This weekend has been rather different. Instead of the usual lazing, and generally recovering from another week at the coalface, I’m feeling rather energetic and am up with the lark. It’s funny what the promise of a week surrounded by books can do for the soul!
I’m preparing for my week long residency with the Open Book in Wigtown and , as such, my opportunity to road test the dream, the long hoped for life choice and long-held notion of ‘utopia’ that I’ve always believed would come from having my very own bookshop and thus, relishing in a life full of books and meeting like-minded book lovers. Romantic naivety? Perhaps, but this is my time to see how it all squares up to the reality! My preparations are probably a little bit different to most others looking to take on this challenge for I’m not really going it alone... my every movement is being tracked by a tv crew. No need to panic if you were contemplating a visit to the shop – there are only two of them and they’re gentlemen – I promise! We’re making a documentary for the Gaelic TV Channel, BBC ALBA, an hour long feature that’s looking at the world of second hand books, the changes that are taking place within the industry, the pitfalls and the hopes for the future.
And so I flew to Glasgow on Friday night (I’m from the stunningly beautiful Western Isles – something I might write more about later! Better still, if you can, pop into the shop and I can bore you with tales and photos galore from the Islands)! I spent the weekend under the bright city lights exploring some of the second-hand bookshops, meeting the characters who own them and those who frequent them. It was a great way to spend a Saturday! Voltaire and Rousseau in Glasgow’s West End left me speechless – a feat seldom achieved. Here is a shop open for over forty years, stocked so full of books that you find yourself wondering if they’re what’s holding the building together. Every square inch of space is piled with books on every imaginable topic. They’re piled 6 feet high and four rows deep and present a challenge to the curious that’s akin to a game of jenga of gigantic proportions. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the order and organisation but that’s half the fun – you never really know what gem you might uncover. However, one must be warned that once you enter this Aladdin’s cave that you might find it difficult to leave. It would take months to look through all that’s there – but imagine how pleasurable those months would be! We were also treated to a bookshop birthday on Saturday evening as Young’s Interesting Books in Shawlands saw in their 5th year in business. Run by the most welcoming Irish couple, this small but beautiful bookshop certainly does as is promised in the name and stocks an interesting array of books, many chosen for their stunning covers. A particular highlight of the day was the suitably interesting entertainment put on for the party – a pair of eccentric but talented balladeers who serenaded all in attendance with their book themed collection of songs! Oh and the cake and wine wasn’t half bad either!
So... armed with insights, advice and a better understanding of the trade, I look forward to Wigtown and my own, albeit temporary, slice of the literary pie!