Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Yes, we are almost at the end of March and with a day to go our target is still just about in reach. But first, here is a house that looks like David Bowie. Thank you. You're all too kind.

So, we last gave you a strugglometer update on Sunday evening. Since then we had a monster day on Monday, with some very very nice cheques and account payments being made. We also had a great sales day through the tills... but you know all this cos you read the last post.

Anyway, yesterday was the day we had invited Andy Stanton, author of the brilliant Mr Gum kids books, to entertain a theatre full of kids at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham. We took the books over to his flat last Friday to sign. Well, we took most of them...unfortunately there were about 90 books missing from the order we'd placed with the publisher (oh yes, this happens), so we had to quickly order some more from our distributor who can guarantee next day delivery (excellent service Bertram's). They duly arrived and we breathed a sigh of relief. Andy furiously signing copies of his book.

After another small hiccup involving the books beng misplaced for a few hours (this also happens), we were ready for the big show. We'd organinsed for 5 schools to come along to meet Andy and the whole thing was brilliant. Tim sadly, forgot to take a camera to capture the brilliantness of the event (this happens too), but hundreds of kids left very happy, with signed copies of Mr Gums clutched in their sweaty hands.

Tuesday was also the day that the delivery company that our distributor uses to guarantee next day delivery ballsed up big time, and we were 6 boxes short on a delivery full of customer orders and books to restock the shelves from the weekend's sales.
Oh well. Here is a picture of my brother with a dalek to make us all feel better. It was taken a few years ago, which is why the dalek looks so young.

We salvaged what we could from the delivery and carried on. There was still a ton of stuff to do yesterday. There were schools and organizations who had some money left from their yearly budget which needed spending by the end of March and they needed us to make sure that we could sort out their orders and deliveries for them. We think we managed it.

So with 2 days to go until the end of the month (I have had a day off today, so I don't know what it's been like in the shop), how close are we to our target?
In the time old tradition of playing for time there is still more to tell you. Today was the start in earnest of the Portable Bookshop in Crouch End and this is a great side project that we are very excited about. If you're anywhere near Crouch End tomorrow, please go and see Robin at the Hornsey Library. Even if you don't buy anything, we're still really interested in what you think about the idea and whether you have any suggestions. So don't be shy.

Tomorrow is also the Society of Young Publishers Birthday Benefit party for us. There will hopefully be many many people joining us at the shop to whoop it up with the SYP. Everyone is invited , whether you're a young publisher or not. I can assure you that the SYP are a wonderful bunch, and as is the way with these things, the more the merrier.

So, with two days to go.... wait there's a couple more things to mention. Just because in a couple of days the strugglometer will be no more, please don't forget about us. We have a huge line up of things happening in April. Here's just a little taster in the first two weeks.

  • Friday April 1st 11.00am Story time and Songs for the under 5's at the bookshop

  • Sunday April 3rd 1.00pm-3.00pm Knitters Group at the Bookshop

  • Tuesday April 5th 7.00pm Gail Renard Talks about her 8 Days with John and Yoko

  • Wednesday April 6th 11.00am Morning Reading Group at the Bookshop

  • Thursday April 7th 7.00pm How to Get Published. A talk with Isabel Losada

  • Friday April 8th 11.00am Story time and Songs for the Under 5's at the bookshop

  • Sunday April 10th 11.00am Committee Meeting (info to follow)

  • Tuesday April 12th 7.00pm Evening Reading Group

  • Wednesday April 13th 7.00pm Writers Group

  • Thursday 14th April 7.00pm The Big Green Bookshop Quiz

  • Friday April 15th 7.00pm Ha Ha ha Hardbacks. The Stand Up Comedy Night

Right, I won't keep you in suspense any longer.

88%. Yes, Monday was a mighty fine day and Tuesday (with its Mr Gum magic) also shook the very foundations of North London.

I will not be writing a blog tomorrow as I shall be swinging my pants with the Society of Young Publishers, so as tomorrow sees the last day of the official appeal, can I say how incredible you have all been. I have been truly overwhelmed by the generosity and selflessness that you have shown and whether we make it to 100% or not, we are in a considerably better position than we were in a month ago.


I also hope you liked the picture of my brother with a dalek.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Gosh and stuff

If this were a comic, there would be a huge KABLAMMMMM!!!!
right here.
Like that. Yes. Just like that.
But it's not a comic, so assume the Kablammm.

Today has been amazing. We have been truly kablammed by customers and other stuff.

We'd been waiting for a few cheques from schools and stuff for stuff we'd supplied them (which we knew would arrive, but didn't want to push), and today some of them did. Some of the good ones as well... So a small dance was initiated on Wood Green High Road as we took the cheques up to the bank. Then, an email came through letting us know that a payment for another order of books we supplied an organization was hitting our bank account. Cue another small dance. This time involving ribbons and daffodils. And then there were all the wonderful and gorgeous customers who came through the Big Green doors today. So many more than your usual Monday. I say again, flip.

