Wednesday, December 31, 2008

An Alternative Universe

I accidentally started watching 'Last of the Summer Wine' just now (please don't judge me). As the youth would say 'WTF?'. I suspect that i've been drugged, but it seems that the main protagonists of this programme (Compo Clegg and Foggy as memory serves), have been replaced by George off of George and Mildred, Kato off of the Pink Panther films and Russ Abbott.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Christmas Review

As John Lennon once penned

All day long we will be wombling in the snow,
We wish you a Wombling Merry Christmas.
All day long we will be laughing as we go.
We wish you a Wombling Merry Christmas.

hang on...let's try this one.

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The road is so long

yes, that's more like it.

and so, that was christmas was it? Well, as far as I can see it was.
And how was it on the 'frontline'?
well the answer isn't too bad at all.

I have to say that this being the first Big Green Christmas we didn't have anything to compare it to, so we can probably make a more accurate judgement in 12 months time. But it looks like we did OK. From Friday 12th December Christmas really started and kept going right up until 24th. In fact Christmas eve was our busiest day, which surprised me (I've been used to working in Central London, where Xmas eve tends to be mental mental in the morning and then quiet), although there wasn't much in it from the Saturday before Chrimbo.
We managed to keep the spending down, which is essential in our first year. Our request for customers to donte their old decorations went down really well and the shop looked very shiny. We printed 10,000 leaflets which (once again) our customers helped deliver and hand out. We had an offer on the leaflets giving the recipient 10% off a single transaction, and this was deifinitely worth it. It introduced loads of new customers to the shop and the amount we actually discounted over Christmas was negligable compared with the extra custom. It also means that there are hundreds of people who know where we are now, and will use the Big Green Bookshop in the future.
We borrowed Tim's son's CD player, and with the 'The Daily Mirror's Best Xmas CD in the World' from 1999 and The Super soaraway Sun's 'Now That's What I Call Apalling Xmas Cover Versions' from about the same time, our customers endured some truly festive tunes.
We managed to spend about the same amount on books during November and December than we have done in previous months (December's spend was a little less actually) which surprised me, and at first glance it seems that we don't have too much excess stock to send back to the publishers. Now that our stockholding is a little less than it was before Christmas it looks like we're going to be able to give 3 or 4 more bookcases to display without jeopardising the quality of our range.
In the end we didn't need to take anyone on over December as Tim and I didn't have days off instead! Except when Tim's varicose vein exploded, or I pulled a muscle in my back, or Tim got run over, or I got a virus. But it didn't keep us away for long and we staggered back for more punishment after each and every injury.

We closed for 4 whole days, and I think we both needed the break. Tim spent time in London with his family and Katie, Freya and I travelled to Hazelmere, Brighton, Portsmouth and Hazelmere again in an epic 3 day, 3 feast tour of our families.

Here is a photo of some of my lovely presents

Here are some photos of the centre of attention

So, now we're back at work and there's an absolute load to do. The decorations are down now, and we're going to rearrange the room we laughingly describe as the office. We have a couple of big orders to put together for account customers and we've got a programme of events to organise for the new year. We've got some interesting new things we want to try in 2009, which hopefully will appeal to our customers, and also we have big plans for our website (like actually sending the stuff that the very patient designer has asked us for), and there's lots more.
But that's for another time.

Blog and bookshop new year resolutions soon...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Things we've been too busy to tell you that have happened over the last month or so....

1. Tim's varicose vein exploded about 2 weeks ago.
2. Tim got hit by a car last week. In Hackney. By a taxi. He now has a limp.
3. Whilst putting up the decorations outside the shop up a ladder, Tim electrocuted himself. It was (for me anyway) rather worrying, watching him shudder flinch, shake and bend over double on a stepladder. Then when I realised he was alive, it was all rather amusing. If you've ever watched Harold Lloyd you'll understand.
4. We've set up a train track above the kid's section on top of some perspex, so that you can look up and watch Thomas the Tank Engine chugging around in circles.
5. I now wear a hairband, which Tim didn't mention for 4 days, which was 25 times worse than Tim ripping the piss out of me relentlessly the moment he saw it.
6. Freya now has 2 teeth.
7. The council have told us to take our sign at the end of the road down again.
8. Having no heating in the shop is fairly miserable, so we're pretty relieved that the weather is now a much more tolerable 12oC.
9. The banks should really stock up more on pound coins.
10. and fivers
11. Not paying publishers immediately at the moment seems to encourage more than the usual wrath. Sorry publishers, we don't mean it...
12. Rubber Ducks that change colour when put in the bath are a very popular add on sale in a bookshop.
13. Wrapping paper won't sell if you display it in a place in the shop that nobody can find.
14. Thinking you can put on lots of events in December is living in a fools paradise. Mince Pies and Mulled Wine on Monday though though.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

This is How it is

As I hope you can understand(this being my 28th day in a row), i've been a little preoccupied selling books recently, and have somewhat neglected my duties as blogster. Apologies for this. Suffice to say it's been busy, bookwise. We've sold a few, we've ordered a get the idea.

I don't really know what to say at the moment. We're selling a hod load of stuff and we're getting lots of new customers. That's all we could ask for.
We can't compare it to anything, as we weren't open last xmas, so our like for like sales are excellent. 100% up on last year you could say.

Our suppliers are still performing very well. The nervousness of the book industry around Bertrams seems to us (so far) unfounded. We've had our deliveries every day, and availability hasn't been too bad at all. I wish they'd had more copies of Bad Science and Mr Gum, but then again, we should have ordered more in the first place, so we can hardly blame our suppliers.
SHOCK HORROR our Bertram delivery didn't arrive on Friday, which sent shudders through the whole of the book trade no doubt.... the more hysterical commentators may have phoned up the Bookseller straight away to bang on about how this was a sure sign that things were falling apart in Norwich. However, to provide a more reasoned argument, we had a Harpercollins box that didn't turn up last week. And there was a split delivery from Penguin last month. And a telephone order we placed with Macmillan on November 23rd didn't arrive until December the 12th. And perhaps more relevantly, a Gardners delivery which claimed to be 'out for delivery' this morning at 8.30 didn't turn up at all.
These things happen. The Bertrams delivery that didn't turn up yesterday arrived this morning with an apology from the delivery driver, and no doubt the Gardners box will arrive on Monday. It's Christmas for Santa's sake. Let's eat too many mince pies and just chill out...and buy lots more books.

I'm just fininshing the last of a lovely bottle of Beajoulais (not all by myself I hasten to add) and I have to say that despite all the high street credit crunching concerns, I'm blissfully happy. I work in an industry that I love, I co own my own gorgeous little bookshop, I have a rather funky (if a little battered) flat, and mostly mostly mostly, I have the most special girlfriend and baby daughter in the world. I might have to work for 32 days in a row, and I might not pay myself anything like what I was getting at Waterstones, but flippin 'eck i'm happy.
Look, see...and hairy, slightly feral and a little unsettling. But happy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


It's quite busy.

More interesting blogs when i get a chance.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pop Pickers...

Charts eh? We love 'em.

What's going to be the Xmas Number 1 (not the Cheeky Girls, that's for sure)?
What's the Nations Favourite Sitcom
Who's your least favourite Top Gear Presenter?

and of course

What are the bestselling books this Xmas?

So far we have

Tales of Beedle the Bard (less than half price)
Dear Fatty. (58% off at Amazon!)
Jamie's Ministry of Food (free with every tin of Sainsbury's baked beans)

and so on...

It'd be interesting to know what would really be the bestselling books if publishers and supermarkets etc didn't treat our lovely books like poo poo (if you'll pardon the expression). I completely understand that this is a competitive market, and blah de blah, and this is purely speculation. But here's my guess at what would probably be the top 10 paperback and hardback books if they were sold at full price.

1. Dreams From My Father - Barack somebody or other.
2. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
3. The Audacity of Hope by somebody Obama
4. Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
5. The Suspicions of Mr Wicher by Kate Summerscale
6. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
7. Little History of the World by Gombrich
8. Reluctant Fundamentalist
9. Harry Hill's Whopping Big Joke Book
10. The Book Thief by someone beginning with Z

1. Beedle the Bard (no brainer- we sold out on the first day. Ooops)
2. Guinness Book of Records
3. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (it won the booker prize you know)
4. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (he's a cleverclogs and he wrote that other popular book)
5. Anthaem by Neal Stephenson (I don't care how much it costs I lvoe it)
6. The Doctor Who Annual. (Inevitably)
7. Otolenghi Cookbook (wot, no Nigella?)
8. QI Advanced Banter. Probably
9. That Mighty Boosh book I reckon
10. Terry Pratchett thing called Nation

This in no way matches our bestsellers (when I say 'in no way', I'm clearly exaggerating), we have lots more oldies and kid's stuff in our list. The Boy Who Kicked Pigs for example, and Brian Wildsmith's Favourite Fables. But I suspect these wouldn't make it in there.

Do you agree or think i'm talking a big pile of dung. Who knows...

Monday, December 08, 2008

High Flyer

I spent last Friday flyering/leafleting a particlar area near the shop.
It's known as 'The Ladder' and it's rather a large area.

View Larger Map
I started at 9.30am and I walked for 8 hours, dropping off about 1,800 leaflets through about 1,800 doors. The things you do eh?
If you've ever done anything like this you'll have some idea of what to expect. My fingers were almost taken off by 2 dogs(terriers probably) who threw themselves at the door the moment I pushed the letter flap. And I was also confronted by the dilemma of 'Is what i'm about to put through your letterbox junk mail or not?'

I personally don't think it's junk, however the dictionary definition is;

junk mail
Third-class mail, such as advertisements, mailed indiscriminately in large quantities.

junk mail
unwanted letters in the post, advertising things.

a sheet of paper with an advertisement on it, given to you in the street or pushed through your door

so clearly it is. And as an upstanding citizen I abided by the rules. I was, however intrigued by the myriad of signs prohibiting me from pushing my little leaflet through the door.

The majority of these made the front doors look very ugly.

My favourites were theseEngraved letterboxes. This is a lot of effort, and congratulations to the owners of the 17 houses on the ladder who invested in these.

I must tell you more about 'the ladder', and none of this is true.
The shop is in a borough of London called Haringey. Within this borough is a small area called Harringay and this is where the ladder is(actually this is true). Now Harringay was renamed in the late 90's by 12 of the residents who were in a secret society. They wanted to pass on information on the internet to each other which no-one else would have access to, so they persuaded the council to change the name of this particular area, so they could do this. They plan on becoming a principality and have introduced the 'Harringay Pound', a currency which is only accepted in the shops in the area. We aren't in Harringay, but as a kind of go-between, we are one of the few shops that accept this money, and we re-use it in one of the many boutiques that adorns Harringay's glorious streets.
As I said, none of this is true, and if you want to know what's really going on in Harringay, then may I suggest you join the lovely forum/info point/sounding board Harringayonline. It's very good indeed, and quite informative aswell. Most of the time.
I have a real soft spot for the ladder and it's a cracking place to live. There were (far too) many houses that I jealously looked at and wished I was living there as my frozen fingers pushed a Big Green Bookshop flyer through the front door. All except this one.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's busy in and around the bookshop at the moment. And despite having nothing to compare it to, sales seem to be rather good. We've had a succession of 4 figure days, although one or two of these have been helped by big cheques arriving from schools from account orders. It all counts though, and we may be able to afford some heating soon.

