So we spent this afternoon clearing out the shop that will be this weekend’s pop-up bookshop. A group of us started the bookshop last year, primarily to annoy the arts high heidyins who would rather local writers confined themselves quietly to giving readings in pub toilets and then dying genteelly in poverty instead of demanding to be noticed and celebrated by the literary establishment at our local book festival. By some accident of fate it turned out to be something of a success so we are now invited to pop up at other artsy events by the same powers that be (as long as we find ourselves a venue, sort out our own insurance and do all the marketing ourselves, obviously). Anyway, with the local Arts Festival looming, we found ourselves the perfect shop in Notso Bigtown, an old newsagent and stationers that shut down three years ago – and even then was old fashioned enough that the one time I went into it I was rendered unable to speak for about three minutes* because I could not shake the conviction that I had actually stepped back into the past. It has a long wooden counter with the goods displayed in glass cabinets behind it and I had to double check when I came out with my paper that it was actually that day’s edition of the Guardian, and not the Manchester Guardian reporting the Suez war or, indeed, the progress of the Gallipoli campaign.
Since closing down, the owner has been using it to keep all those things you think might come in handy but don’t normally have the space for, plus things which he hasn’t got around to throwing away, on top of leftover stock dating back at least fifty years (dip pen nibs at 2p each, anyone? – apart from anything else, it’s a stationery fetishist’s idea of heaven). We were there last week for a preliminary clear out where we managed to hack the undergrowth back as far as the counters, and today we were cleaning and putting in some finishing touches that will turn it from the opening part of Alice’s Restaurant into a moderately convincing temporary book shop.
It was a satisfactory afternoon’s work all told, but what I did find amazing was – as we swept the floors, and cleaned the windows, and emptied out the cabinets, and stuck up posters with such giveaway hints as ‘pop-up bookshop this weekend’ on the door, in a shop that’s been closed for over three years – how many people still walked in and attempted to purchase a paper. Here’s hoping they’ll return for a book or three at the weekend.
*insert your own joke here