Hurley Books has had to take a bit of a back seat whilst we launched our holiday lets business, Dreaming Of Cornwall, unfortunately the season waits for no man and suddenly we had missed the London Book Fair which I had every intention of going to this year. Anyway the stationery fair beckoned and whilst I’ve never been before, what the hell, we needed to pay some attention to the shop so I jumped onto the night train and slept my way up to London. As ever I woke up to an empty Paddington platform and struggled over to the first class lounge (it is so nice in there and open to all with a sleeper ticket.)
The wonderful Riviera Sleeper
If Leonard Cohen wrote SF
Finally caffeined up and ready to face London proper I headed off to Islington. I got onto the tube and promptly got off at the next stop. I swear I could have lifted both my feet off the floor and I wouldn’t have moved a millimetre, the crush was horrific. I waited for three more equally press ganged torture chambers to pass and then I got on the fourth, where whilst I didn’t get a seat I could at least catch a breath.
An empty Paddington
The stationery fair was less hand made Italian papers and more salesmen with pen pitches. However, despite the rather business business feel to the place I did find some nice pens and some even nicer handmade paper and journals. Only some of which I thought would work in Mevagissey, so watch this space and see some of the lovely stuff we have ordered coming into the shop.
I got into a lovely conversation with a chap from Charfleet Book Bindery, who recommended I visit Maison Assouline, an apparently remarkable bookshop, a not to be missed bookshop. Now I’ll be honest as I nodded my head and smiled enthusiatically, I was going to skip it and head straight to the V&A where I could drop the thirty thousand bags that the sales reps had laid me down with. Oh the weight! My shoulders and feet were killing me and for two pins I’d have just gone home. But you know the old prayer “I may only pass this way but once…”* So I decided to head off in search of this not to be missed bookshop. Could I just say, if you are in London, do go and visit, it really isn’t to be missed.
* Seems it was more a “Be nice” motto than a “Carpe Diem” one.
First off Maison Assouline is not a bookshop where you are likely to make a purchase unless it is one of their amazing cocktails from the large mahogany bar in the corner. The building was designed by Lutyens and from floor to ceiling the shelves are lined with folio signed art books; beyond glorious. The porter, yes porter, took my many bags from me, welcomed me and encouraged me to wander around. I nosed about a bit and found an oak spiral staircase in the corner and climber up to a small bindery on the mezzanine floor, I wandered through oak corridors and found a room stuffed with antiques to furnish my own library with;astrolabes, zebra pelts, plinths but what was really calling my attention was the very loud and interesting music coming from another room. I opened the door and realised I had walked into some sort of very private event. There were only three people in a very large book lined room listening to a pair of phenomenal loudspeakers. Again I was met with friendliness and waved in to browse the shelves but this time I just sat and listened to the rather incredible speakers. The music was loud but there was no bass reverb, no interference, if I had closed my eyes Billie Holiday could have been on the stage in front of me. Eventually refreshed, I left and asked the staff downstairs what was going on. Apparently the speakers cost £250,000.00 (yes, that’s the correct amount of zeros) and are only sold on a private word of mouth basis via private audiences, and I gatecrashed one 🙂 If you are tempted they are called YAR and whilst I’m not sure if anything is worth that much money I would say that if you would consider that an acceptable price for speakers then these were pretty decent!
Oh to have this sort of space
Tucked away bindery 🙂
Hand built YAR Speakers. Amazing sound.
Finally I made it to the V&A and made straight for the cloakroom where I dumped my oh too heavy bags and relaxed in the sunshine drinking a fresh lemonade. Then headed to the Underwear exhibition that turned out to be poorly curated and overpriced, that’s twice now, not impressed, but there was one little highlight. Behind one of the look don’t touch, don’t sketch, don’t photograph, don’t breathe cabinets was a picture of a chap in Jaeger longjohns with hat and parasol. Turned out to be George Bernard Shaw on the beach at Mevagissey!
Very cute but lacking some practical elements.
Maybe wear this over the top?
An oasis of calm.
And with a smile on my face I donned my metaphorical longjohns and headed back home.
It’s cold and blowy and the only people about are locals and there’s not many of them either. I don’t blame them, I don’t want to be out in it either but the sales have to be sent. I finish tieing up my post sacks and nip over to the post office to drop them off, I want to be quick because Postie hadn’t been yet and I don’t want to miss him. Stopping at the Post Office I get caught up with Kath chatting about the book that she’s reading, she wasn’t chatting, that would be me, I can’t resist asking what people are reading. I go and grab some milk and popcorn from Moore’s. Another reason for doing the mail early means that Dave hasn’t opened the sweet shop yet. I do like the dark chocolate brazils a little too much.
Anyway I get back and sure enough there’s the red slip on the cobbles telling me I’ve missed him. So I’m straight back out on the street, playing Find the Postie. He hasn’t returned to the Post Office, the fishermen haven’t seen him, I trudge back to the shop when Morley bangs on the window and points up Jetty Street. I nip out onto the harbour and spot Postie at the far side who sees me and waves. Standing by the lobster pots I sign for my parcel, wave up at Morley and go and put the kettle on.