Our kids reading group have chosen one of my favourite festive books for December. It's only The Box Of Delights I so want them to enjoy the book. It'll be interesting to see if the discerning readers of today find that the magic that I found in the book is still there.

We had the lovely lively legend Sam Enthoven in for Big Green Wednesday today. Despite a rotten cold ( an occupational hazard when you work in close proximity with kids), Sam was super fun and kept everyone entertained with passages from his books. He also answered swathes of questions without sneezing on anyone on the front row. Thanks Sam.

I've torn a muscle in my back today, which hurts, but the show must go on. I'm in the middle of a 32 day stretch at work at the moment, so we can't let incapacity put us off can we?

I've had quite a number of phone calls recently from different websites/magazines etc asking whether the Woolworths situation has affected the supply of books from our distributors. For those who don't know, Woolworths placed its stores in administration recently. Although Bertram books (one of our big distributors) was part of the Woolworths gang, it operated outside the group, so it's business as usual.
Well, much to the frustration of the people who phoned, there really hasn't been any difference with the book supply from Bertrams, who have been as good as ever with deliveries etc.
I do wish people would show as much interest in things when they were going well, rather than look for negative stories all the time. I'm pretty sick of people going on about the credit crunch and the like. I seem to remember when Northern Rock were having all that fun last year, that if the press hadn't made such a massive deal of it, then the whole 'run on the bank' thing might not have happened.

Let's all try and look for positives shall we. It's much nicer that way. 'shut up, you bloody hippie'

My friend Phil (he's the one opening the champagne in the video) is one half of a band called Honeygene. They've only gone and done a really catchy xmas song, with a cheesy video to go with it.It's rather jolly isn't it?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh, what a pretty bookshop

This is the title of the email we sent to our newsletter/bookgroup mailing list asking (as we are often found doing) for any spare xmas decorations, and also asking for volunteers to deliver leaflets in the area.
Once again we've had an amazing response and we've had bags and bags of tinsel and baubels being dropped into the shop over the last few days. There's more to come as well!
Also, our kind kind customers have also been picking up leaflets to deliver, and the map of the area that I have with the completed roads is filling nicely. I still have loads more to do, but it's been a real help.
The local newspaper has offered to put an article in this week asking for decorations and leafleting volunteers on our behalf, so that's all super duper. We're gonna be well festive.
Anyhow, this is how far we've got with the shop...
Tim's been up the ladder again putting lights on the gables and a spotlight under the sign. People can see clearly the Big Green oksho from the High Road.

The windows aren't quite finished yet, but doesn't it look inviting?

'OOooh, what a pretty bookshop. I simply must go in and explore.

For those of you who know the shop, this is where fiction was. We've made an extra 7 bookcases of display, so that people won't have to look to hard to find all those gorgeous presents.

Moleskines, Running Press boxes, Barak Obama, themanwhofellasleep. We've got it all! But I can't quite see those little cards on the shelves...

We asked our friends/customers to let us know what book they really wanted for xmas and why, and we made cards like this for the ones that we thought were the best.The photos were obtained from various sources, all approved of course.

Even the wonderful and anonymous Horace Bent took time to send in his festive choice.

There's still time to send in your own choice. Don't be shy.

We made our own signs in a thrifty and frugal kind of way.

We've been able to turn another 2 bookcases over to the kids section as there are so many books that we think deserve a faceout.

This is another West/Key invention. We don't have much room in the shop so Tim's made a second tier for our tables. This picture doesn't show it really clearly, but there's a smaller table on a bigger table, so you can display more books. Clever eh?

And ultimately, this is what we're hoping all the hard work will result in. Again and again and again please...

Let us know what you think, or if you have any suggestions.
I've started writing a post which seems to be getting out of control, so apologies for the lack of anything new to read recently.

I'm taking some photos of the festived up shop today so i'll add them on tomorrow. Whoopee do

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Adverts on the Telly

do you really expect me to
a. believe Richard (I call him Dick) Hammond (Head), as he talks about a 'perfect christmas' whilst being on a imaginary sledge in the North Pole. Careful one of the Huskies doesn't blow out Dick.
b. believe Dick bumps into Denise Van Outen by the fish counter IN MORRISONS, and assume they know what each other is doing for xmas
c. Understand Nick Hancock's explanation of how to claim back £20, after spending £40 a week for the next 4 weeks and keeping your receipts 'it couldn't be easier'.

have you seen the latest Iceland advert with the frankly horrible (thankfully she hasn't got a biog this year) Kerry Catona, and the frankly deluded Jason Donovan singing 'It's Cold Outside'. Here it is.

Can you seriously imagine Jason popping in to his local Iceland, to buy reconstructed prawn rings at 2 for a fiver. No

Marks and Spencers
Shut up shut up shut up
Real Life now please. I thought that Take that were 'Shine' ing for Morrison's last year?

Let's not talk about The Spice Girls twatting about in Tesco last year, or those cock awful celeb voiceovers telling us we can get Parky for half price at Smith's

I'm just about to get to the point, so thanks for bearing with me.

