I often wondered what it would be like to work in a bookshop and on Monday, I did just that, heading the Here Comes Everyone takeover of fellow non-profit, The Tree House Bookshop of Kenilworth, WM.
George Orwell’s scathing critique of the trade, Bookshop Memories, had already prepared me for the worst: self-loathing, endless sitting and an inveitable hatred of the perfect-bound bundles of paper you are there to sell, but thankfully, only some of what he wrote holds true.
The Tree House Bookshop is a great big goldfish bowl of a place, with an entire wall of glass decorated with the Treehouse’s ace logo stencil and numerous community event posters, there’s even a pitch-perfect breakdown of the bookshop’s running costs, encouraging the natives to pitch in with donations fiscal or physical (all furniture and items in the shop are gratefully-recived gifts) or to volunteer their time to help keep the place running through the week. The shop has a strong community focus with lots of events going on and a micro-gallery upstairs.
The galss fascia makes the shop perfect for people-watching and ideal for wandering townsfolk to look in, blink at the warm, welcoming environment and then move on. The weather was a terrible but the location of the shop, next to a major car park in the town, made for consistent footfall and lots of people showed an interest, but never made it to the door.
All too often I traced the footsteps of the idle rubes, willing them to enter and at least say hello or browse through some pages – a busy shop is a happy one – as I sat there wretched in my herringbone cloak gripping an Introduction to Modernism. It doesn’t take long for the place to become a little lonely and I could see what Orwell meant about growing sick of the sight and smell of books in their rows of wooden graves all housing dead conversations. Entombed as I was by seemingly unsellable words and a relatively indfferent populace, I was a more than eager ear for the visitation of one Peter Pots, who runs a local interest website, Ken On the Web (midwarks.info).
It being Armistice Day, our conversation inevitably moved to the Second World War. Peter himself is from Prague originally and was evacuated to England in 1938 as political pressure intensified around Germany and Austria. As part of the local history society, he told me about the former Globe Hotel, which had been sited just across from the Treehouse on Abbey End.
Shortly after an intake of evacuees who were bombed out of their homes on 14/11/1940 in nearby Coventry, the Globe was hit a few days later on 21/11/1940 by a spare bomb off-loaded from a passing German bomber, it was a direct hit destroying half of the Globe Hotel.
A few sales later, my day was done amd the bookshop was kept open for another day. Would I go back? Certainly, bookshops need both sellers and buyers (readers) and there are plans afoot for another HCE takeover in the near future – I hope to see you there, I will do my best to smile.
The Tree House Bookshop
A non-profit secondhand bookshop and community hub in Kenilworth.
Find out more about the “bombing” of Kenilworth, here: