Special Secret Knowledge

The Fount of All Knowledge (first published March 2007)

Young man comes into the shop.

“I want to buy a book to learn stuff”

“What sort of Stuff”

You know …. I want a book to teach me things – can you recommend a book that will give me knowledge”

“Knowledge about what exactly ?”

“Oh everything ……I brought my mum a book for Christmas .. It was on Naturamony”

“Naturamony ?”

“You know – Bones and stuff”

“Ah, anatomy ….. Is she a nurse ?”

“No she works in a cafe… But i liked the pictures of bones and stuff…..

“Has she read it ?”

“She’s looked at it… Don’t think she’s read it. ……. David Ike is good isn’t he – he talks a lot of sense – who would have thought the royal family are all aliens”

“Well there are some who would question whether everything David Ike says is true”

“No its true, I saw it in a book – he says you have to wear blue to be safe from the aliens. Thats the sort of knowledge I want to learn”

“Ah sir, you will be needing our paranoid conspiracy theory utter rubbish section then”

Psychic Booksellers (first Published April 2007)

“My friend in Cornwall has quite a few Cricket books. How much are they worth ?”

Too Much Information (first published March 2007)

Guy comes in – also the worst for drink, and asks if I buy books.
“Sometimes”, say I “What sort of books are they?”

“Oh I don’t know, all sorts” He replied “How much will you pay me for them”

“I would have to see them, it varys from a pound or so, up to a few thousand, usually the former”

“But you must be able to give me some idea – can’t you guess?”

Pah.

Metal, Pot & Students

Hardcore Heavy Metal (first published Dec 2006)

You get some very odd ones in Antiquarian bookshops….

So here I was, innocently working away in my little shop……..
When a very respectable chap walks in.
Typical customer. Mid Sixties, smartly dressed with a checked jacket (and obligatory hankerchief to top pocket)
Tie, neat trousers, brogues etc: Neat moustache.

“Can I help you” I intone in my nicest, middle english bookseller voice.

“I do hope so” came back. “Do you have any biographies on Marilyn Manson, they’re my favourite band, they’re awfully good.. Do you know them?”

Not enough Pot (first published Dec 2006)

Chap comes in, up to the counter and asks if I have any books on Antique Pot Lids. I ask him what sort of pots he means, and he tells me he wants a book on the lids of jam jars, honey pots, glass and ceramic – as long as they are over 50 years old.

I ask him about the pots themselves, and he looks at me as if I’m an absolute idiot.
“Why would I want a book about those? It’s only the lids i’m interested in!”

Drama school (first published Jan 2007)

Student walks into the shop.

” I am a drama and film studies at the local college.

We want to film a fight scene in a library, but the college won’t let us use theirs. Could I borrow about a thousand books for a week or so. I’ll bring them back. ”

Now guess whether I said yes or no to him…….

 

Religious week in the bookshop

Damned Communists (first published December 2006)

What have I done to deserve this week? (Please don’t rush to answer this – I’m sure there is some karmic reason somewhere – but I don’t really want to know).

Today was the turn of the American Evangelical Christian. Here I am, sat innocently behind my desk, tapping away on my little computer, when a nondescript American with about 5 cameras around his neck comes up and asks me where the Bibles are. I show him to the Christian books, where I have bibles in Greek, Latin, Welsh, a couple of old Apocrypha and of course the Talmud in Hebrew. He is disappointed that I don’t have any modern Bibles, and I explain a bit about the economics of 16th Century Bible good – 20th Century rather common.

He browses for a little while and then appears again at the desk, and begins a fine rant on how I have lots of evil books – but no bibles in English. Here I am expecting the esoteric section to come in for a bashing, but instead he turns on the Karl Marx books, and complains about how Jews and communists are ruining God’s world – and how Marx is in fact the Antichrist and the Endtimes are here.

Always nice to have a reasoned intellectual discussion at work.
He didn’t buy anything!

Enough Religion already (first published Dec 2006)

So here we were, sat in our little shop, minding our own business and enjoying a little freedom of Religion
when a lady walks in and up to the counter.

“Are you Jewish?” she asks

“Not I” was my reply, while I hurriedly hid my Menorah (one can never be too careful near Hanukkah)

On being told that I’m not, she asks who is Jewish in the shop.
I explained that as far as I know, there was no-one Jewish working in the shop, although Mitchell the Mutt has Hasidic tendancies and Rosie is prone to Pharrisaic opinions

She told me that she had been sent by the Methodist Church, who thought that this might be a Jewish bookshop and that she was working for inter-faith and reconcilliation for the Jewish Community.

It seems there are 73 Jews in our town – split into three groups – Orthodox – Reformed and another faction that I didn’t follow! – Without us, there are now probably only 72 – pity. However, this fine lady is working to reconcile the groups.