Celebrities (for that is how they earn their money), who have no knowledge of the product they're flogging, should not ever ever ever be encouraged to sell products that they have no knowledge about
1. Hammond- he can drive a car fast. And his hair is thick and lustrous, and he's smaller than Clarkson. That's It. Not and expert on Turkey.
2. Denise van Outen is amusing in the same way that my friends are amusing in the pub, she has a large voice and she's one of the lads (apparently). No fish expertise there then.
3. Nick Hancock. Can be rude and insulting, and supports Stoke. So not the perfect person to explain discounts then.
4. Kerry i've got nothing
5. Jason Donovan seems like a nice chap, but hardly likely to fall for the charms of Katona.
6.Take That. Why why why are they ever likely to pop over to visit Twiggy and that tool from Here'say.

Why are we so obsessed by what other people who happen to be on telly think. I understand if they have something interesting to say about stuff they're on telly about. Are we that much of a bunch of silly sausages to think they will guide our lives .
I think Alan Carr is funny, and also I think Dawn French has been funny at least 3 times in the last 28 years. But that's what they do, and there it is. Celebrate that, but don't buy a Chocolate Orange because she can fit one in her mouth. Buy one because it's yummy o'reilly with a sugar plum banana on top.
Alan Carr's life is probably as fascinating as yours, but nobody's given you half a million to talk to someone for 6 weeks whilst they write it down and make it into a book.
My booky wooky was the bestselling book of last xmas, but I feel the winds of change'a'coming.
Maybe not this year or next year. But one day soon, I'm Strictly a Celebrity on Ice and my Big Brother Can't Cut Hair or Write Crime Novels' will be a thing of the past.

But hopefully this piece of TV genius will remain


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ooh Ahh, just a little Bet, Ooh Aah just a Little Bet More...

So the bookish betting bonanza is about to begin.
There are 3 contestants.

1. Simon 'spongebob' Key
2. Scott 'the bulldog' Pack
3. Gary 'Fat Tuesday' Davidson.

A reminder that we'll be each waging a(imaginary) quid each day on something, announcing it on our blogs before 1pm, and proving how stupid it is to waste money on gambling.

I'll try and keep a running total of how North London's hairiest is doing for you all to ignore.

In other news, totally unrelated (again) to books, we bought a Bumbo seat for Freya today. Look at how lovely she is.
Yes, she is by far the prettiest baby ever to have existed, isn't she.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

John Sinclair is big leggy

Thursday saw the much anticipated visit of the legendary John Sinclair to the legendary Big Green Bookshop. The hardest working poet/ jazz afficionado/ doobie smoker/ founder of the White Panther movement in showbusiness was not to dissapoint anyone on the night. He may have startled the 9year old girl who turned up with her mother to wish Happy Birthday to her sister (who didn't show up), but I don't think she was dissapointed.
John Sinclair has the kind of voice that comes from a lifetime of living, and his poetry drawled and burst from him with an exuhberence and a confidence that clearly comes from somebody who truly lives the life he wants to. He's clearly a very contented person (and considerably taller than i'd suspected), and he ran through a series of poems demonstrating his colourful life. He was more then ably assisted by the very very talented freeofrm jazz bass player Jair-Rohm Parker Wells, who was lucky enough to be in the country this week.
Here they both are..
Many thanks to Headpress, John, Jair-Rohm and the audience for making it a lovely night.

The shop's looking lovely at the moment. You really should all visit and spend a fortune on all the books we've got in to tempt you.
No really.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You'd Better, you'd Better, You Bet.

I like a little flutter, as i've mentioned on 43 occasions since this blog started. I've had one big big win in my life. A four horse acculmulator came in and my £1 bet returned over £1000. In the back of my mind, if I lose a bet I think to myself, 'we'll i've still got £999/£998/£997 to play with'. I suspect though that as this bet was about 4 years ago that figure is considerably lower (and of course all the losses i've made before this big win were completely forgotten).
That said, I like a flutter. And so does Scott Pack, who's excellent blog Me and My Big Mouth is essential reading. With this in mind, we've come up with a betting competition, for which we'd like to invite anyone who'd like to take part. It's a virtual game so no money need be spent.

It begins next Monday
Every day each contener will recommend one bet to the sum of £1. They will post the bet on their blogs by 1pm each day. It can be anything and you can take the odds at the time you bet, or you can take a starting price (just like you would in real life).
The competition will run right up till the FA Cup final next year. The player with the biggest profit (or, more likely, the smallest loss!) will win this trophy.or one fairly similar.

There'll be prizes throughout as well, including the person leading at christmas will be getting a chocolate bar from all the other competitors (i'm a big fan of the crunchie by the way).

Please let me know if you'd like to play.

NB A person should not gamble with an amount that the individual does not know they can live without. It is important that people not spend any money they cannot afford to lose, because it is very possible that they may lose this money and not hit their dreams of winning a jackpot or large amount in the gambling games in which they take part. As a result, a person who gambles more than they can afford can lose not only their money and possessions, but also the people and things that are most important to them if the addiction is too strong. Not all gamblers are addicted to gambling, but it can take over a person’s life, if they are not careful. Moderation is the key when it comes to gambling.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Marvellous Marvellous Book

We sell this book right. I think we're the only bookshop in the UK that sells it. That's because it's no longer in print. We order it direct from the author. His name is Greg. Greg Stekelman. He's also known as themanwhofellasleep, although his name's Greg. Greg Stekelman.
This is his book.
We sell this book to lots of people, and quite right too. It's wonderful, strange, psychotic, surreal, unique and very funny.
It takes the form of a journal, and centres around an outwardly normal chap (themanwhofellasleep), who is surrounded by the most extraordinary of people and situations. Are they real or just a dream? The boundaries are blurred, and life goes on. This is interspersed by some rather good cartoons (drawn by Greg), and also included within the story are his 'Things Overheard on the Tube', which is now included in Time Out magazine each week (Michael Holden's All Ears has a lot to be grateful for). It all makes for a great book, and it's ashame that not more people can get hold of it. Until now of course. because you can get it from us!
Anyway I asked Greg if he'd be interviewed to talk a bit about the book and such and this is what he had to say.

