This week, I was invited down to London to meet a group of people from the Norwegian School of Bookselling & discuss how Bookselling differs in Norway to the UK. I love London, & I love it even more when Waterstones pay for my train journey, so I decided to make the most of it & go down the day before so I could smuggle myself into the Harpercollins Children’s Roadshow – A Bookseller only event in the biggest bookshop in the country – Waterstones Piccadilly.
So, on a train I hopped. My travel book of choice? I’m currently re-reading Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy, so it was book 2: The Ask & the Answer… But to be on the safe side, I had Irvine Welsh’s Filth in my bag too. You should never travel more than ten minutes from home with only one book on your person… To do so would be SHEER FOLLY. My first stop on arrival to London was booking in at my hotel, then zooming off to Waterloo Station to meet up with fellow Book Blogger & all round smashing human being, Sister Spooky! So, with a tasty warm Vanilla Latté to help battle off the driving rain outside, we engaged in a great discussion about the important things in life: BOOKS. There was also a great deal of chat on the pitfalls of working in Retail, as well as the obvious joys of regular customers. After a delightful drink, I headed back out into the pouring rain & explored some of London’s prettiest sights with the advantage of the weather making things nice & quiet.
That night, I navigated the tubes to Piccadilly for the Harpercollins event. First thing I did was get lost in the shop, hoofing myself all the way up to the top floor to be told the event was in the basement… Because that’s what I do. I managed to sneak my way in & plonk myself at the back of the room during Sarah Lean’s talk about her latest book for 9-12’s, A Dog Called Homeless. Next up, the amazingly lovely Holly Smale gave us a quick talk about her upcoming third book in the Geek Girl series, Picture Perfect & how she was lucky enough to be sent to New York as RESEARCH (because apparently being an author is just ridiculously amazing), which hints at where Harriet Manner’s modelling misadventures may take her next! After Holly revealed Anne of Green Gables as her “Desert Island Book”, it was the turn of debut author of Tape, & stand up poet Steven Camden, who regaled us with his attempts to write a book that he would’ve wanted to read – a book full of music, confusion & teenage frustrations. We were then treated to a live rendition of his spoken word poem that accompanies the book (which you can see here), & then it was time for SIGNING and WINEING. If you don’t know much about Bookseller events, we only tend to turn up if there’s free alcohol. After a glass, I managed to pluck up the courage to get my (admittedly slightly battered) copy of Geek Girl signed by Holly Smale, & was very made-up when she immediately recognised me from the Twitterverse. We discussed unusual names, & how she’d miraculously missed out on the nickname “Holly Smells” at school. Although, she might get that now. Sorry Holly!
With my courage bolstered by this encounter with a lovely author, I decided to engage the friendly & talkative Mr. Steven Camden to get a shiny brand new hardback of Tape signed. He eagerly agreed, & gathered with our small group of booksellers for a chat – But that’s where everything went a bit wrong, when he kindly offered us all a gingernut biscuit (NOW WITH ADDED GINGER), & I had to admit that I actually don’t like them. Our friendship seemed dashed against the rocks of biscuitdom before it had really had a chance to blossom… However, when he asked what biscuit I preferred, after a bit of a think, my answer of “I’m partial to a Custard Cream” seemed to appease the man, & he cheerfully signed my book:
With wine in our insides & a handful of free, signed books, we decided to take advantage of the late night opening of Waterstones Piccadilly, by heading to the CHILDREN’S DEPARTMENT, of course! There, we enjoyed a twilight story time session, each of us reading a picture book in turn, & doing our very best audience participations in kind. My choice? OLIVER JEFFERS, obviously – This Moose Belongs to Me, the tale of young Wilfred & is wayward moose, Marcel. After we’d successfully irritated the staff, we slunk off to a nearby pub for one last drink, which really did end up being ONE drink. We were all very confused & upset by the turn of events, but we had to admit defeat, & I trudged back through the rain soaked London streets to the budget comfort of Premier Inn.
The next day, I wasted some time in the morning by heading to the GIGANTIC branch of Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury Avenue, & despite my overwhelming temptation to bankrupt myself; I only spent a meagre £25 on a new wallet & a Hogwarts Insignia badge. After this restrained shopping spree, I bumbled across the city, back to Piccadilly to meet with the Norwegian School of Bookselling. We were given some talks about the inner workings of buying & ecommerce for Waterstones (fascinating if you’re me!), before being encouraged to have a chat amongst ourselves. As well as cementing myself as “That bloke who tweets a lot” amongst the English Booksellers, I also had an amazingly engaged conversation about YA Fiction & H.P. Lovecraft novels with the delegates from Norway, which was ace, & just proves that books transcend language barriers! MY language barrier, mind – their English was impeccable, I was rather ashamed by my lack of knowledge on the Norwegian language. After some buffet food & chit chat, we had a guided tour of the Piccadilly branch, & a snoop around the oldest bookshop in the city, Hatchards, which is beautiful wood panelled store in Piccadilly, owned by Waterstones, but run independently. Their Children’s Department looks like an Edwardian Nursery, I was in love! If you get the chance, I highly encourage popping in to navigate the fascinating warren of passages lined with bookshelves.
And then, just like that, it was all over! A brief chat back at the HQ & a chance to shake some hands & meet some names I only really know from the Twitterverse, & before I knew it, I was on a cramped train whisking me through the velvet night back to Northallerton, straight back at work the next day. What a whirlwind two days it was, but it really reminded me of why I love my job so much, & how much fun it is meeting other Booksellers, who are always so likeminded, passionate & engaging.
Thanks for reading of my adventures! Next on my reading pile is TAPE, so keep an eye out for a review soon!