I am near the end of my tour, just a few days to go, which is why I drank one pint more than usual the night before.
JE Books is the smallest bookshop on my tour. It is situated in one of those old shopping arcades that reminds you of when a high street had shops owned by many people rather than dominated by two or three corporations which are all probably ultimately owned by a big American hedge fund company.
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There is no element of surprise in those generic stores, but this arcade is a place of potential delights, whether you are looking for sound equipment or a whoopee cushion (that’s from Dinsdales Joke Shop – “We sell laughter – keep smiling”).
Julie, who owns the bookshop, is just the sort of person you want to meet when you are doing a Monday morning 11am book signing with a slightly blurry head. She is ebullient.
She has worked in a bookmaker’s, the civil service, taught English at the University of Hull and has a
PhD on the novels of Jeanette Winterson. Like all the other booksellers I have met, she always knew her destiny was to have a shop of her own.
There is no room to sign in the shop, so she has set up a table outside, with a chair with a hot water bottle on it in case I am cold, a blanket, hand disinfectant and a box of chocolates. What author could ask for more?
On top of that, people come and we run out of books. Though I am in a hurry to get the train, I cannot leave without browsing and, as ever, I find there are books I must have.
Of course I need a 1950s Penguin Guide to Devon to compare and contrast Ilfracombe, as well as a David Foster Wallace interview and one of Richard Allen’s lurid skinhead books from the early 1970s.
This is the end of my north of England leg of the tour, I recline in my seat as I pass the Humber Bridge enjoying a soft centre and falling into the dubious pleasure of pulpy youth culture written by a middle-aged man.
“Billy shrugged and settled back against the Cortina’s upholstery. At 21 he was beyond reach of the do-gooder society’s leniency. Beyond the screaming newspapers.”
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My next destination is Warwick Books. I arrive at 5pm, but all is closing now, save for the light at the end of the square where the bookshop throbs.
Tonight’s event includes cheese cubes on cocktail sticks and prosecco. We are having a party.
Like Julie, Mog and her wife Pauline knew they had to run a bookshop. It buzzes with recommendations, and I do not leave empty-handed.
The reasons for my sciatica are not hidden, but piled around my house – the possibility of shelves long since gone, but what a way to drown.
Robin Ince is an author and broadcaster
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