Hello Greg,

If you’re sitting comfortably, then we’ll begin.

The obvious first question is how would you describe a year in the life of Themanwhofellasleep?

That's always a tough question. It's a funny, surreal, depressing, plotless journey through a year in the life of a character. Who is based on me, but taken to ridiculous extremes. There are doodles and drawing and exciting encounters with celebrities. There's snippets of gossip overheard on the underground and a series of quite sad jokes. It's an ideal gift for a young man going through some kind of identity crisis.

The book was taken from your hugely successful website How easy was it to turn your website into a book.

I was approached about turning the website into a book, and I think at first everyone assumed I'd just do a compendium of the website – like they have done with The Onion, or something like that. Basically, a toilet book. But I figured that I might never have the chance to publish a book again, so I thought I'd be a bit more ambitious and write a novel based on material on the website. It took me about six months to write additional material for the book and weave some vague sense of a story. Not that there's much in terms of plot or narrative, but I think the book does hold together as a novel in its atmosphere and mood. About half the book was taken from the website and half was new material. Plus I did about twenty new illustrations.

Is there intelligent life in outer space

Statistically, it's possible, but I don't think there's life in the universe anywhere near Earth, so it's a bit irrelevant. There are probably some microbes or marsupials a few trillion light years away. I doubt that they know about us.

Have you got any other projects on the go at the moment?

I've always got a few ideas going, but nothing major. I'm trying to write some comedy for the BBC and I keep getting interviewed by strange foreign magazines. I'd like to write another novel at some point, but I don't really want to repeat myself and do something similar to what I've done already. I admire people who can just churn stuff out, because if I'm not enjoying writing something, I just give up.

Your book is full of celebrities, in very normal situations. Usually they pop round to TMWFAs house for tea or to moan about everyday things. Is this how you like to see celebs.

I'm quite fascinated by celebrities, and the hierarchy of celebrity, from A-list to Z-list. I'm always interested in people on the borderline of fame, guys who are in indie bands that get a lot of coverage in the NME, but are still signing on at their local benefit office. Or former soap stars who end up working in pubs, knowing that one in every ten customers is going to recognise them. I think there's the dream that once you're famous your life is going to be totally transformed, that you leave the mortal world and enter the glossy world of Hello and Heat, never to return. And of course, fame isn't really like that. In the book, I just liked the idea of living out my fantasies and being surrounded by celebs.

You also do ‘Overheard Underground’ in Time Out magazine. How did you get that gig.

I've been doing it on my website for many years. I always used to hear funny/weird things on the tube and started collecting them on the website. And then about 4 years ago Time Out approached me about using the quotes on a weekly basis – I get almost no money for it, but it's good publicity for the website.

What did you want to be when you were younger.

A comic artist. My teenage years weren't very happy, so I threw myself into the world of American comics and superheroes. My dad's an artist – his paintings were on The Antiques Roadshow the other week – and so I grew up sketching and doodling on any spare scrap of paper. But you have to be really versatile to be a comic artist – you have to be able to draw anything from any angle, whereas I was only any good at drawing muscled men in costumes from a full-frontal view. Which gets a bit boring after a while. I still have an amazing amount of respect for good comic artists. There are a lot of crap artists, but the good ones are geniuses. It annoys me that Damien Hirst makes more money than David Mazzuchelli.

I’ve been trying to think of something similar to TMWFA, or of a similar style, but the nearest I can come up with is Mark Leyner (an author who mixes reality and absurdity in a similar way). Do you feel like a pioneer?

In some ways. I think every writer, artist or musician is quite vain and thinks that they're unique. I'm sure that Fall Out Boy or The Kooks honestly believe that they're doing something special, when clearly they aren't. I have my influences, from Woody Allen to Borges and I know that they've informed what I do, but I'd like to think the book is quite original anyway. In some ways that's a bad thing, because within the book industry it helps to have reference points, so you can say: “Oh, it's like Michael Chabon, but with a twist of Martin Amis” whereas I can't really say that. So, yes, I feel like a bit of a pioneer, if only by default.

What would be your ideal music festival line up be

That's quite hard. I don't really go to festivals nowadays. I prefer to sit at home and resent people. In my early 20s I was a massive Manic Street Preachers fan, and even though they've disappointed me for many years and I've sort of outgrown them, I'd quite like to see them playing live. I'd make them all diet for a few months first though. My favourite albums are the little lo-fi gems that Stephen Jones of BabyBird did before his band got famous, so I'd make some room for him to play a solo slot. Who else? Adam Green. The Red House Painters. Ella Fitzgerald (even though she's dead. She's still better than Leona Lewis), David Bowie, The Kinks, The Silver Jews, The Walkmen. And lots more. I'd also demand a supergroup made up of my favourite TV characters, fronted by Patrick McGoohan as The Prisoner. They'de play free-jazz.

How can we get hold of your wonderful book?

At the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. Or via my website, but I don't take Paypal. So there.

Thanks Greg.

So there you have it.