Welcome to a day in the life of a Mevagissey bookseller.Well it starts as always with a box full of books in the car and a drive in from St Austell. Today was hellishly windy but as I dropped down into the village the wind seemed to die down, clearly Heligan was taking the brunt of the winds.I drove down Jetty Street parked up and unloaded. This is always a tricky effort but easier in winter, this morning I am unimpeded by any other traffic and I drive off to park at the lighthouse.I could park in one of the other car parks, but I love walking out by the sea, dodging the seaweed strewn road and the splashing waves.It’s also the cheapest place to park which helps!
Walking back to the shop I’m stopped by a couple in a car who ask me if I’m local. Now there’s a question.I doubt there are many other places in the world where such an innocent sounding question is laden with problems. No, I’m not local, I come from St Austell but even there I’m not local, I used to live up country, worse yet my parents aren’t local either, neither are their parents. However, these guys are on holiday and just want to know if the Wheelhouse serves breakfasts. As if to underline how much of a local I’m not, I don’t know the answer. Frustratingly the wife pipes up “Only we saw people in there eating breakfast…” Grrr, well surely that answers your own question!? On I stroll and pause to watch a cormorant sunning himself on a rock and think about how gorgeous life is sometimes, so long as you choose not to focus on stupid questions.
The day progresses along normal lines, as we have the new EV Thompson in, lots of people are popping in to collect their copy and all of them stop to share a story with me. They are really entertaining but I’m not getting anything done. He was a lovely gentleman and is clearly missed by a lot of people. Here in the village he was well known and loved, not because he was famous but because he was good. Other people wander in for a browse and find some book that they can’t do without. Others baulk at £3 and point out that they can get it for a pound at their local car boot sale. Hmm, off you go then.
Out in the street the wind is picking up but unfortunately for the Mevagissey Lights Committee this is also when they need to hang the new lights.Jetty Street is getting some amazing strands of lights running the entire length; they are going to look stunning. The lights committee are swearing as the lights refuse to switch on but the wind is whipping away any offending words and only the gulls are assaulted by the words and God knows they’ve had worse directed right at them.
By three the heavens open and the road is white with bouncing rain. By four I have my ark built and head home, I stop at Kim’s to buy some fish and have to laugh. She was telling me when it started raining she was chatting to some of the fisherman who promptly bolted at the first drop of rain. Now there’s a group of men that you’d think wouldn’t melt in the rain.Then again, I should imagine that they have to put up with more than their fair share at sea. Getting wet inland is just too much. The road outside the firestation is flooded but there are people out helping to direct the traffic through the shallowest section. And then I’m off home again, driving out of Mevagissey and thinking about what a great day it’s been despite the atrocious weather.
As soon as Bonfire night is over I find that as a business we automatically turn to Christmas.The shop is beginning to fill up with little goodies and as I have a Christmas Fair over at Newquay this year I have even more goodies than normal.I’m particularly pleased with the stationery lines that we have.I know that in the age of the internet and mobile phones, which instant messaging, texts and e-mails than hand written word seems to be coming a bit of a rare bird but who doesn’t love to receive a real letter through the post?A blog is never going to be the same as a journal, Facebook may be a clever all dancing and singing bit of kit but it can’t replace the privacy of a diary.With this in mind I’ve chosen some lovely notecards, stationery sets, journals and notepads, they are beautiful to look at as well as to hold and to write on and I hope that they prove very popular.I’ll be selling them at the Macmillan fair but I’m keeping some back for the shop so that everyone can get to have a browse. In addition to these I’ve gone mad and have stocked in some new books for Christmas. These are really special books that will make memorable presents so I hope that I haven’t taken too much of a gamble. You’ll have to come and have a look and tell me what you think.
Of course it’s not just the shop that’s getting ready for Christmas, the village is too. Last night the Lights Committee were out in force measuring bits of street and surveying walls ready for new brackets and the like. Over the year they have worked so hard fundraising for the lights and it’s always gratifying to see such large crowds come out and see the village light up. For the first time ever Jetty Street will also have lights, long garlands running the length of the street which I think will look stunning. We’re also going to have two Christmas trees sticking out of the wall so we will be really festive. On a sadder note this will be our first year without EV Thompson coming in for a signing session. We have his books in stock now and they are selling as well as ever but nonetheless it’s still a damn shame.
Inevitably, once the business starts to think of Christmas then wearing my other hat I also start to think of Christmas for the home and family.Next weekend we will bake the cake, an event that always seems to cause more grief than it should but this year I’m going to do it by myself and if the children want to join in they are more than welcome.I really want to make shortbread and ginger bread decorations for the tree but I imagine that that would just be too much of a temptation for Agatha and to be fair I think Harry would also find it difficult to resist tearing down the Christmas tree for a quick snack, so maybe I’ll have to forego those for a few years.