She went away, quite cheerfully and invited us to Hanukkah anyway.

It got a little stranger later in the day.
I was relating this tale of religious tolerance and joy to Holly (Quaker – I do hope you are keeping up!),
when a head popped up from behind the Natural History section (always a worry)
“I’m from the Methodist Church and know the lady you are talking about” he stated
I did a quick double take to make sure I hadn’t been too insulting about the Methodists in the last half hour – he seemed cheerful though, so it must be ok.

Apparently, the Jewish Lady in question, had gone to the Methodist Church, and told THEM that we were Jewish, and that she was on the way here to be reconciled with us.

So the question of the day for us, is Who DID tell her we were a Jewish bookshop?

 

Books brought and sold (sometimes)

The Literary Festival. (first published Dec 2006)

A decidedly odd day in the shop.

We have been getting publicity for our support of the local festival. Waterstones have decided not to support the festival – which would have lost all of its literary element. The four independant bookshops in town have come together to put up the cash / support

First customer pops in and walks to the counter. She says “I just wanted to congratulate you on supporting the festival” and walks out.

Next customer appears, makes their way to the counter and tells us “Well done for supporting the festival – that will really put the people behind you” and leaves.

Third customer is clutching a Waterstones bag, and tells us how wonderful it is that the independant bookshops are supporting the festival, and goes.

Another customer walks in ………

Oh I can’t be bothered…..

A tempting offer. (first published Dec 2006)

I received a phone call today.
Chap had been into the shop and had a good look around, and decided to offer to sell me some books…

He asks me if i was interested in buying some management and marketing books. When I declined, he told me that these can fetch some very high prices and I am a fool to pass them up.

Then he asks me about paperbacks – all around 20 to 30 years old. I replied that I couldn’t pay much for these, as I sold them for about £1 – £1.50. He decided it wasn’t worth selling me those then!

In passing, he told me that he was, of course, selling all his good books to London dealers as complete libraries (Guaranteed to make me feel favourably towards him!) and he wanted to know what sort of books I did bother to buy then. On my replying that I would be interested in high quality and antiquarian books, he asked me if I would purchase some biographies from him.

When I tried to pursue idea of the “good books” he told me that he wouldn’t sell those to me, as otherwise he would never get rid of the rest of the rubbish !

I was good….. I didn’t swear………. I just quietly hung up the phone and stomped around the shop for a while sobbing gently into my coffee.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth (first published Dec 2006)

I was asked recently how much of the blog I had made up / invented.

Now, much as I would be the last person to let truth get in the way of a good story, I can assure you all, that I have no need to exaggerate or make anything up. These people are real, and the things they come out with a real.

Sad but true – I am surrounded by muppets, lunatics and booksellers.

Memoirs of a bookshop dog

I have been looking over my old blog today. This covered the time that I had a bookshop in Salisbury. It was a commentary on the customers, books and events – partly from the perspective of my dog Mitchell. When i read them now – I realise that I probably have more in common with Bernard of Black Books than I like to admit. Certainly, the blog entries would suggest I cultivated his approach to customer service. Many of these should be consigned to history – but there are some that I hope may still appeal to a bookselling and book buying audience.  So I shall offer them up here now and again!

Some people are never satisfied .  (First published Dec. 2006).

So here i am, polishing my leather with gay abandon, when a chap walks in.
He starts with the preliminary introduction of  “Do you Sell books?”

I resist scornful comments about generally being more of an exhibition or library and say yes, we do try to. Then announces that he needs a copy of a woodcut. Particularly, it must be mid eighteenth century, by a botanical artist rather than an illustrator, and must be of an Oak leaf, and an acorn.

This sounds fairly specific to me – so it is with joy in my heart, and a slightly smug and self satisfied spring in my step that I go straight to the “Illustrators of Oak Leaves” department, where I find a perfect original print of an Oak Leaf, botanically produced, with an acorn to the side and a cross section of both Leaf and Acorn (let me know If I am boring you!!). Beautiful condition, printed in 1750 (For the less historical of you, the is about as “middle of the Eighteenth Century” as it is possible to get). And best of all, £4.

I show this to the chap. Of course you have already figured what is coming next………”It’s not quite what I had in mind”

I can now feel a wave of the Little Britain “Shop of Horrors” sketch floating over me. It was all I could do to resist shouting at him “What the f*&&K do you mean it’s not what you had in mind – Not Oaky enough for you? Want something a little less Acorny? Leave now and encumber my bookshop no more with your fetid presence” but I settled with a “Sorry that’s the best I can do”.

(Sobs sadly into his coffee mug and dreams of normal people.)