It was a horrible cold and windy day, and I have a cold and i'm feeling a bit sorry for myself.
We were busy in the shop though.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Up the Arse

On Thursday we welcomed Manchester's Queer Vegan poet Dominic Berry to the shop for the London launch of his new collection of poetry 'Tomorrow I Will Go Dancing'. It was a great evening and after the success of our last poetry event with Myra Schneider, I'd hoped that someone (anyone) from one (any) of our local poetry societies would be brave enough to break out of the safety of their prospective clubs and join us. Alas, despite of very good crowd, they weren't part of the audience.
Here's Dominic, posing beautifully for the camera. He was joined by another poet (from Liverpool) John Leyland, and together the evening was a right old corker.

And so to today's non bookshop event.

I was very very lucky to be invited by my very good friend Alister to watch Arsenal play Manchester United at the Emirates today.
Flippin' eck. We joined the throng on our way to the ground, and the atmosphere was electric. There wasn't a really positve attitude toward Arsenals chances, and I have to say I wasn't expecting Mr Wenger's red and white army to produce the goods.
The stadium is spectacular and over 60,000 fans turned up to watch.

United started as expected, and within 30 seconds had won an indirect free kick inside the penalty area , and from then on poured forward and had countless chances. Rooney was as ugly as I expected, meaning he had a really ugly attitude and was constantly sulking and moaning to the ref. Berbatov was sublime at times, and Ronaldo was given all the protection in the world by the suspiciously biased ref. Please bear in mind I don't support Arsenal (the mighty Bristol City continue their charge with a 1-0 win today), but they played with a great passion and Nasri was brilliant. It was against the run of play when The Arse scored, but Nasri's deflected goal wasn't a huge surprise. There could have been 5 goals beforehand. Half time came and Alister looked pensive.
The second half was as fast paced and exciting as the first and Arsenal scored again early on when Nasri knocked in a great shot. The Arse were beginning to enjoy themselves and the speedy Theo Walcott and the much under rated Bendtner were very dangerous, and could have put a goal or two more in.
In the style of all big football matches Arsenal then decided that holding on to a 2-0 lead was the thing to do, and United pressed some more.
In the last couple of minutes of normal time, the very unpleasant Raphael scored a cracking goal, and then the 4th official held up the board that announced 6 minutes of added time.
Arsenal held on and probably deserved it.
Here's Alister a relieved man.

I got into the spirit of things too.

A brilliant game, and a brilliant day.
I have an announcemant regarding my poor betting ability on Monday, so hold onto your hats for that.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Baracking around the Christmas Tree

Our first sale today was for 3 copies of Dreams From My Father and a copy of The Audacity of Hope, all by one jolly happy lady, who was singing a song as she walked through the door about Obama. I think she'd made it up at about 4 o'clock this morning. It went something like;

'lovely lovely Obama,
it's so wonderful.
I'm sooo happy,
Obama Obama'

It was super. I'm glad I got a load more in. We haven't sold that many John McCain books.

We've started ordering lots of books now and it's really really scary. I don't know whether to stock the hilarious Alan Carr book, or the dreadful looking Fern; my story. But i'm definitely not stocking Clarkson, Hammond or May. I may crack and order Beedle the Bard, but Dawn French is definitely off the menu. Celeb biogs in general aren't really doing it for me. Tesco's and Smith's rely on these at stupid prices to get people in to buy more value pasta shells or copies of Heat. Then they're considered bestsellers, and it encourages more people to get ghostwriters to write more tatt the following year. Smashing. We don't actually have a biography section in the shop any more. The books that would traditionally go in this section are scattered around the shop. So for example, the 'misery memoirs' are kept in self help, biographies of Hunter S Thompson and George Orwell are next to the authors' fiction and so on... Not great if you want to browse the biography section, but it seems to work.

Art...nows there's a tricky one at xmas. We don't have a big art section at the moment, but this is the one time of the year when big expensive photo books and the like do well. But this is where it gets scary. They're big and expensive. A browsers paradise, which means you may need a 'viewing copy'. Which means you ave to sell a cart load to make some money. But £35 for a big expensive photo book is alsways nice to get. What a dilemma.

Kids. That's a bit easier. Order loads and loads and loads, and display them in a friendly easy way.(I know it's not as simple as that really)

Fiction. Hardbacks are not my friends, but maybe it's the time of year to let bygones be bygones. I've got a few coming in.

Cookery. Here's one of my favourite sections in the shop, and one that explodes at xmas. We've got some gorgeous books coming in, and some old favourites.

I'll stop there, as there's a lot of sections to wade through, and it is getting a bit tedious isn't it.

We're going to transform the shop into a grotto of yuletide joy next week (or the week after), so i'll take some photos for then.

We have Dominic Berry, in tomorrow for the London launch of Tomorrow I Will Go Dancing. He's a tippety top poet, who's had some rave review for his performances, so it should be a corker.

I've stuck a quid on Celtic to beat Man Utd tonight at 9/2. I also have a quid on them to win 2-1 at 16/1.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Cold, isn't it? our little heaters are struggling to heat the air around them, but there it is. Heat is a rich man's luxury in England at the moment, so short of making a tinder bundle from the excessive packaging from some of our distributors (yeah Bertrams, i'm looking at you) and starting a fire in the middle of the shop, or inviting Jeremy Clarkson to the shop to come and spout a load of hot air like he does, we'll just have to wrap up warm.
We're looking at non book products (bookshop speak) at the moment. Here's something that we're going to be stocking. They're lovely lovely bookmarks.

lovely lovely.

We're also trying to work out what cards and calendars to stock for chrimbo, and that's a strange thing. It's OUR money this year, so getting calendars with a bigger discout if they're firm sale (we can't return them if they don't sell), or playing safe but making less money is just one of the many many dilemmas we're facing.

