I have just closed my bookselling business. It limped along like a consumptive war veteran for five inglorious years before I decided to call it a day. My remaining stock now lies in a cowshed being slowly consumed by cobwebs and mould.
The business wasn’t a complete failure. I managed to sell over 12,000 books and in the early days, worked in an idyllic rural setting with a group of people that included one of the cast of ‘The Archers’. Sadly, I then made the mistake of moving to a remote, malodorous farmyard, where the pleasant bleating of sheep was replaced by the agonised cries of frustrated bulls sodomising each other.
I shared my new unit with four Polish alcoholics, all of whom liked to get drunk within the first hour and race around in a fork lift truck, seeing how close they could get to my shed without crashing into it. It wasn’t quite the antiquarian bookselling idyll that I’d envisaged.
In the end, it wasn’t the bulls or the Poles that finished me off, or even the menagerie of rats, robins, minks, newts, spiders and toads that shared my premises. It was the simple problem of obtaining stock from a recycling industry that found it more cost-effective to bin their old books and sell them to waste paper merchants.
I can’t say that I’m particularly sorry that it’s over. When, during one wet, wintry morning last year, I was almost crushed to death by a one tonne delivery of books, I couldn’t help thinking that there must be easier ways to earn a living.
The next few months will be spent disposing of my stock and fixtures and if I come across any interesting books or abandoned photographs, I will share them here.
I’ll begin with some lost photos, all of which have come from different sources. Most of them have no dates or places, which is both tantalising and frustrating.
A timeless scene like this is hard to date, but at a guess I’d say it was taken between the late 40s and early 50s. The rather bland building must have been fairly new then.
The two people who interest me are the waiter and the airman, both of whom are outsiders in this setting. The airman appears to regard the scene with an attitude that could range from simple indifference to outright contempt. (I’m assuming that he’s an airman. For all all know, he could be from the Dutch navy)
These women are celebrating qualifying as the runners-up in a ‘Ladies Darts League’, somewhere in the Birmingham area during, I would guess, the late 1950s. I’m particularly drawn to the older woman, who almost appears to be snarling at the camera. Perhaps she had her heart set on the First Prize.
I’ve also noticed that the woman in the back row – second from the left – bears more than a passing resemblance to Cherie Blair.
The next photo appeared perfectly innocuous, then I read the writing on the back:
I can’t begin to imagine the story that lies behind these chilling words.
I like this photo because it is nothing more than a snapshot, but fills me with a longing to be a passenger on that ship, sipping cocktails as the sun sets on the British Empire. In reality, a cruise ship would be my idea of hell.
This setting, in Knott End, Lancashire, offers slightly less glamour than the 1930s cruise liner. Indeed, I think that the woman might be sitting on part of a disgarded sewerage outflow pipe.
And that ends this rather inauspicious beginning to my new blog. I had planned something quite different, involving my mother and her friends talking about their memories of World War Two. The aim was for something a little more ‘multimedia’, with podcasts and links to Instagram and Twitter.
My mother had got as far as gaining her friends’ agreement to take part, but then she ruined everything by dying. Now I’m quite rudderless.
However, after waiting in vain for the right moment to begin a new blog, I have decided to just get on with it.