An article in the Observer by Robert McCrum yesterday has caused many phone calls and emails to us . The article suggested that we had closed, which was a bit of a shock to Tim and I. WE ARE STILL OPEN in case you were worried. More surprising to us was the suggestion that opening a bookshop in West London was perhaps a better proposition than opening one in N22.

Now I understand that the article was one that was written to support our appeal, and I appreciate that it was something which encouraged people to make the 'trek' to N22 ( only 6 stops on the tube from King's Cross), but i'm not sure that comparing bookshops in W8 and N22 is of great value. It's a bit like Sports Personality of the Year, when you are choosing between Phil 'The Power' Taylor, Lewis Hamilton, Jess Ennis, some funky fast cyclist and David Beckham. All of these people are sports people and they are all very good at what they do. But some geezer throwing darts vs some geezer driving a fast car?? How can you compare. I dunno frankly. I like Slightly Foxed in Gloucester Road very much. They are brilliant, and I urge book lovers to make the trek to W8 to appreciate justy how good they are.

But we are very different bookshops, who do very different things. We appeal to our customers by doing very different things, and this is what is important. If we fail, it's not because of our location, because there are many thousands of people in Haringey who love reading books.
If we fail it is because WE have got it wrong.
Not N22.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rumours of our Closure are Greatly Exagerrated

Hello. I have worked this weekend. I have also eaten a lot of dry roasted peanuts, but really that has nothing to do with anything.

We weren't expecting that much custom on Saturday, as this was the day of the March for the Alternative to Cuts Protest in London. Many, many of our regular customers took part in the march and so we expected it to be a bit quieter. However, although it was quieter than previous weeks, it was still busier than usual, and as far as i'm aware only one of our regulars was arrested.

Sunday was Board Games day, and once again we saw some new faces in the bookshop. Hello new faces.

There was aslo an article in the Observer on Sunday, written by Robert McCrum, which suggested that THE BIG GREEN BOOKSHOP HAD BEEN FORCED TO CLOSE . I would like to make it very clear that we are very much open and if you don't believe me I suggest you buy a book from the shop and see what happens. I bet you'll end up with a book.

This week is, as usual mad busy.
Monday. We are off to Lea Valley Primary School in Tottenham, with author Jonny Zucker
Tuesday. We have hired the Bernie Grant Arts Centre out and organised for 300 kids from 6 different schools to meet Mr Gum author Andy Stanton.
Wednesday. It's our Writers Group
Thursday. This is the day of the Society of Young Publishers benefit party for us.
Friday. We are Storytelling and singing songs for the under 5's.

As well as all this, we have to order, invoice and deliver 6 school orders, put together parcels to deliver to all the children in the care of Haringey Council, finalise 5 new author events that we have ready, put in the new Bloggers Books of the Month and I have a 1200 word piece to write for a magazine. Oh and run the bookshop too.
And I wouldn't want it any other way.

We've reached 80%. Amazerama. Staggerballs. Brillitastic.

With the last few days before the Strugglometer bids us farewell, it is still (just about) possible for us to reach our 'relative safety' target. I will be, as ever, doing all I can to get news of our appeal out there. But, as ever, I'm relying on you to help us out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

This week at TBGBs

Here we are then, just you and me. No one else reads this, I hope you realise this.
What a flipping flip of a week this has been. And when I say flipping flip, I mean it in a good way. The good people of the planet earth are continuing to support us in the most wonderful ways.

We are still getting emails that start like this.

my friend *insert name* who buys books from you told me about you and that I should buy a book from you even though I live in*insert name of place many miles away*, and so i'd like to order *insert name of book* Is this OK?'

'I've never been to your shop before, but I read about you on *insert name of magazine, newspaper, website or blog*, and would like to help. Could I order*insert name of book*'

'Oi, you owe me money. Where's my money??'***

***It's not all butterflies and frolicking bunnies.

So, this week then.
Monday and Tuesday were spent sorting out some school visits we have lined up. Jonny Zucker is heading off to a school in Tottenham next week (despite being a Gooner) to delight and astound them with magic and fun.
Jonny is one of those authors who has supported us ever since we opened and has kept in touch and offered his services whenever he can. We are so lucky that there are a great bunch of local(ish) kids authors who are willing to visit and entertain classes all around the borough with no fuss and amazing enthusiasm.

On Wednesday we had a tweetup. If you are on Twitter, you may know what this is.
It is, in short and meet up of people on twitter. A Twitter Meet Up. A Tweetup.
It was arranged by Scott Pack, who is a man on twitter and also a human being. Ideal qualifications for attending a tweetup I would say.
Scott has a blog called Me and My Big Mouth . If you like books and/or cake, I would suggest you check it out.
Anyway, this geezer Scott organised this thing and what happened was that people turned up. And they brought booze and food and stuff. And then what happened was that they bought books (and cards and bookmarks) and talked to each other and seemed to have a good time. It was all rather lovely really. And what's more, the Strugglometer jumped a little closer to its target.
Thanks to all the twitterati that turned up and made it so special. You are all ace.

'Oh Simon, show us the Strugglometer', I hear you cry.

But you must be patient, for the story isn't over yet.

On Thursday evening, we had Rob White and Julie Welch at the bookshop to talk about The Ghost of White Hart Lane, a book that's been hitting a few broadsheets recently and gettng some brilliant reviews.
Now we've been open for over 3 years now, and we've done around 350 author events in the bookshop. We think we're pretty good at deciding how many copies of an author's book to get in for these events.
The shop was packed out for Rob and Julie and such was the demand for the book that we actually sold out. This is the first time this has happened, and it's a terrible situation to find yourself in, but the authors have kindly agreed to come back early next week to sign more copies of the book for people who couldn't get them on the night.
So, if you want a signed copy, you know where to get it....

'Oi Simon, what about the Strugglometer??'

Hold on just a minute. There's more to talk about.

The Portable Bookshop has now found more venues to sell its wares and we're getting some great (sideways) press here. Robin (the dandy) is magnificently relentless at making this a successful project and we are determined to ensure that it reaches its full potential. If you have any suggestions or advice, please feel free to share it.



Next Tuesday,Mr Gum author Andy bloomin Stanton is joining us and about 270 excitable kids at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham for a morning of frolics and fiddle dee dees. Mr Gum is one of our bestselling kids books and Andy is very very kindly taking time out of his writing schedule to do this gig for us. If you happen to fancy a trip to N17, there are 14 tickets left.

Alright already. It's Strugglometer time.

"Wa Wa Wee Wa", as Borat, the fictional character made famous by Sacha Baron Cohen used to say. What a great week.

Now we are at 77% of our 'relative safety' target. This is truly mindblowing and with a few days left, there is every chance we will be tickling the Strugglometer's chin by March 29th.

I realise this next bit is shameless, but I hope you can undersatnd why I ask.

if you are on Facebook, please use this link on your page

if you are on twitter, please RT this,

We are so close to what we hoped to achieve and we just need a final small push in order to make it. You have all been amazing so far. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I've Just Finished a Book

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman is it's name.

I will not spoil it too much by telling you the story, but it's a book in two parts and follows the unconventional life of Elly Portman. The story centres around the very special relationship she shares with her brother Joe, but it also introduces us to some truly wonderful supporting characters. Troubled outsider and best friend Jenny Penny, the magnificently eccentric lodger Arthur, her bizarre, disfunctional parents and of course God (a rabbit).

Think of The Wonder Years and Malcolm in the Middle. Now take the best bits from those programmes, multiply that by 6, set it in the UK and you'll get some idea of what to expect.

The second half of the book concentrates on the grown up Elly and the emphasis is more on the bitter part of bittersweet, but there are some truly wonderful moments in this book and I loved the author's writing style very much indeed.
The complexity of the characters in the book are described in such a beautifully simple way and the story, though bizarre at times, often hits that 'I know what you mean' nerve perfectly. Sometimes it's what the book suggests and is left to the readers' imagination that makes it work so well and I shall be encouragng lots of our customers to give this a try. Especially when it comes out in paperback in July.

OK. I must prepare for a tweetup

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's a Portable Bookshop

Today was the glorious (soft) launch of the Crouch End Portable Bookshop.

These are the things you need to know about the Crouch End Portable Bookshop

  1. I am now going to call it the CEPB to save time.
  2. It is an idea from the brain of Chris Meade.
  3. I like Chris Meade, he is clever.
  4. The idea is to set up temporary, but regular stalls in different cafes, bars, shops and public spaces around Crouch End with a small selection of wonderful books carefully chosen (by us) for each venue.
  5. It is looked after by a man dressed rather spectaculary in 18th century attire
  6. His name is Robin
  7. There will be 5 or 6 venues in Crouch End that will house these pop up bookshops.
  8. The advertising of this will be particularly twitter led.
  9. Robin is @raliel , The bookshop itself is @portablebooks , we are @biggreenbooks ,and Chris Meade is @ifbook and @theunlibrary.
  10. The potential for this idea is almost limitless*

So now you know what it's all about. If you want to know a bit more you can always check out Portable Books website.

