“and thus I clothe my naked villainy…”

…as Shakespeare has his Richard III declaim. The quotation in full is:

“And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ,
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”

Which, it must be said, is probably not the sort of thing I ought to be putting into a Mission Statement.

Anyway, I now have a costume I can wear whenever I want to feel like I’m a retail minion in the service of the Big W, whenever my spin cycle has failed to complete, and whenever I want to stop people asking me “do you work here?”*

After villainously clothing myself and several minions, we have a couple spare, so if anyone would like to walk about advertising the business in some far and distant land, please get in touch – they have the shop’s details on the back. (£12.50 plus postage if you’re interested. Why prostitute yourself for anything less?).

Contractual obligations mean I have to say that the shirts were designed by Bob & Laura at Sheenan Bright, and knocked into shape by Jackie and Derek at Spiral Screenprints. But I’d have done that anyway as they are all lovely people. Links to their things below:


also on Instagram @sheenanbright


occasionally on Twitter https://twitter.com/spiralprinting

*it hasn’t worked yet. My best response so far has been “No, I’m the charges d’affairs for the Peruvian Mission to the Court of St. James”. It did not go down as well as it might have done.

Ampersands, et cetera

You really can’t beat a good ampersand. Or a bad one for that matter. As with many endangered species they’re protected by law. They no longer flourish in their native habitats, and web page addresses and online forms appear to have barred their use. “Your password must contain a mixture of upper and lower case letters plus a character. No, not an ampersand”.

We happen to like ampersands, and now that the summer has arrived with its welcome and familiar sights and sounds – flying ants approaching in squadron formation like the RAF over Dresden in 1944, the gentle thwack of leather on widow (and the gentle ripple of applause in appreciation of a well-made stroke), – the time is at hand for us to do our bit for the ampersand. Hence this:

As with all our design stuff, this was worked up for us by Laura & Bob at Sheenan Bright – https://www.sheenanbright.com/ Bob did the original signage for the shop eleven years ago, and it is testament to the soundness of his original design that it still works extremely well for us.

We are not ampersanding up just for the sheer rock’n’roll hell of it (although, naturally, that did play a small part in our deliberations). Things are planned for which this ampersand is needed. Of which more at a later date.

Not that new, but not that normal

By about lunchtime last Thursday, I was beginning to realise that not much had really changed. The first day of the cricket season had been punctuated by rain delays, and England had then staggered to 87-5, having won the toss and chosen both to bat and also to leave our arguably most effective bowler in such conditions out of the starting eleven. Discussions can always be had as to whether individual batsmen play better off their front or back foot, but when decision making is concerned, the long history of English cricket tends to devolve to the question of whether to put the bullet in the right or left foot.

On the other hand, the fact that I was following the Test Match on a mid-week day off from the shop was a reminder that not everything was as before. We’ve now been open for two weeks, but only for eight actual days’ trading. It still seems like a sort of holiday (bookselling: more of a vacation than a vocation). We’re not alone in this; a quick stroll up and down South Street showed that most of our fellow independent businesses have chosen to limit their opening hours, settling for the most part on an entirely civilised 5 hours or so of opening per day with many, like ourselves, not reopening for the full 6 days a week of retail hell customer-facing fun.

It’s certainly doing wonders for the work/life balance, if not yet the business account balance. How long this brave new world will last is anyone’s guess, but some things are inevitable. As surely as night follows day, the West Indies wrought a fine victory in the opening Test, and the very first person through the shop door on reopening day asked “are you buying books at the moment?”

Tom Gauld – The Snooty Bookshop

20200704_115407Ahoy there Guardianistas! Some kind soul flogged me a copy of Tom Gauld’s excellent postcard book “The Snooty Bookshop”, which I didn’t properly check, and which I now find is several postcards short. Caveat Emptor! (Oh, the irony).

Anyway, we’ve now got about 48 lovely Tom Gauld postcards which have been filleted from the book. Literary humour at its finest, 50p per card, haggling available for multiple purchases.

Situated on the counter between the Magical Card Payment Device and The Homunculus.


Reopening Monday 29th June

The fateful day is almost upon us, and we still have much to do. Nevertheless, we will be open tomorrow at 10 am, and we be closing at 3pm.

Our full hours for next week are:

Monday: 10 – 3

Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday: 10 – 3

Thursday: Closed

Friday: 10 – 3

Saturday: 10 -3

Sunday: Closed

We will see how that goes and make any necessary adjustments in due course.

Fingers crossed and stay lucky!

Well, it’s been a while…

Were I to trot out all the excuses for not updating our blog over the last however long (I dare not check), it would no doubt appear that I had a very large dog with an insatiable appetite for homework. This is not the case (although I do have an ever-growing child with an infinite aversion to homework).

