Sunday, April 27, 2008

It Isn't Just Me Then....


Today was the first of our Kid's Reading Groups this morning. The format is the same as the adult reading group (a book is chosen, people read the book, people meet and discuss book, people leave), and the book chosen was 'The Riddle of the Poisoned Monk' by Sarah Matthias. The meeting would be at 11am on a Sunday, so the kids could have an hour before the shop opened all to themselves to talk about the book
It was a nerve wracking ordeal, for many reasons. We'd had a lot of interest in the reading group but the thoughts running through my mind as I walked to the shop this morning were
  • will anyone turn up
  • will anyone talk
  • will anyone like the book
  • do I remember all the important bits in the book
  • have we got any orange juice
  • i'd better avoid that dog poo

Poo safely avoided, I arrived at the shop and I really shouldn't have worried about a thing. We had a great group of eight very eager, intelligent and friendly kids who were more than happy to talk about the book. The parents/guardians disappeared as soon as it started, and Katie (7 months pregnant and very healthy and well, thanks for asking) and I pretty much just had to sit back for most of the hour and listen, as the kids happily gave their verdict.

And the verdict was that the book was fantastic. Not one of the group(aged between 9 and 12) didn't enjoy it, and they dissected it and praised the ways that Sarah had kept the story exciting and also that they learnt stuff about life in the Medieval times. When I said that the way it ended suggested that there'd be a sequal, I was encouraged to find out if it was true, so i'll be contacting Ms Matthias to find out! In time honoured tradition we marked it out of 10 and the scores were all between 8 and 10.

I'm very pleased they enjoyed it, as I really rated it when I first got hold of it. So now you know... an ideal book for any boy or girl aged between 9 and 12 who likes reading. Here's the book, so you can look out for it in all good Independent Bookshops.

The kids then had a look around the shop to each pick a nomination for next months book. They took turns to read out the blurb on the back cover, and then they voted for their choice (they couldn't vote for their own book). The winner, and next months choice is Imperial Spy by Mark Robson .

I'm still smiling about how well it all went.

The other thing that's making me smile at the moment is the rebirth of this advert

I don't know why it makes me smile, but it does.

Tom Hodgkinson's coming to the shop on Wednesday. It's very exciting.

Friday, April 25, 2008



it's come to our attention (from the council themselves) that Haringey Council have Annual Business Awards, and it was also suggested (by the council themselves) that we'd do well to encourage our friends/customers/viewers to know about this. Having asked all the pertinent questions, it seems that you don't have to be a resident of Haringey to be able to vote. And as Ken/Boris/Sian and the policeman would say 'every vote counts'.
So allow me to invite anyone who has a spare 3 minutes and 14 seconds (for that was how long it took me to fill the form in), that the online voting form can be found by clicking the link HERE. We're hoping for nominations in a few of the categories, but conceed that 'Best Restaurant' is out of our grasp this year.
On a slightly serious note, getting one of these awards would really raise our profile in Wood Green, and as a new business this is what we're trying to do, so thanks in advance.

I have a day off of sorts today. I'm about to head off North to deliver a ton of flyers around Palmers Green. Then i'm off to the Bernie Grant Centre to say hello to anyone who'll listen.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Big Green Wednesday (and gloomy Thursday)


Fiona Dunbar came to entertain a class of kids from West Green School yesterday. This was the first in our Big Green Wednesdays, and it was great fun. Fiona turned up as I was putting the chairs out, and sticking the posters up, and had thankfully brought her own copies of Toonhead with her, (as the publishers were out of stock when we tried to order them). With everything set up, the slightly bedraggled class arrived resplendent in their light reflective tabards (health and safety), and shuffled in awkwardly. Once they'd all settled down in their seats ('miss, miss, can I sit next to sienna miss?' etc), Fiona told them a number of great stories and kept them entertained, as Tim shook off his hangover by sneaking into the office and playing with his spreadsheets. The time flew by and Fiona almost ran out of time for questions, but we did manage to squeeze a few in.