The launch was at Kiss the Sky, a rather brilliant bar in the heart of Crouch End, and we'd decided that we'd choose a very wide selection of books for this launch. In future, we will choose different but clearly defined stock profiles to suit the venues, but we thought a general range would be good for the first day. So there we're local interest, fiction, kids, crime, and some titles chosen especially for the launch too.

This is the magnificent Robin in action (taken by @the_anke)

He's just sold the last copy of the Lovecraft Anthology that we supplied for the launch (we know Robin is a Lovecraft fan, so we were playing to his strengths).

We'd printed out loads of leaflets explaining the project to potenetial customers, which Robin gave out throughout the day, so hopefully news is spreading. However, lots of people had heard about it already and Robin reported that the day had gone really well, we sold well over 10% of the stock we'd supplied him (if we sold 10% of the stock in our shop every day, life would be marshmallows and bunnies).

Here is another fantastic photo of Robin on the stall (taken by @themanwhofell)

This is hopefully going to be happening daily soon in some great places in Crouch End and we really think this could be something special. Chris, Robin and I are coming up with some fantastic ideas for the bookshop (author signings, readings, Crouch End walks, short story performance, special one off huge promos for titles we love, Portable Bookshop reading Groups etc etc), and the potential for it is staggering.

Guerilla bookselling at its best.

Look out for news of the next Portable Bookshop. Coming soon.

Closer to home, the shop itself had a rather good weekend too, and as such the Strugglometer was dusted off and calculated thus.

We are now past the 2/3rds mark, on 68%. This is good news, and with 9 days to go until 'Gum Day', (see february 25th's blog), there is still every chance we can get close to our target.

Please keep telling everyone you can about the bookshop. Please.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I hope you appreciate the inventive titles I come up with these blog posts....

Today the weather was stinkerama. Cold, wet and just about as far away from delighful as you could imagine. However, a good group of mums, dads and kids turned up for our weekly 11am songs and stories for the under 5's.
There were some new people this week, which is always good, although new people don't know that they need to shout 'THERE'S A SHARK IN THE PARK' when Jeremy Pope spies one through his telescope. They did however do some great animal noises on Old MacDonald's farm.

One of our main book suppliers called us up today to tell us that we'd reached our credit limit. That was a bit of a blow. It basically meant that we had to pay our monthly bill two weeks early. Thankfully, because we've been busy busy busy recently we were able to pay it, but it was a bit of a shock and a bit of a kick in the bank balance too.

ah well.

On a more positive note, I ate 3 scones this evening.

I am readng a rather wonderful book at the moment, which I shall be talking about in the next few days, but it really is special. There is a rabbit involved....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today is Thursday isn't it.

Today was Thursday, a day originally built for Top of the Pops. But no longer. Today was St Patrick's day and as such we celebrated by offering 10% off every book by any author with the first or last name 'Patrick'. We eventually caved and allowed a 5% discount for 'Paddy' too.
As you can imagine the crowds piling throught the door looking for Patrick O'Brian, Patrick Ness or Paddy Ashdown's autobiography kept us busy for most of the day, however we did manage to get a few more things done in between.
We've got most of the books together for Sunday's launch of the Portable Bookshop we're hoping that it'll go without too many hitches. It's a soft launch (i just wrote soft launch) so we're not expectng much, but it would be great to sell a few books and get some feedback from potential customers.
I have chosen the stories to read tomorrow morning for story and song time at the bookshop. Ulysses was finally dropped in favour of Dear Zoo. I hope the kids understand.
My back is improving and I can now lift a pile of eleven books, so if any customer wants to buy twelve books tomorrow it will be a good challenge for me. I'm sure i'll be up for it.
Next week we have a tweetup, and also a great evening with Rob White and Julie Welch which will be very popular with Spurs fans.
We have almost reached 2/3rds of our relative safety target. The strugglometer has risen by 2% today (you don't need to see it do you?), and things are certainly looking a lot brighter than they were a couple of weeks ago for the bookshop that claims to be Big and Green.
Sorry for the lack of glamour in this blog post, but to make up for it I shall list 13 cheeses that I quite like
  • Port salut
  • Cabrales
  • Gorgonzola
  • Brie de meaux
  • Stilton
  • Chevre
  • Leerdammer
  • Danish blue
  • Appleby's Cheshire
  • Parmesan (how can this not be on the list)
  • Taleggio
  • Pecorino
  • Very strong Cheddar


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Quiz, Pop-up bookshop and Strugglometer.

