Do you have a personal relationship with your grocer, butcher or hairdresser? Many people under the age of 50 might even ask "What's a grocer?". Well into the 20thC, gentlemen, including Winston "entitled shit" Churchill felt it was beneath their dignity to pay their tailor. Many of my neighbours think the same about the competent and ever-available garagist/mechanic who gets the Little Red Yaris through her NCT each year. If you live rural, in Poland or Ireland, the community will be sufficiently small that you are a known face: the barman might well start pouring your pint as soon as he see you half-though the door. Mr Dunne the Butcher in Btown knows me even though I'm only in there twice a year. That might be because my transactions have been outré: 1 bag of mutton bones; 1 whole pork shoulder; 1 mighty organic Easter chicken.
I was an early adopter of the Interweb. I sold [about 10] books through that medium in 1989. But like so much in my life, I failed to recognise the potential, let alone have a wild time in the dot.com boom at the turn of the century. In 2000 The Boy turned 25 and it seemed appropriate to find a copy of his birth-film "Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l'an 2000" for his birthday. Amazon and Google existed then but were really still in the my uncle's garage stage of their meteoric rise and rise. I tracked down a copy of the film-script from a stock-list at bookshop in Texas, phoned them, dictated a credit card number and had the book in the post the next day. It was like our earlier [1980s] epiphany about Interflora, which was started 100 years ago and seemed to be the only way to order flowers for delivery to your Granny in Dover. But after a couple of really disappointing bouquets costing £20, we started to consult the yellow pages in Whereversville and deal direct with them over the phone. It cut out the middleworm and got better quality for less money. It really wasn't that troublesome, and as mother's day comes round every year, you could develop a relationship with a florist whom you'd never hugged.
When the Celtic Tiger came in the 00s, I went mad along with everybody else. Not on the scale of shopping trips to NYC or four holidays a year but, over the next few years, I ordered maybe 100 DVDs on play.com and was seduced by really cheap books delivered to my sofa by Amazon. It took a while for the true cost of fulfillment to penetrate my rather dense brain. Avoiding products that grossly exploited both workers and creatives joined forces with a determination to own fewer books rather than more. So I stopped using Amazon in maybe 2018. But a book always makes an acceptable gift and I've found that Kennys.ie in Galway will deliver books post-free in Ireland: more money but a clearer conscience. Along with the rest of my tribe I was delirah when bookshop.org emerged as a sort of Interflora for paperbacks. I was even happier when they launched in the UK. They have an option where you can support a specific bookshop or send the profit to a general fund for independent bookshops to be shared out in some equitable fashion.
The most likely beneficiaries of my booky largesse are Gdau.I and Gdau.II in Bath in the West of England and it turns out that their suburban village includes the rather wonderful Beaufort Bookshop:
Beaufort is more than a new and 2nd hand bookshop; it's sort of a community learning resource centre with a particular focus in kids. Of all the bookshops in all the World that's the one which I need to still be there when the girls become teenagers. Accordingly I ordered a book on uk.bookshop.org and specified that £3 would wing it to Beaufort . . . but their website choked because I don't live in the UK, nor is the billing address of my cred-card in United Kingdom and that was the only option. Well bugger that! But my Jonas and Interflora priors equipped me to go pluck direct from the book-tree and I sent an e-mail and then phoned the proprietor Dr James Thomas.
- Yes he would accept an injection of cash;
- and would he send me his bank details?
- Yes the kids could collect books from the shop
- but he could also "run them up the hill to the house"
- and Yes he could advise me about what thoughtful 9 and 5 y.o.s were reading this year
- not necessarily dragons or unicorns
I was completely hand-clappy delighted with this positive response and an hour later had transferred £100 to Beaufort so we can run a tab from Ireland.