The Bookshop Book


‘The Bookshop Book’ - blimey, I feel like I have been waiting for this book my whole life, but patience it seems is a virtue that really reaps its rewards because my copy, my beautiful, beautiful copy is here. I’ve held it in my hand and run my fingers over the lettering and smelled it (it smells marvellous FYI) and IT’S HERE.

This book you guys, seriously. This book.

It’s Jen’s love letter to books and bookshops everywhere, a tour of the best independent bookshops in the world (from the oldest to the smallest) coupled with contributions from literary greats including Ali Smith, Audrey Niffenegger, Ian Rankin, Jacqueline Wilson and so very many more (it’s even got a tiny snippet in by yours truly,) and the whole thing is marvellous. I’m very very excited to have my copy, and I’m very very excited for everybody else in the world to read it (release date is October 2nd, but you can preorder right now) not because Jen is A Very Nice Person, but because this book is something special.

I’m am beyond thrilled to have been involved, and I’ll be back, to talk about it properly once I’ve stopped flailing around and have sat down to read it from cover to cover but until then, you heard it here first: this book is, quite simply a little piece of magic.

(You might also want to spend a little time around these parts round and about release date, because of reasons...)

Of Sheep and Cold Coffee

‘I seem,’ said our MD, in lieu of the more common greeting as he walked into the office at 8.30 this morning, (I used to call him my boss, but ‘don’t call me that,’ he’d say ‘we’re partners.’) ‘to have acquired five sheep.’

Nobody knows where the five sheep came from - although my bet’s on the not-usually-open gate. Either that or they jumped over the wall late last night whilst he was trying to sleep - or who they belong to.

‘The gate was open,’ he said with a shrug as he wandered through to his office, ‘I’ve closed it.’

Looks like the sheep are staying, then.

And so began another day at the office.

The thing about life in a small office is that it could easily lean towards the mundane. Day in, day out,  forever the same: the same handful of people; the same piles of paperwork; the same conversations. You’ve got to look for variety where you can find it. We find it, more often than not in little things like this - five sheep appearing from nowhere; the factory alarm being set off by a cat causing the aforementioned MD to wander around with a ten foot bamboo pole and a menacing expression calling ‘here, puss, puss, puss’; a Jack Russell chasing someone up a ladder; the time (horrifyingly) a mouse ran up the inside of my trouser leg. That was A Bad Day, but it goes with the territory I guess, of offices on a river bank, surrounded on two sides by fields and it was certainly something to talk about - we still joke about it now. Or rather, everybody else jokes about it. It still kind of makes me want to cry a little bit.

These breaks from the norm, these are the things that get us through the day. It’s probably also the reason I get my packages delivered to the office most times. When you have a pile of mail to open, most of which is invoices and remittance advices and bank statements and notifications from the telephone provider that your direct debit is increasing again, despite countless hours on debating just that, it kind of slows the slide to dullsville, when one of those packages contains (like it did today) a bangle quoting if nobody speaks of remarkable things. I slid it onto my wrist, smiled to myself and suddenly the afternoon’s task of chasing monies owed doesn’t seem quite so dismal.

It’s the little things (and it’s an exceptionally pretty bangle...)

Especially when the day is like today: dark and dismal and freezing cold. It’s dark outside, more like dusk than lunchtime and even in thick socks and a jumper I’m still shivering. The sustenance of a crisp butty (or sandwich, if you’re posh) is still not enough to send the goosebumps packing and the light from the fluorescent tubes that line the ceiling when coupled with the grey sky and rain, makes it feel decidedly wintry.  Artificial light, a sure sign that summer is decidedly over.