Last night was our (almost) monthly quiz. We started this last year and it's been a pretty popular evening so far. It's a predominantly bookish quiz & a fairly large part of its popularity is without doubt the presence of our question master Greg Stekelman, who's been a huge supporter of the bookshop since its inception.
It's a good laugh and not in any way stuffy. I would go as far as to say it was stuffless, in fact.
At its peak we've had 10 teams, which was a bit of a squeeze, and usually there are between 6 and 8 teams of 3 or 4 people doing battle for the monthly prize of £25. The kind of money you can only dream of.
Last night was a bit of a monster.
13 teams turned up. Thirteen. A bakers dozen, unlucky for some (not us), THIRTEEN! (my exclamation mark quoto has now been used up).
We have no room for thirteen teams surely...
Yes we do. Of course we do.
But how Simon? HOW??
Well, it was a bit jammed, yes and we did run out of chairs. But we have good people around us, and Ayesha (a member of one of the teams) immediately dispatched a couple of people to her house to fetch some.
Within 10 minutes we had 6 more chairs and this was just enough for the last few people to sit down ready for the quiz (except Chris, who turned up a bit late).

Here is the scene from the quiz.

Notice all that thinking going on. It must have been a tricky question Greg had just asked.

The quiz this time was less bookish and more cultural, and we had a round on the Simpsons, Art and Music (in which we heard a version of Cliff Richard singing The Girl From Ipanema), as well as a couple of book related rounds. It seems that my anagram round was particularly unpopular, but I shall continue to torture peole with it, and also my question 'which two booker prize judges have also played Ken Barlow's girlfriend in Coronation Street?' went down extremely well....
We also learned that John Keats was 5 feet 1 inches tall and Catherine Cookson was NOT a author of romantic novels apparently.

As the winner was announced and the boos and jeers subsided, everyone set off into the night, hoepfully happier that they'd come to the bookshop an evening of fun.
Hopefully we can squeeze in 15 teams next time. We like a challenge.

On a completely seperate note, we are involved in something very very exciting that's starting on Sunday.

It's called THE PORTABLE BOOKSHOP, and it's a fascinating and I think innovative way of geting books out there.
Here's the background of it.
In conjunction with the Unlibrary, based in Hornsey Library, we'll be setting up temporary bookstalls in different cafes, bars and shops around Crouch End with a brilliant selection of stock carefully chosen for each venue.
The idea has so much potential, and so far there are 6 businesses that have agreed to be venues for these pop-up bookshop, including bars, supermarkets, the Library cafes and an optometrist and hopefully we will eventually have a bookshop in a different venue each day of the week.
We're looking at having different stock profile at each venue, so for example, we could have modern fiction at one venue on a Monday, Local authors at another venue on a Tuesday, Crime and thrillers on a Wednesday somewhere else, biographies on a get the idea.
We have local authors who are interested in this too and we're hoping that we'll be able to offer the good people of Crouch End pop-up book signings and talks too.
There's so many other possibilities for this project and we're really excited to be involved with it.
It will kick off here.
If you're around please come and say hello. The bookshop will be looked after by Robin (or @raliel if you're on twitter), who some people may know as the Crouch End pirate, although I must stress that he is not a pirate, he dresses as an 18th century dandy. For more information about this you can check out the website here or maybe you'd like to know more about the Unlibrary, who are a very very interesting thing indeed. Check them out here.


We climbed 2% in the last couple of days. It's steady progress and it still means that we're getting new cuastmers into the bookshop who want to help us out, which is all we can ask for. Our target is certainly achievable still and we're working hard to keep this little old bookshop buzzing.
Thanks for reading this and please share it with any people you think may be interested.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In distress

I woud like to share a true story that happened yesterday, because it is amazing.
I was coming into London on the train with my daughter Freya to take her to nursery before heading off to the bookshop. I'd tweaked my back the day before, but I stupidly thought I was fine to carry Freya instead of taking a buggy.
She was sitting on my lap on the train and as i picked her up to get off at our stop, my back crunched and i could hardly move. I staggered off the train with her and manage to get to the bottom of the steps, before sitting down.
Freya was being so good and obviously wanted me to carry her, but i realised that I could hardly stand up let alone carry her.
Then, one of our customers happened to walk down the steps to the platform. Let's call this customer Colin Kerr. He said hello and I asked him if he was in a hurry.
He told me that the train that was just arriving was his train to work.
'why do you ask?' he said.
I explained that I couldn't move and we were on our way to nursery.
He immediately told me that he would go home, get his car and give us a lift to nursery, and off he went.
I managed to get up the steps with Freya walking all the way herself (she's only teeny) , and within 10 minutes Colin was back with his car.
After a struggle (me with a knackered back and Freya not wanting to get in), we eventually got into the car and we set off to the nursery.
Colin helped us out and said he'd wait in the car for me and take me to the bookshop or wherever I needed to get to.
I told him he'd done more than enough and thanked him many times.

I love our bookshop and the customers that we've got. I'm proud to be able to call many of them friends and this wonderful act of kindness is just one more example of why we are determined to stick around.

