Thursday, August 09, 2007

Saving bookshops

I can't remember the first time I was taken to Heffers bookshop in Cambridge and allowed to choose my own book. I can't even remember what book it was, although I was always a sucker for stories about posh girls (being absolutely not one myself) so it was probably a Madeline. Or at least, I'd like to think of it being a Madeline book because those twelve little girls in two straight lines still give me pleasure every time I re-read them. What I can remember though is a full size mirror in the children's bit of the bookshop that made you look as if you had a funny shape, that moment of panic when there were TOO many books I wanted, and the excitment when I had chosen and rushed up to my father, to see then what my two brothers and sister had chosen. God, how lucky was I? Not just to be given books, but to be allowed to treat bookshops as somewhere normal, even fun, and not places you might not be allowed to go into if you're not the 'right sort' (as some people think). Because the four of us Peplow kids were absolutely not the right sort. We never learnt the art of staying still and not sticking our fingers up our noses and respecting personal space - and all those things the kids who won the Blue Peter badges seemed to know. With us, there would always be an argy-bargy even as we went through the bookshop door, with one kid shoving another out of the way; as the youngest, I was born with an effective elbow-technique. In fact, that's probably where I learnt it. Let me out first, mum! Only to find out I was last. Doomed to disappointment from day one.

Anyway, I digress. These trips were probably monthly and they were different from our weekly visits to the library. The library was wonderful, but part of the pleasure was that it was for everyone. The bookshop and the books we got were simply for us. We'd all be clutching our books as we drove home, and then retreat to separate parts of the house to read them. It was probably the only time we were quiet.

Now, if I have any time to spare in a town, I'll head straight for a bookshop which probably expains my to-be-read pile. Someone once told me that buying a book is actually buying the time to read that book. I've got at least a year saved up for me by the side of my bed alone.

So this a long preamble as to why I've signed this petition to save the Waterstones in Wood Green from Me and My Big Mouth. This is what Scott says:
This would be a complete disaster for the area. We do not need another clothes shop, mobile phone shop or fast food shop. Our kids need bookshops. We have started an online petition in the last few days which has already gathered over 200 signatures including those of writers Chris Salewicz, Jonathan Harvey, Lucy Gannon, Chris Lang, Paul Gilroy and Rafaella Barker. We have also complained to the local councillors, Lynne Featherstone and David Lammy MP, the Mayor and alerted the local press. There's no spam, no junk mail, no access to your email address and no money required and it only takes a minute to do. This is purely about supporting the idea of keeping the only good bookshop in our area and helping kids develop a love for reading.

Wood Green High Street is already full of clothes shops and this is the only dedicated bookshop for miles around. As you may be aware, Wood Green is an underprivileged area with quite a large ethnic minority population and it just seems that closing the only decent bookshop in the area will have a devastating effect. It does not seem to be an accident that Waterstone's are trying to do this in the school holidays when we cannot contact local schools and colleges.

This is not just about somewhere to buy books. This is about supporting a place where mums can have a coffee while their kids browse the books and develop an appetite for reading at an early stage, where the staff are actually knowledgeable and helpful, where kids can meet local authors at signings which bring books to life. We will certainly be opposing this move to the last and contacting all the local papers. We very much hope that Waterstone's will reconsider.

The link to our petition is below where you can read some comments from local people about this decision. Please sign it and forward on to your friends. If you have any other writers, celebs who you think might be willing to email-sign please forward it to them.....go on, this is your chance to show off that address book!

You can sign here.


Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I love bookstores, they are a playground for me. I love to walk through, looking at all of them, sliding my finger along the rows and the smell of the insides of them.

Magic for me.

I also have a huge stack by my bedside. Mandatory.

Good post!

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Sarah said...

Yes, books appeal to all the senses, don't they? A friend of mine who works in a bookshop says people often come in just to smell them!

Mary Witzl said...

I signed!

There is nothing as delicious as the smell of a bookstore, the wonderful combination of printer's ink and fresh paper. Libraries smell pretty good too, but bookstores smell even better.

How relieved I am to know that other people have noticed this too...