I had a whole different subject in mind to write about this morning but after a visit to the Astley book farm with my old book shop boss – she should probably have a pseudonym too. I would call her ‘The Blonde’ but A A Gill beat me to it. Actually Gill be damned I will call her the blonde. Anyway the blonde and I went to the Astley book farm which is probably my favourite bookshop anywhere at the moment and absolutely worth visiting if you ever find yourself near Bedworth (these things do happen).
As second hand bookshops go it ticks all the boxes. It’s a bit off the beaten track, so is almost an adventure to find. Provides tea and coffee (basic vending machine – cheap and cheerful rather than chic cafe) and has a nice clean toilet. There’s everything from 50p jumble to rare antiquarian stuff for £1000’s (mostly I’m interested in the things at £2.50). I love not knowing what I’m going to find when I know I’m going to find something. I like places that are well organised too, there are potentially amazing bookshops out there who through a determined effort to ignore the alphabet lose my custom.
The blonde and I are as one on this, having both worked in bookshops we know there is really nothing much to do apart from drink tea, read the stock, bitch about the customers (or bitch about the lack of customers) and put things in alphabetical order. Generally employers prefer some evidence of work and no evidence of the stock being read so it really comes down to a lot of putting stuff in alphabetical order. I fail to understand what people in bookshops do all day if they aren’t putting things in order. Having got that off my chest it’s probably time to stop before I manage to alienate any booksellers out there.
I was reasonably restrained only getting four books – Mary McCarthy’s ‘A Charmed Life’, Muriel Spark’s ‘Territorial Rights’, Elizabeth Von Arnim’s ‘Love’ (which I’ve been after without success for ages) and ‘Spinsters of this Parish F.M Mayor and Mary Sheepshanks’. If money wasn’t an object I could and would have bought three times as many, the blonde left with a good half dozen titles – about half the huge stack of books she was holding on to at one point.
I was pleased with my relative self restraint – four feels like a good number. The Spark and McCarthy are going straight on the To Be Read pile, ‘Love’ will probably be holiday reading in the summer and ‘Spinsters of this Parish’ will keep happily for a while but as it seems to be about Suffragettes as well as one of my favourite authors I don’t suppose it’ll be neglected for long.
I hope this doesn’t sound too much like advertising, but it is a place I’m enthusiastic about and which I certainly feel deserves shouting about – this is bookshopping as I remember and love it – the sort that needs celebrating. I can also assure you that any recommendations for other excellent second hand shops will be gratefully received.