Thanks Colin Kerr. You are a real hero.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Mondays

Yes yes, I know. It's been almost a week since I wrote the last blog post, but hey, come on... I've been busy.
The last week has been a bit of a blur,(more Graham Coxon than Damon Albarn) and we've once again been dazzled by the generosity of people.
Since last Tuesday so much has happened and I shall do my best to squeeze it all in.

Twitter has been continuing to spread the word of our appeal and so far we've had hundreds (if not thousands) of people retweeting us, or sending their own messages asking for people to help us out.
Our message has also been spread through the wonders of Facebook too and i'm still amazed and delighted about how often i'm seeing our 'please help' message on so many people's walls.
I think these two things have made what would a few years ago been a very local issue into something that has been read about, and acted upon, all over the world. I shall talk about the more local response later, but this global exposure (if you can call it that) has made a real impact in many ways. Firstly, people who have never heard of The Big Green Bookshop are suddenly buying books from us, because they understand the importance of Independent Bookshops like ours and want to make sure that we ride this out. Secondly, people in the book trade have heard about it which means we're getting offers of help from authors and publishers.
And this is a GOOD THING. More people have heard about us. We are essentially a small bookshop on a side road in North London and we are constantly trying to raise our profile and encourage more shoppers. This has, without a shadow of a doubt, happened.
Our website has been well and truly battered and where usually we expected one or two online book orders a week, we've been getting dozens. We've had about 30,000 hits in the last couple of weeks, as opposed to around 1,500. This has raised a few major cock ups on the website, which we're now trying to fix, but it's a good problem to have.

The reaction of our appeal on a local level has been incredible. It feels (and looks) like we've had our shelves stripped bare on some days and keeping stuff in stock is another of those problems that we're happy to have. Our suppliers have been brilliant and being able to get books for the next working day is a real bonus.
Last week was officially our 'please buy an extra book' week and it was a huge success. The struggleometer will be here in a moment, so you can see just how successful. We have some more work to do, but...
So, now we're almost at 60%. This is flippin' lush innit? Our delectable customers have really been spectacular this week and the jump on the stugglometer is truly amazing.

We also had our first Comedy night last Friday, organinsed brilliantly and compered by the podcaster extraordinaire Chris Brosnahan . It was a massive success and it was standing room only by the time the fist comedian came on. I stupidly took no photos, but we shall be doing this every month so I promise to do so next time.

The Saturday and Sunday just gone was brilliant too, and we were visited by the lovely David Nicholls for a signing. He was charming and his kids persuaded him to spend some money too...

There's still two weeks and a bit to go in March and we've got loads of great things lined up which will hopefully push the Strugglometer close to its target.
Here are some highlights.

Tomorrow (Tuesday 15th March) The Book Quiz
Our monthly quiz with your questiomaster Greg Stekelman. If you want to come along, do it. Do it. Do it.

We will be doing our online auction very soon. Some of the amazing items up for auction include a day learning about book translating with Gallic Books, a one to one session on journalism with Ellie Levenson, freelance journalist and lecturer and 4 tickets to Legoland in Manchester. You don't want to miss out on these great offers. The auction will go live on Thursday.

On March 20th we are very proud to be associated with the launch of this.
Crouch End doesn't have a bookshop (except Oxfam) at the moment and this is a possible solution to this. This is a really exciting project which you can read more about here.

Also in the following couple of weeks we have a big old tweet up (details here), Andy Stanton is going to be entertaining 300 local schoolkids and The Society of Young Publishers are throwing a party for us on March 31st (details here)

Many more things will be going on too, but i'm going to leave you all now and tuck into a cheese and cucumber sandwich.

To keep you going until next time, here is a recipe for falafel

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • oil for frying (canola or vegetable)
Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. Add flour and combine well.

Mash chickpeas, making sure to mix ingredients together. You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste.

Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten.

Fry in 2 inches of oil at 350 degrees until golden brown (2-5 minutes).

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Oui Aargh 3

Hurray. We've made it to three.
Today is the third birthday of the Big Green Bookshop and we have much to celebrate, don't we?
Firstly and most importantly, we are still here, selling books in N22. The booktrade has changed massively in the last three years. Borders is no longer here, E-Readers are less than £500 and Katie Price has produced 37 autobiographies in this time.
But we haven't changed a bit. Look.
Us in 2008

Us in 2011

still looking as baffled as we always have.

We had a surprise visit from a Noel Park School, where a class had made us this amazing Birthday card.
They also brought some cake and sang Happy Birthday. You should have been here.

Later today our book group will be meeting to discuss The Company of Liars by Karen Maitland, and eating more cake.

And now to the stugglometer.....
There's been a break of 3 days since the last official data has been imputted.
So here's the 3 day update
Saturday was a 4% increase
Sunday was a 3% increase
Monday was a 2% increase
and using this data, we come to this conclusion.