I hope she had a good time. We certainly did, and we're really encouraged that this could be a really good thing to do.

Today. It rained.

We were also supposed to have a teacher's evening tonight. We didn't.
Lesson 1. Don't book a teacher's evening on the one day in 15 years that teachers go on strike.
Lesson 2. Remind the teachers that there's a teachers evening.
Lesson 3. Expect nothing and you may exceed expectations, but you may get what you expect.

Onwards and upwards.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Superfly Guy


I've spent 5 hours today putting flyers through people's doors. I think I did about 1200 flyers. My feet are a little sore, and I have a twinge in my left side. Poor little me. Only 2 mental dogs today. And one 'comedian' who said to me 'just put it in the recycling son, co's if you don't I will'. Two people banged on their windows and wagged their fingers at me. One man shouted 'shut the gate' at me, and I still can't decide whether to put the flyer through the doors that say 'no junk mail'. In my opinion this mail isn't junk. It's an invitation to visit the greatest place in North London, where the sun always shines and the birds always whistle a happy tune. I don't put the flyers through their doors though.

We've got to do about another 10,000 houses I reckon, which means about 20,000 flyers. That ought to cover most of the people who's new nearest bookshop is us.

We've got a book launch on Wednesday. Mark Wagstaff will be being patted on the back and cheered heartily for his new book 'The Canal'. It should be a good laugh.

We've also invited every single teacher in Haringey to join us for an evening on Thursday. If they all turn up there should be well over 2000 people turning up. My guess is we'll get about 15. There's a teacher's strike on Thursday and so I imagine the other 1985 will be on the picket line. Either way, we've bought some Pringles and 2 bottles of Lambrusco, so it should be a right old knees up.

And, following our visit from Sian Berry, the Green Party candidate for Mayor of London, we're on their new website Greensmeanbusiness. There's also more Youtube action from Tim and I here. We're on at about 2 mins 30, although the woman who was on before us was far more interesting. And my hair looked awful. Now you know why I always wear a hat.

I was also lucky enough to be invited to the awards ceremony of the 6th Wood Green International Film Festival
This has now become a major part of the short film calendar, and it is the brainchild of Carol Kennedy. Carol (or Kaz) is the Town Centre manager and a huge inspiration for anyone who has time for Wood Green. She really understands how special this little place in North London is, and as she's leaving at the end of the month to pursue her own film making dreams, we'll really miss her.
This is one of the winning entries. It's a song called I Just Wanna Dance by a band called At The Zoo.
It was a great evening, and makes me love Wood Green even more. You should all come and visit.

Noise Making Snickers


Don't tell Simon, but I decided to blog from the shop. I suppose I should be working but what the hey. I figured if I did it then Simon wouldn't feel so bad about doing it himself. Then he'd stop telling me what he's going to do and just do it.

In other news - if news it is - WHSmiths have been sending us customers. Bless, aren't they lovely? Well, no. I don't think they've actually sent us one book-related customer yet, but they are trying. Queries about photo-copying, internet access, international phonecalls and money transfers still come top of the list, but the customer who asked for 'Noise making snickers' really confused the hell out of me.

"Sorry?" I said
"Noise making snickers," he repeated as if I was mad.
"No, I don't think...."
"You have to have them up by law...." (By now most of you will have worked out what he wanted, but I was still very much in the dark)
"Have you tried Smiths?"
"They sent me here."
"I don't really know..."
"Noise making irons?" this said with a certain incredulity.
"Oh..."(sound of penny slipping from fingers) "You mean.... (Whistling noise of falling penny) "No Smoking Stickers!?!" (Clatter, rattle, clunk the penny has dropped, and from the sound of it, it was a very heavy penny)