It’s the kind of day that calls for woolly socks and blankets, apple crumble and a good book but sadly (oh, how very sadly) none of those things pay the bills. Spending the day with Patrick Ness (his work, not his actual self), as much as I am loving him right now, will not ensure my mortgage is paid. What will is processing that order, and dealing with that client and completing the figures for that report all whilst trying not to throw a hissy fit because my nail polish has chipped (I got a french manicure for the wedding and it was so pretty, dammit) and wondering if September is too early to put on the heating. It’s the random appearance of 5 sheep that make it worth it sometimes, because unless you are one of the lucky few that are doing a job that makes you sing with joy, there is always always somewhere to be and something to do that is preferable to work. I’m just lucky I guess, that my boss - sorry, partner - is so adept at providing that much needed light relief.

‘One day,’ I tell him often, usually whilst trying my hardest not to double over with laughter, ‘I’m going to write a book about you.’ One day, perhaps I will. Til’ then, I’ll sit here with my crisp butty and cold coffee and wonder if anybody has noticed yet that they’re missing five sheep.

My Best Friend's Wedding

I'm writing this in bed, where I am laid in plaid PJ pants and a t-shirt which proudly declares me to be 'chief bridesmaid and which I own because my best friend got married last Friday. 

That's right boys and girls, my best friend is a wife.

Although the wedding was last Friday, it was entirely possible when I woke for work on Monday morning that I was still, in fact, hungover - on Saturday following the wedding, I opened my eyes and wondered briefly if I had died, making my way down to breakfast where the Father of the Bride grinned at me and said 'I hope you feel as awful as you look' (I love that man) - if not still hungover by Monday then I was definitely still the kind of tired that you only ever are after a truly excellent night and too much alcohol. Even now I still feel like I could sleep for a week. We started on the fizzy stuff at around half past 10 on Friday morning, my glass wasn't empty until gone 1am Saturday and I may not be 100% sure where my dignity is. Probably on the dancefloor. There was a lot of dancing.

What I am 100% sure of is that Helen was the most beautiful bride I've ever seen and I was beyond honoured to stand by her side on her big day. 

It was one of the best days of my life. 

When you have a friend that's as excellent as Helen then you find yourself wanting, more than anything, for them to find true happiness. When they do, and you get to stand by their side and watch as they promise to try to be that happy for the rest of ever and always, well, it's a pretty fabulous feeling. 
Helen and Dan just sort, and the look in his eyes when he married her on Friday kind of made me want to cry.

In fact, sack 'kind of made me want to' - I cried. I'm not ashamed to say it.

Helen was a remarkably chilled out bride, I feel you should know that. Not a hint of Bridezilla in sight, even for a second. Not all brides can claim that. If I ever get married I can only hope to be as chill as her. 
One of the things she asked of me was to give a reading at the wedding. One I had written myself. She asked me after I'd had wine and I cried. My mum whispered in my ear 'you can do this' and I figured that yes, I could.  I don't think I had quite grasped at that point that effectively I was writing a speech that I had to give in front of close to 100 people. Not that I regret it. Not a chance. I was petrified, to the point that I felt sick and my hands hurt but it never crossed my mind for a minute to say no, or to back out. Out of those 100 people she had asked me: I felt honoured. & I always have a lot to say - even if I do generally say it in writing rather than out loud. Writing it was easy, and reading it, once I was up there doing it was much less hard than I thought it would be. I almost cried, very nearly lost it twice, but I made it through. I think it was a success. I don't have a lot of money and was never going to be able to afford an expensive wedding gift; I kind of hope then, that my words last Friday let Helen know how much she matters to me, how much I love her,  how truly happy I am that she has found Dan, and that I wish them the very happiest of lives together. 

Helen was a beautiful bride; Dan a handsome groom. The venue was lovely, the whole place felt full of love and laughter and as I danced the night away in my bridesmaid dress, my shoes abandoned somewhere and wine glass in hand, I felt certain I was a part of something special. It was a day I know that I will always look back on with a smile and above all it was a day that marked the start of a brand new chapter for Helen and Dan. 

It's where the fairytale always ends, the wedding, but I can't help think that ending,  really, is just the beginning. 

And they all lived happily ever after.