What about cards. One idea is to offer a non-card service. The idea is that people give money to us to give to charity, and for that we send an e-card to someone (a xmas card sent via e-mail). The cost to the environment that sending a xmas card is huge and this is an interesting way of doing something about it. Working out the logistics for this is a bit fun, but hopefully we can sort it out in the next week or so. I suspect we'll also be selling cards too....

We've decided against a wrapping service. Eminem was double booked so this is out of the question now. pnew, pnew, pnew.

I've looked at mugs, glasses, umbrellas, pens, diaries, notebooks, skittles, lollipops and rock amongst other things and hopefully we'll get the mix right.

I've put a little wager on two footie matches tonight. West Ham to win at Old Trafford and there to be more than 4 goals in the Arsenal Spurs match. Mmmm

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back in the Swing

OK, i've been back a few days now, so it's time to write bookshop type stuff on here.
With 2 months to go before xmas, we thought it would be a good time to talk about how we were going to sell lots of books over the festive period. A new challenge for us is budgetting for something like this with our own cash. We decided way back that there was no point in ordering our xmas stock to come in during September (when all the 'big books' are published by the silly old publishers). The way it works is that what you get invoiced for one month you have to pay for by the end of the following month. So filling our shop in September with cookbooks and celebrity biographies would have been a real hit on the bank balance this month. So we're going to do our xmas order in a weeks time, at the beginning of November.
Anyway, the shop is far too busy at the moment with other stuff to be worrying about chrimbo. We've had our 4 busiest weeks since we opened in the last 5, and we're trying to put together a big events programme for the new year. We've got two events this week, which should be great.
Firstly Myra Schneider is returning to the shop to launch her latest collection of poetry on Thursday, which is promising to be a full house.
And on Friday we're pleased to be launching a cracking new thriller from √Čanna Cullen called The Dark Pupils. If you're around and fancy either of these, please come along.
It's half term this week, which means it'll probably be a bit quieter than usual, but in a way, that'll give us a chance to catch up on a few things. Tim's going to be making 4 tables on Tuesday. He's bought a large sheet of MDF or something similar, and has produced an excel spreadsheet showing where he needs to cut the wood. It's all colour coordinated and if I had the skill i'd show you a picture of it. He's quite handy.
I'll be finishing off the new flyer design, which we intend to deliver to 10,000 homes in the next fortnight, just to remind people about us again.

Today was our kids reading group and we discussed Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver. It got an excellent response, and I enjoyed it too (although I thoought the ending with the bear could have gone on a little bit longer). I'll be reading part 2 soon.
We chose Tom Fletcher and the Angel of Death by Sarah Matthias as next month's book, which i'm really pleased about, as I tried to persuade them to choose this a couple of months ago (democracy eh?). I failed to persuade them to choose the Book Thief this month, so hopefully we'll choose that next January.

There's a ton of returns that we want to do in the next 3 weeks to clear some space for xmas, and also to free up some extra moolah, and we're trying to work out if we can use Batch Returns to return books that we recieved before we went onto Batch (if anyone out there knows the answer that'd be a help). Sorry for that boring industry-speak. Back to reality.

I'm going to be getting in touch with our website designer this week, to see if we can get something together before xmas. It seems a shame that we have this little blog, but our website is only a homepage at the moment. It's entirely our fault, so we'd better shake a leg.

We're also looking at stuff to sell that isn't books. We have cards and bookmarks in the shop, but we think we can make a few quid on other stuff aswell. If anyone has any suggestions, they'd be very welcome.

And finally, I predict Spurs will win for the first time this season against Bolton this afternoon. Always end on a joke.....

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Back at Work

We had a lovely break in Dartmouth, and so to get things out of the way, here are some choice photos of our trip.

Baby, Babycarrier and bad hair.

A reproduction of the Whicker Man at Babacombe model village (something for the kiddies).

. Stonehenge (£6.50 each to get in!)

Stonehenge at Babacombe model village.

Cheesy, british holidaymaker type photo.

Right, that's that then.

Things about the shop tomorrow...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Derren Brown

I suddenly realised that this was an ideal opportunity to find out if something odd was going on, so here we go.

About 4-5 years ago, when I worked in Walterstone's in the Oxford Street branch near Tottenham Court Road, there was a number of people in a short space of time who came into the shop to ask if we stocked a copy of the new book by Derren Brown. We looked on the computer and found that there wasn't anything available except some really expensive books on mind suggestion and close up magic that cost about £50. The customers were absolutely sure they'd seen something about the book on a poster or in a newspaper recently but couldn't remember the name of the book. Nothing unusual about this, but the strange thing is that every one of the customers who came in were so so sure they'd seen an advert about this book, they simply couldn't understand why we couldn't find it on the computer. We said that perhaps they mistook the new DVD for a book, but they were insistant that the book existed and were quite upset that we couldn't find it.
Katie and I have talked about this a few times and laughingly suggested that maybe these people had been hypnotised into thinking that the book existed.

I thought this would be a great opportunity to find out if this was just a massive coincidence, or if as suspected, I'm a massive tool.

Do any of you booksellers out there who read this nonsense remember a similar situation. Yes I know that Derren has brought a book out since then, but this was about 5 years ago.

Maybe if it was Derren instead of Gordon in charge, he could tell us all it was OK and everything would be fine. Maybe if Charlie was in charge it might be better still.
I'm on a little holiday to Dartmouth, but if this rings any bells with you, spread the word, and we'll get to the bottom of this mystery.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Aaaaahhhh Briscoe!

