapped up. Fast forward a few years ......and not only has Woolworth's gone, but also all those old-fashioned stationers' shops that sold books, too. W H Smith sells books, of course, and have done for some time but I have never felt able to just browse in there with people wanting you out of the way in their haste to buy newspapers and cards and paperclips. Waterstones haven't made it to the coast but I have to say I don't get the casual browse I remember so well when I go into one in Exeter or Bristol or wherever. And now Amazon seems to have become the bookshop du jour. Paperbacks or Kindle, take your pick. Epublishing is, so I'm reliably told, taking over how we want our books, how we buy our books. I often wonder how many of those titles downloaded, because they're written by a friend or a friend of a friend or someone we've friended on Facebook or Twitter, are actually read. I'm not so much of a dinosaur that I don't have a Kindle - I do ....a pretty purple one. But oh how I miss those independent booksellers of old that seemed to be in every town, and often in large villages too. But all is not lost here, we still have an independent bookseller in Paignton - The Torbay Bookshop - although the owners have had to diversify and sell chocolate as well to make the business viable. And they still host booksignings - I've met Sir Patrick Moore, Kate Mosse,Francesco da Mosto, Ann Widecombe, Rachel Joyce, Kate Furnivall, and many others. I've even sat behind the little table piled high with my own books. I'll be there again at the end of January 2014 to sign copies of EMMA:There's No Turning Back. Liking a book signed by the author is a personal choice but there are, I think, still a lot of people about who like a personal message from the author. Last week I was at a talk in Brixham Library given by Lesley Pearse for which The Torbay Bookshop got in the books for her to sign. Even now I'm published myself it's still a thrill to meet a big-name author in the flesh. In high street booksellers buyers are rushed through at booksignings as though on a treadmill - I know, I've been there, done that. But in independent bookshops there is time to chat, to have a glass of wine. To browse. So, while we still have small, independent, bookshops in our towns let's use them, I say.

11 comments:

  1. I do agree about being able to go into a small, local bookshop - we have none at all anywhere near us. I like my kindle for reading in bed but still love print books too.

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    1. I have it on good authority that Kindle and ebooks are taking over....oh dear. I feel a sudden urge to raid all the charity shops of paperbacks so I never run out!

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  2. Lovley post, Linda. There are so few independent bookshops now, certainly none in my nearest town, Dumfries. Browsing in a shop like that has a totally different feel, doesn't it? My 2 favourites are Print Point in Rothesay, Isle of Bute and the one in Penrith whose name I've forogtten but which was great during RNA conferences there.

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    1. And those there are, Gill, have to diversify.....a cafe attached, or they have to sell chocolate or toys, as here. Thanks for popping by.

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  4. Yes, Linda, I also miss the joy of browsing in an independent bookshop. I remember with great affection Blacklock & Farries in Dumfries. One one occasion I had Christmas book tokens to spend and my parents left me in the shop while they went shopping. When they returned, anxious about having left me for so long, it was to find I still hadn't made my final selection.
    As Gill said above, we don't have an independent bookshop in Dumfries. There is a wonderful one in Biggar, though, called Atkinson-Pryce. The owners are friendly and welcoming and work incredibly hard to keep their award-winning shop going. Apart from stocking a great selection of books, they hold events - in which the author gets to sit in a big armchair - and have a fireside reading group. Well worth a visit.

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    1. Ooooh, I love the idea of a fireside reading....I'm thinking a tartan blanket over my knees and a nice glass of single malt....:)

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  5. We have a small independent bookshop down the road, which I'm ashamed to say I only use about once a year. But you're quite right, Linda, we should use them or lose them (as with all small local shops). Libraries now, there's another thing! Sigh. Love the idea of a chat with an author by a roaring fire...

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    1. Ah yes, libraries.....who wants to post on that one?

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    2. I did a post on the need to save our libraries, Linda, not long after we began this blog and it is depressing to think things have only got worse.

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  6. I was spoilt rotten as a child regarding books, Linda. As I think you know, my parents had a newsagent's shop that also sold books. Not just annuals at Christmas, but real books, and lots of children's books, too. Lots of the classics, such as Little Woman and Black Beauty (not all one title, har, har!) There was also a small Library in our shop, the Allied Library, and the books would be changed about every few months. Westerns, crime, thriller, romance (both contemporary and historical) but I can't recall any non-fiction titles although I think there were some. Mum, a great reader but not of high brow taste, would opt for Naomi Jacob and Netta Muskett, while I read and loved an early Rosamunde Pilcher novel, April (published in 1957) and which I very naughtily kept and still have today. By the time I was in my early teens I had my own library of books, some classics, such as Jane Eyre (which I confess to never really liking - I'm not a Bronte fan) but the Famous Five books and ballet books by Lorna Hill, Hollywood Albums and non-fiction, such as encyclopaedias, Observer's books and I-Spy books. And of course, my Girl and School Friend annuals (as well as the comics).
    While independent bookshops are having a very tough time and many have gone out of business, it's wonderful that our small town of Paignton has a super new library where other towns have lost theirs.

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