It passed a happy five minutes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's Not that difficult Being Green


we had a very special visitor in the shop last night. Sian Berry, the Green Party candidate for Mayor of London popped in to say hello, and to sign copies of her books about living a greener lifestyle. We'd have loved to have been able to get more people to come and say hello, but we only had a day or two to tell people.... and it was a Friday night for goodness sake.
She seemed to have a good time, despite a few mad moments (when I say moments, I mean people walking in and saying things like 'I'm going to be dead in 20 years, so why do I care about the environment'), but Sian and Gary Dunion (the chief press officer of the Green Party) we're brilliant, and stuck around for a good long time.
Am I allowed to say that on May 1st the people of London have a very difficult choice? (the opinion that's about to follow is not necessarily the opinion of the Big Green Bookshop)
Boris is the favourite. And his fake buffoonery can't hide the horrific and dangerous twat that he really is. Ken should have had it in the bag, but he seems to have forgotten the reasons he got voted in originally, and deserves to get a real kick up the arse. Paddick is a wasted opportunity for the Lib Dems,and with Ken and Boris as competitors thet could have found a real star to take them on, but instead came up with a grey grey man, who(so what) used to be a copper.
The 'smaller' parties could make a real difference this time. And my big worry is the parties like UKIP and the BNP will find themselves with members in the London Assembly. And although she won't win, Sian Berry is not such a bad vote, when you think about it (and if you have a voting card, it would be a good idea to think about it). I've met polititians, oh yes i've met politicians...
but Sian Berry wasn't a typical politician. She was someone who was actually saying exactly what she thought. It was obvious that what she said was exactly what she believed. And it was very refreshing to listen to. And very very rare in a politician.
Anyhow, enough of that.
Here's some pictures of the shop..

And here's a bit of classic Jack Kirby art which is celebrated in a new book. Buy it, because it is quite wonderful, and Jack Kirby changed the whole face of comics. Or don't buy it if you don't want to...

A customer gave us a bottle of wine today.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

An Apology


My promises to readers of the blog from now on

  • I will write at least 3 times a week
  • I will still refrain from puting music on the blog
  • I will upload photos of the shop
  • I will keep it relevent
  • I may get angry sometimes
  • I will still teel you everything that's going on

I write this as I've realised it's been a very long time since i last posted. There's so much to talk about....

1. The Friday Project

It's all a bit sad really. And as it was based so much on the internet, we've seen some very angry people talking very angrily about it. I feel very sorry for everyone who got burned. Until we can hear the whole story, it's difficult to point fingers, but given the choice between being an employee at TFP and an author taken on by TFP, I think i'd rather be the former.

2. We have a new bookshop openig soon to cheer and celebrate.

No, not those clever chaps Crockatt and Powell, who should support a proper football team frankly, but Inkspot and Silverleaf a shiny bookshop in Scotland (North London) is going through the 'last few days before we open' feeling right now. Good luck to them.

3. Alright, Crockatt and Powell 2 have a date for opening their shop in the slums of Fulham. May 9th, which coincidentally is exactly 10 years to the day since Dana International the male/female Israeli singer won the Eurovision song contest, and also we will have to miss Billy Joel's 59th birthday party.

4. I went to the London Book Fair for the first time ever, which for those of you who don't know is a Fair in London which specialises in books. I had a red badge, which meant I was a retailer, and similar to the red sqirrel was rare indeed. I bumped into lots of old friends and also I met Vanessa, who we call Fidra Blog. She was very lovely, and thankfully recognised me by my scruffy hat. I was a bit confused because all the other fairs i've ever been to have had carousels and candyfloss, but this one had £5 sarnies and people trying to give me copies of the Qur'an.

5. Dave Gorman (well not him, but those important people who look after him) got my goat this week. I think he's brilliant and love his books, but last year, before the world famous Big Green Bookshop opened, I contacted his publishers and they suggested that he could come to the shop to talk about his book about travelling across the states from coast to coast just visiting INDEPENDENT outlets. It seemed ideal for a little indie bookshop like ours. In fact, I suggested that Dave's bookshop tour should be only Indie bookshops (what a great twist!). Anyway, as it took longer to open the bookshop than anyone had hoped, I contacted the Dave team in February to let them know when we were likely to open and to say we were still up for it. 'Oh no, it's all sorted now' I was told 'he's fully booked up'. And then I look at his schedule..... as the French would say 'Ou est les Independents?' . So, (sorry this is a rambling story) he was on 'Something For The Weekend' last Sunday, (that TV thing with Tim 'Soccer AM' Lovejoy), and Katie and I decided to send him a question on the programme that went something like 'Dave, why don't you visit more Independent bookshops on your book tour, and come and visit mine in North London'. Well we didn't think they'd read it out, but, by jiminy they did! He was very good, and said that he had visited indies, but he also went to the chains, and that was the way it was. I guess that's the last time we'll be working with the publicity department at Ebury then.