By the way – I was offered a book on Porcelain Pot Lids today!! I refused to buy it our of spite!

Sinks and Soda.  (First published Dec. 2006).

Chap walks in
Comes up to the desk and announces that he has a ceramic Belfast / Butler type sink
He tells me that I have a lot of books
What should he use to clean it with?
Apparently the sink has no chips or damage!

I asked him if he had used Caustic Soda
And he replied no – he would try some immediately.

Next questions was about which Caustic Soda stockist I would recommend locally!!!

The Weirdness of Victorians

It is a well know fact that the Victorians were an odd bunch. Honestly, they were very strange. From their obsession with sewers to the colonial eccentricities. From their bizarre sports rules to the madcap mustaches. It probably all stems from the public school system – but who knows.

Anyway – I know this is a busy time of year for everyone, so I have been off searching for the best in weird and wonderful Victorian Christmas cards – just to save you the trouble. I hope you enjoy these, and that they bring some light and joy into your Christmas holidays.

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Because nothing says  Christmas like the robbery and murder of a frog.

I am sure the inspiration for Chewbaka started here.

Eating fat children is always a possibility if the turkey runs out!

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But he is dead – DEAD – how sick is that – share the joy of the death of a little bird.

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lobster-christmas

A mouse riding a lobster – it must be Crimbo.

This Christmas wish with you abide. Victorian Christmas card

If the relatives annoy you too much……

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This is the way my wife makes me eat her Christmas pudding as well.

Actually this pair a quite cute – and the world needs more kittens.

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This is my personal favourite. Nice motor though – it may be a tad post victorian.

And of course, after the Christmas joy, I must also wish you a very happy New Year

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Be careful out there children – 2017 is the year of the giant killer hornets.

Last call for the Christmas fair

Hot on the heels of our Chelsea photographs – here is another late blog – this one a quick plug for the PBFA Kensington Christmas Fair.

It starts tomorrow (Saturday 3rd December) at 11am. This year, we are in the Hilton Olympia Hotel – so please do come along to visit, and bring wheelbarrow of cash for all the lovely items that will no doubt be on sale.

For many of us, this will be the last fair of the year, so I hope you will be able to join us.

Ho Ho Ho.

Belated Chelsea Blog

We may be a little behind the times here at Harrison-Hiett, (We are old booksellers after all), but we have finally caught up clearing out our photographs. 

This year saw another fine ABE Chelsea book fair – with many thanks to Graham York, Giles Lyons, and the rest of the crew. Takes certainly seemed healthy from Graham’s reports, and it felt like there were plenty of visitors passing through.

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 The view from the stage. Marianne and Camilla working hard to the left. 

The Annexe (where my stall was) & Graham attempting a complex operation during the show.

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Our stand at the show.

Budapest ILAB fair 2016

For our first international foray, Marcia and I decided to pop over to Budapest.  This may not strike you as an obvious choice – but it had some excellent advantages. Budapest was Marcia’s main choice of holiday destination this year – so that was a good start. Then there was the fact that the fair was running alongside the ILAB Congress for 2016. We felt that we had every chance to sell some items to ILAB members from around the world. Thirdly was the fact that our old mucker Graham York, was driving his van there with Jan – so our stock could get a lift, and we could swan in on a jet plane!

Here are a few photographs and a couple of little videos from our time at the fair:

The Danube at night:

buda-night

The Hungarians do like their books – and in the centre of a pedestrian walkway was this rather fabulous fountain:

The fair was held overlooking the river Danube, in the city’s concert hall, a rather beautiful venue in the heart of the capital.

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We were very pleased to see some nice signage outside.

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Here is the before and after of our shared stand:

Graham and Jan consider their efforts, whilst Marcia welcomes customers.

At least until she sees the prices we had put on some items:

Graham didn’t feel too well after our first meal out – perhaps we should have paid more attention to the name of the restaurant:

And at the end of the fair, a well earned glass of Champers at the New York Cafe in Budapest before heading home.

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That’s it for now. By the time you see this, I shall be returning from the Amsterdam book fair – so hopefully will have some photos / videos / gossip from there. Eg veled.

York PBFA Premier Fair 2016

Another fabulous fair at York this year. The whole York team deserve many thanks and much praise from us all for their continued efforts. Together, they manage to put on the UK’s largest fair, and one which is certainly the “Jewel in the Crown” attracting buyers and sellers from around the world.

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Here is the wondrous Tony – one of the fair manager’s, pointing to his house on a rather over-sized map!

And here is proof that I do attend the fairs with some books:

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Finally for this week, is my regular video. This one features Lucy, from Daniel Crouch, talking through one of her favourite items. Although about the newest member of the PBFA (at the time of writing), Daniel Crouch is a well known and very established member of the map trade.