Anyway, as you have all no doubt noticed, things have been in a strange state (no, not Kansas) of suspended animation since the Coronavirus lockdown started on 23rd March, and since we are now looking towards reopening on or around Monday 29th June, it seemed as good a moment as any to reanimate this blog and provide some thoughts, and hopefully useful, information on where we’re at and where things might go from here.

First of all, I have to say that lockdown has been absolutely brilliant. Not having had a holiday since November 2018, the global pandemic could not have come at a better time for me personally. I appreciate that some might see this as a rather selfish view, no doubt compounded by the fact that I have, for the most part, been able to do what I normally like to do on holiday: stay inside, read books & avoid people.

Now, with the new environment in which we find ourselves, it is quite possible that we’ll be able to continue to do all three of those things once the shop is open again! In fact, we’re still being positively encouraged to avoid people.

This brings us to some of the logistics of reopening. Those of you who know that shop will be well aware that it is not the most spacious of premises. Waterstones Piccadilly it is not. If we are all still being expected to maintain a six foot distance (I find it helps to think of it as a coffin’s length), it will probably mean that we can accommodate a maximum of two customers in the shop at a time. This is double the number we normally have in at any one time, so we should be able to cope.

Hand sanitiser will be provided at the entrance to the shop, and any further relevant instructions will be prominently displayed. Whichever bookseller is working/reading/avoiding people will be behind a glass or perspex screen. Frankly, this is something I should have done to them years ago.

We will only be accepting card payments when we reopen, although this is only likely to be a temporary move. We are charged by our facilities provider on a percentage basis per transaction, so there is no minimum payment requirement.

We will not have any bags available for purchases, so please remember to bring your own.

Our opening hours are likely to vary, and it possible that the hours we’ve kept for the last four years may need to be revised. Unlike this blog, we do try to keep our hours up to date on various listing sites, but our  Facebook page  is usually the best place to check for anything that’s happening at short notice – this note should also appear there and on our Twitter feed as well.

We will probably have more information over the next week or so as we finalise our plans, but in the meantime, stay safe and keep reading.

The horror, the horror…


This is all because of my ex-father in-law, Gus. Gus is a  good egg, a fine chap, a decent bloke, and (as indeed is his daughter these days) a man’s man. He likes his fiction red in tooth and claw, the bloodier the better, and, preferably spiced with a modicum of sexual deviancy. Needless to say, occult religious practices and a glowing review from Colin Wilson are de rigueur if a book is to come up to scratch.

About a month or so ago, Gus phoned me. I’d not spoken to him in several years, and I knew his health had not been great, so I did initially wonder from which side of the grave he was calling. To cut a long and slightly repetitive phone call short, we now have in the shop more works of horror fiction than I could ever possibly want (no word of a lie there). Hence, for the first time, a dedicated space for horror. Note that the picture only shows the first thirty or so titles that have been sorted out – there’s about another 150 to go.

The sale of these books (mostly at £2 each) is going to fund Gus’s continued supply of (and reliance upon) Lidl’s finest Queen Margot blended scotch. I reckon another six to eight litres should see him right.


Isn’t it about time you updated your website?

Well, yes. Yes it is. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated, almost simultaneously, the second anniversary of taking over the shop and the first anniversary of our last posting on this site.

There hasn’t really been much excuse for this (apart from Events, dear boy, and all that sort of thing), and there’s no real guarantee that our next appearance will not be another year away.

However, we are still here, in all our Luddite glory, selling books without the aid of an e-commerce site (one day, eventually, don’t withhold breath).

As you were.


Robert’s been working for the book squad

Bob, our moral conscience and wine-imbibing voice of reason, was out on manoeuvres this weekend. I arrived at the shop this morning to find these three bags of books, the fruits of his hunter/gathering efforts.


It’s only been a couple of days since we took in about 150 books on ornithology. I think it must nearly be time to build a book-based exoskeleton.

The Behemoth


This is the Behemoth, a soul-eating radiogram. It gurgles and snarls on its mantle-piece in the shop and occasionally picks up Radio 3 or a small child. It has always been here, and probably always will be. The shop itself has been hewn out of the very web it wove about itself in the primordial swamp of unconscious existence. Or Dorset, as the natives call it.

Its manifold voices, those of the damned and other light entertainers, baffle the air with their whispered demands – I’ll have an E please Bob – and coil in the dusty beams of bookshop half-light, echoing like disdaining bells calling the unfaithful to prayer.

I’ve had too much coffee today and I don’t want to do my paperwork.