Things have slowed down a little, but this has given us a chance to catch up with online sales, which reached a scale we'd never experienced before. (if you ordered through us online, we've almost caught up now, so you should be getting your books very soon.

We also have a Comedy Night on Friday

Do come along and laugh.

I must now sell books and eat cake and twiglets brought in by the lovely Nathan.
Thanks for continuing to tell people about our appeal. We do really really appreciate it.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Get Set For The Weekend

As I have no Internet access, i'm typing this on a phone, so should it be shorter or have even more than rhe usual half a dozen glaring grammatical errors I can use this as an excuse.
I hope you are all well by the way.
Enjoying you're Weekend?
Now, where were we...?
Ah yes, the bookshop. The lovely lovely bookshop.
I need to update you on Friday and Saturday, don't I.
Well, people continue to astonish and humble us with their kindness and generosity. On Friday, Tim took ace children's author Ciaran Murtagh, author of Dinopants, Dinopoo, Dinoburps and the seminal Dinoball, to a couple of local schools. Ciaran is absolutely brilliant at school events, and the kids had a fantastic time. They also learnt that inventing underwear for dinosaurs has it's pitfalls.
Mark and I minded the shop and we had to face the prospect of doing storytelling and songs to the under 5's without the strumtastic Tim on guitar. We needn't have worried as the Mums, Dads and (occasionally) the kids joined in with all the classics like Row Row Row Your Boat, and The Wheels On The Bus with gusto. I did a couple more stories than usual and everyone seemed happy enough.
The day itself was Another busy one and the article inthe local papers seem to have got a new crowd of people into the shop who didn't know we were here before. We have become a bit of a curiosity with a number of people poking their heads round the door and saying 'You're that shop that's closing down, aren't you?'.
'we really hope not' we reply, before explaining to them the situation.
Saturday was also flippin' ace, helped by a cheque from a school that we weren't expecting so quickly.
Wheras sometimess it takes a couple of hours before things warm up on a Saturday, today it seemed, we were some peoples first port of call and the coffee had only just been put on before the shop was buzzing.
The day flew past and we signed up about 40 new people to our loyalty card scheme, which means they'll get our newsletter. The newsletter is probably our most effective way of letting people know what's going on in the shop. Prettymuch everyone on the list has been here before, so this means they might come back.
We also finalised details of a rather exciting author signing next weekend.
Yes, on Saturday March 12th at 11.00am, David Nicholls, author of the current chartbusting bestseller One Day, willbe at the BigGreen Bookshop to show his support and sign copies of his books. He's a nice man isn't he?
Please one along if you can, or if not get in touch with the shop to get a signed copy reserved. You know the routine... or 020 8881 6767.
What else can i tell you?
We've been inundated with emails wishing us well and offering help. These are all very very much appreciated (and yes, some of them bring me to tears) and we're trying to reply to all of them. Thank you to everyone who's been in touch.

Now to the Strugglometer. As I said, I am typing this on a telephone and as such, I can't add pictures. I just don't have those skills. However I will add the diagram tomorrow when I get to the bookshop. However, I can tell you that the strugglometer has jumped an impressive 7% over the last two days to 43%.
The biggest week in the shortish history of the Big Green Bookshop has started. Let's hope things go well....

Thursday, March 03, 2011

It's World Book Day, Innit?

Hurray. Today is World Book Day. Let's call it WBD from now on shall we.
We were up bright and early to make sure much fun and frivolity was had around the borough.
Most schools seem to choose the week that WBD is in to have a book week, and as well as taking two authors out to schools yesterday, we'd organised for seven schools to have authors visit them today for book related enjoyment.
Graham Marks, Guy Bass, Ciaran Murtagh, Karen McCombie and Ann Jungman were out and about today in schools entertaining and informing many happy kids and bringing books and reading to life for them.
There's something very special about author visits to schools when they go right, where the kids are clearly excited and engaged in what the author has to say. The schools that we visited today were brilliant and the authors all left feeling as though the experience was a very positive one.
We didn't get too many kids through the door to pick up their £1 WBD book (which is produced especially for the day), but I suspect we'll get a few in over the weekend.

The day itself was once again, very encouraging. Our local newspaper, The Journal, comes out on a Thursday, and in it was an article with a picture of Tim and I looking very serious with copies of Legend of A Suicide and Fludd in our hands (two excellent books, if I may say so. In fact, Fludd is my favourite Hilary Mantel book, which is saying something after Wolf Hall). Also, on the following page, weekly columnist Ivor Baddiel had dedicated his whole column to us.
This, we hope, will bring our appeal to a few more local people, ready for next week.
It's a real joy at the moment working at the shop, not least because we're selling lots of books. But it's the books we're selling too that are really cheering me up.
Today we sold our last copy of the A-Z of Possible Worlds by Anne Tillyer, a brilliant collection of short stories published by the delightfully inventive Roastbooks, two copies of the afforementioned Fludd, by Hilary Mantel, and some splendid picture books too.
David vann is selling really well at the moment and we're also having to increase our range of gaslight crime (victorian and turn of the century british mysteries). It's been a while since we've been in a position to do that.