Constance Briscoe came to see us last night.
She wrote a book called Ugly, about her awful childhood and the way she was abused by her Mum. She's sold 1.2 million copies of the book. She then wrote a book called Beyond Ugly about stuff after the stuff in her first book. That was the book that we were selling last night.
The shop was full and Constance was marvellous. She's now a judge and a very sucessful person. To a lot of the audience she's an inspiration, and she didn't let them down. She was funny, articulate, confident and she knows exactly what she's doing.
There's been some bother about the publication of the book, what with her mother taking her to court and all that, and Constance made it clear that the audience could ask her absolutely anything... they did.
There was a heated discussion about why she wouldn't forgive her mother which was looking quite interesting until 'in the Bible it says...' was introduced. It's always tricky when that happens, but Constance showed her barrister-like credentials and the fans of Briscoe weren't let down.
We sold some copies, despite WHSmith having been selling them for £2.99 (when you buy any magazine or periodical. Not in conjunction with any other offer. Terms and conditions apply. Offer not available in all stores, for full terms and conditions please check our website), and it was a good fun night.

Fridays are 'my work at home' day. Tim and I have 2 days each in the week where we can be away from the shop (if nothing else is happening, which is hardly ever). One of these we can deem as a day off, and one of these is a day when we can get on with all the things that it's easier to do away from the shop, like marketing, accounts or visiting schools (or sleeping). Today Freya and I put together an article for a student magazine and also we had a piece to do for a book that's coming out next year.
As you can see by the photo Freya's not very happy about what i've just written, but it all ended up OK.

We're off to Dartmouth next Tuesday for a lovely short break. If anyone cares...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


we've got Constance Briscoe joining us for an evening of misery memoir magic. It's all quite exciting, as we'd sorted out a signing with her at the Wartystones in Wood Green just before they closed last year , so it's lovely that she's coming to join us in our little shop. We've been oversubscribed with punters determined to share the sadness and meet the queen of the tragedy, so I think it'll be standing room only again.
Thanks Constance.

we've got some tasty events over the next couple of months, of which one or two are a bit hush hush at the moment, but i can announce this one....

Thursday 13th November 6.30pm So, last month we hosted an evening with the wonderful Bill Drummond, and this month sees another legend perform at the Big Green Bookshop.

John Sinclair, performance poet, jazz aficionado, former manager of the MC5, Oh yes want more?

co founder of the White Panther Party and the man John Lennon wrote a song about, will be appearing to celebrate the launch of two books both published by HeadPress.
Firstly John will be performing and talking about ‘It’s All Good; the John Sinclair reader', not published until April next year (!) ,but exclusively available on the night. We will also be celebrating the launch of ‘HeadPress 28, The Gospel According to Unpopular Culture’, which is edited by Mr Sinclair, and marks the 40th anniversary of the original White Panther movement. Both books will be available on the night.
You'd better get there early, that's all i'm saying....

Haruki, we're still waiting for any kind of reply. I reckon we could squeeze you in next Feb/March. What do you reckon?

Friday, October 03, 2008

You've Got To Admire Their Sauce

Last night we hosted an event that will live long in my memory.

My very good friend Mark Farley suggested to me some time ago that we may like to host an evening of erotic stories and performance to coincide with the publication of Ultimate Burlesque. Not only is this a marvellous collection of short saucy stories (published by Xcite press), but also 15% of the cover price goes to the charity Burlesque Against Breast Cancer. I said yes, as you can imagine I would.

So last night, with the shop shutters down and an expectant audience, the Big Green Bookshop got filthy.

Mark was the compere for the evening, and introduced us to our first act. You could hear a pin drop as Carmen Ali walked out from behind the curtains (our kids section had been turned into a changing room for the evening. Sorry Maisy, sorry Spot).
She read from her short story about domination of her boyfriend, and we also learnt what figging was. Maybe that's why Geri Halliwell was called ginger spice. As if her story wasn't enough, she then turned into the wonderful Aurelia Dare to perform a wonderful tassel spinning burlesque act, for which this is a safe for work picture. Our sofa will never be the same again.
After the cheers and things had begun to die down we heard a shout from the crowd
'Are all book readings like this?'
No they aren't. Good old us.

Mark then read us his story from the point of view of a 19th century american lesbian.. I have to say that from my point of view, it's a strange experience listening to your friend read an erotic story, but it seemed to go down very well.

Then it was the turn of the birthday girl Sarah Berry to read her story for the first time. A virgin you could say. Until you heard her that is...
Her story involved two strings of pearls, of which only one was worn around the neck. It was performed marvellously and brought a huge round of applause from appreciative crowd.

Richar Bardsley then read a story of the sexual delights of tazering. Yes, tazering. It was shocking....

Then it was the turn of Maxim Jakubowski to read his science fiction/erotic story based on time travel, burlesque and the rotten core of today's sex industry.
It was dark, seedy and very very well written. Maxim is a bit of a legend in the world of books. He opened the Murder One bookshop in Charing Cross Road in 1988, and it continues to thrive and survive when other't. He's also a lovely chap.

Finally it was the turn of (birthday girl) Sister Berry Rogers to remind us of the evils of onanism.
We sang along as she reminded us how sacred and great our sperm was, and finished off (it's very difficult writing this without feeling like a Carry On film) by getting out of the habit.

Whoops and cheers followed, and the night came to a wonderful climax. The audience was spent, and purchased their copies of Ultimate Burlesque, which the performers happily signed.
It was a really fun night, and everyone had a great time (I think). We want to say thanks to everybody who made the night so memorable.

Same time next week then Mark?