So lots to plan for and hopefully everything will go off with a bang, except for the lights. We don’t want any banging where the lights are concerned.
I think it’s fair to say that down here in Cornwall people don’t seem to be that bothered by celebrity. Film and TV stars wander around and locals look at them briefly wondering where they recognise them or give a nod and a hi and go on their way.The other day a group of us were on a dog walk and passed Dawn French, we all nodded and smiled, as you do when you pass someone on a footpath, and continued on. No great shakes, no gushing, no autographs, we just get on with it and we let people get on with their lives as well.I’ve often heard singers and the like who live in Cornwall giving interviews on the radio saying that living in Cornwall is great because everyone treats them just like anyone else. A while back my brother met Andrew Ridgley at a dinner party; did they talk about Wham, the fame, the fortune? Nope, they discussed their golfing handicaps and pudding.
So all these recent stories concerning Jimmy Saville has made me think about the way people behave towards famous people.Whilst he hasn’t been convicted of anything it does appear that over the decades there have been numerous complaints against him that were ignored, hushed up or just not believed. Can you imagine how scary and humiliating the world must have seen to these young girls? To have such terrible things happen to them but then to not be believed either? It really does beggar belief.Was he so well respected that no one would believe it or was there a culture of cover up going on or was the money he raised in fund raising really worth turning a blind eye for? I find the whole affair hard to understand.I always thought he was an unpleasant character and when he died I heard comments from some along the lines of “let’s see what will comes out of the woodwork” but I couldn’t believe anything would. Just because someone seems creepy doesn’t mean that they are, and surely, surely no one could get away with so much when they were so frequently in the public eye?
In the same week Lance Armstrong has been found guilty of illegal drug use. He denies the claims but won’t contest them and now a whole host of people have come forward to say his cheating was constant over the years.Again, the only way for him to get away with it was with massive support from his team members. It seems so harsh that a man who survived cancer and went on to win massively will now only be remembered as a drugs cheat.
I just think the UK media needs to take a look at how Cornwall does things and follow suit. Treat people at face value, don’t allow them to get away with stuff just because they are famous and say well done only when something is well done.
Now some of you observant readers may, by now, have realised that we have a bookshop. In Mevagissey. Near the harbour. Hurley Books it’s called. This is not the time or the place to mention it. That would be unfair and an abuse of my position. But, I was thinking the other day that in 10 years of trading we haven’t had many celebs buying their tomes from us. The more I thought about it however, the more I realised that I was wrong. We’ve had our fair share. Probably the most well known was Griff Rhys Jones who called into our shop when we were in Charlestown to buy a local guide.
Steve once served the lady who co presents “How clean is your house” on TV. Aggie MacKenzie. He didn’t recognise her of course, probably because she is a middle aged woman who presents a cleaning programme and has no connection with football. After she had left and I told him who it was his only comment was “Oh, do you think we passed?” Probably not.
We’ve yet to get a film star in, although Johnny Depp was a distinct possibility when he was filming in Charlestown. As was Mel Gibson when he, allegedly, paid a visit to the area when directing “Apocalyto”. They both evaded our clutches, clearly not big readers.
There has been the odd brush with royalty. Edward’s wife was in Mevagissey recently and walked past our shop. She even looked in but, alas, did not cross the threshold. We did once send a book, ordered on the internet, to Buckingham Palace. It may have been ordered on behalf of the Queen so who knows we could be by Royal Appointment? We also send out to some pretty famous names via our online business. However, given that I am Liz Hurley a name doesn’t necessarily mean what it might suggest.
And let’s not forget the infamous. Several times have we sent books to prisons. I have no idea what the purchasers had done to land themselves in jail but what better way to pass the time than with a good book. Perhaps the thickness of the book is an indication of the crime. “War and Peace”, must be in for murder, “Animal Farm” must be a looter.We’ve also sent a few to the Houses of Parliament but I wasn’t sure whether this group belonged to the former or the latter category!
The crème de la crème, though, are the literary celebs. They may not be as well known but we, in the book trade, tend to get dewy eyed when authors come a callin’. Colin Wilson, E V Thompson and Tessa Hainsworth are three of our regulars. Colin lives locally and is a prolific author covering a wide range of subjects. He shot to fame in the 60’s with his controversial book, “The Outsider”. E V Thompson is one of Cornwall’s best known authors with a huge following and Tessa, who gave up a high flying job in London, relocated to Cornwall to become a post woman. She has written 2 very popular books recounting her experiences.The real joy of authors though is that by and large we don’t know what they look like and that’s the sort of fame I like, respected for what you’ve written not what you look like.
That said it’s rumoured that Brad Pitt is in Cornwall and desperate for something good to read, so why not come down to our shop. You may catch a glimpse of him. We’re in Mevagissey. Right by the harbour. Hurley Books.