6. Sian Berry's coming to the shop on Friday! What fun is that.

There's more, but i'm tired. I will blog again very soon...

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Normal Service will Resume Soon


I tell you something weird. I can't do this blog at the shop. It feels like i'm skiving off, and the regional manager will come in at any moment and wrap me over the knuckles with a Front of Store Checklist or something.

Talk about being institutionalised!

I still haven't sat on the sofa and read a couple fo chapters of a book yet, or eaten my lunch on the shopfloor, and I still fast forward System of a Down when it comes on the Ipod in the shop.
I'm slowly learning, and the chains of the chains are slowly becoming looser. I threw away a 'no sale' slip last week, and I told a rep they didn't need to make an appointment. I've even ordered books from small independent publishers! Zany or what?

We're getting on with stuff in the shop. The first Reading Group meeting is this Tuesday, and we should be getting about 12-15 people turning up. The kid's reading group is taking it's time to get going, but it'll pick up with a bit of luck.

We've sorted out lots and lots of events, the latest being

Tom Hodgkinson is coming on April 30th to talk about his book of Idle Pleasures

Dr Sandra Richards is coming to the shop on May 4th to talk about her book 'The Journey'

We have the local Poetry Group 'Stanza' joining us on 14th May

On 15th May Lisa Tickner will be at the shop to talk about her new book which charts the demonstration at Hornsey Art College and it's aftermath. 'Hornsey 1968' is going to be a great evening

We have local author Kwame M A Mcpherson reading from his new book 'Deep Roots, Strong Tree' on May 17th.

On May 20th we've got an evening of debate and amusement in the company of a few of the bloggers from the Guardian Unlimited. Definites so far include Sam Jordison, Jean Hannah Edelstein, Matthew de Abaitua and Ben Myers, and there may be some more guests to come.

Daniel Davies will be with us on May 22nd to help celebrate the publication of his exciting new book The Isle of Dogs. We have a small car park for those interested....

We've got a couple more things to firm up in May, and also we're having a whole week in June celebrating the best Crime Writing.

We've now set up 15 school accounts, and our 'Big Green Wednesdays' is sorted up to the Summer holidays (almost).

So we're keeping ourselves busy.

I was lucky enough to be invited by my good friend Alister to The Emirates to watch Arsenal play Liverpool yesterday. Man, that stadium is impressive. Arsene Wenger was an angry man, but it was a great day, and I felt very lucky to be there.

We met up with our brilliant accountant on Thursday, who between the pints gave us some very very good advice, and also told us that we should have done our returns in January. Whoops. One phonecall to the Vat helpline and everything was OK. Tim has been busily inventing new spreadsheets since the meeting, and I occasionaly hear him in the office cackling like a mad professor as he invents a dastardly new button that calculates Row 3 + Row 12 as a percentage of the sum of columns D and H. It scares me sometimes.

I'm going to go to the London Book Fair for the first time ever next week. I'm quite excited.

We also have someone (not just anyone, a professional graphic designer no less) who's going to design some new flyers for the shop, at a fraction of the cost. We really are lucky to have so many wonderful people supporting us.

I'm reading You're a Bad Man Mr Gum at the moment, and it's very funny, very daft, and I love it. .

and I'm having a beef and ale stew for tea. The ideal way to finish a lazy Sunday evening (I'm being lazy, and Katie's making the stew. You're a bad man Mr Key).