I've been asked by quite a few people how I calculate the Strugglometer percentage rise.
It is a highly complicated formula that I have employed 4 harvard academics to calculate for me. Not even I know exactly how it works. But I do know that it's accurate. And I also know that what follows this sentence is todays Strugglometer, brought to you today by Cypressa Pistachio Nuts. They're not just the nut choice for Cyprus, they're the nut choice for everyone (produced in Iran).
This is a two day calculation, as I wasn't working yesterday, but 6% in two days is really great. This was helped massively by the sales of the books at schools today for WBD and I want to thank all the schools and all the authors for the effort that they put into making it a really great day.

So two more days befroe the BIG WEEK and already we're more than a third of the way towards our target of relative safety.
Tomorrow is storytelling in the morning and more school visits, and a lot more book ordering in the hope that the weekend will be a good one.

Thanks to everyone who's offered stuff for the Big Green Bookshop online auction, which will begin on March 10th and run for a week.
A reminder that we're asking publishers, authors, editors, celebrities etc if they can spare stuff (tickets, signed books etc) or offer services (author visits, workshops etc) to auction off. Half the proceeds will go to 3 local schools who we feel really need a boost.

Anyway, as from tomorrow I will not have an internet connection at my house (weeps softly), but I shall try and keep you up to date with how things are going somehow or other.


Day Off

I am writing this on Wednesday March 2nd

Today was my son Ollie's first birthday. I had a day off.

I shall find out more about the day at the bookshop when I go in tomorrow at 8.00am.
It's World Book Day, so if you want to come in before school to pick up your £1 book please feel free.

Instead of work I went to a farm in Hertfordshire called Willow's Farm. We saw pigs and baby lambs (lambs are always baby), horses, goats, guinea pigs, ducks and an impressive variety of birds of prey.

Ominously, we saw two of these.
Thankfully, they weren't circling us, but I made a quick call to the bookshop to find out how the day was going.
The vultures looked a little embarrassed and sloped off as Mark told me that the day was going very well.
It being one O clock in the morning I shall now have to go to bed. There'll be a two day Strugglometer update tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

More Coverage than Dulux One Coat

Today has been a steady one in the shop. Nothing too spectacular, but still well ahead of the kind of sales we were making last week.

Our online sales continue to be outstanding and to give you some idea of the appeal of our er.... appeal, last week we were getting around 40 visitors a day to, whereas today for example, so far we've had 550 unique visitors and double figure sales (usually we sell about 2 books a week online).
A lot of this new traffic is because people are talking about us on the internet. We've noticed some wonderful blog posts like these...

This one from Lucy

This from Christopher Fowler

This from Sam Enthoven

This by Jayne Joso

This one here too

I found these all very easily with a quick search of our name (if i've missed anybody out, i'm really sorry. I've had about 4 hours sleep in the last 5 days).We've been tweeted about fiercely by hundreds of wonderful people. A nice retweet from someone like Simon Pegg or Stephen Fry would be nice though...

And following on from our bit in the Times yesterday, there was this spectacular article on the Guardian website by Stuart Evers. The article has certainly got people talking judging by the number of comments, and we are absolutely made up that all these people i've mentioned above would want to say such lovely things about little old us.

Things that people have asked us.
Do you have a facebook Group? YES. It's called 'A Decent Bookshop in Wood Green (revisited).
Why is it called that, you pillock? Because, we started the group before we had a name for the bookshop.
What is Your Twitter Name? @biggreenbooks
Why is it called that, you pillock? Because that's the name of our shop (almost)
The book I want isn't on your website, can you get it? YES. We manually list the titles onto our website, so we only have 400 odd titles on there. We stock around 8,000 and can order pretty much anything.
When are you going to show us the Strugglometer? NOW.

OK, the strugglometer has risen by 2% today. Not massive, but still, we can't expect every day to be monumental. Let's not get downhearted. Come on, chin up, there's a long way to go.

Tomorrow is my son Ollie's first birthday. We are going to be spending the day on a farm in Hertfordshire looking at sheep and eating sandwiches. Tim will be at one of our local Schools with two brilliant authors, Sarah Matthias and Sam Enthoven. Mark will be at the shop. Go and say hello to Mark if you're in the area, he makes a lovely cup of tea.