Tuesday, 29 September 2009
The Perfect Bookshop?
It's second-hand of course, not new (boringly predictable) or antiquarian (forbiddingly expensive). The premises small-to-middling, with every inch of floor and shelf space put to good use, but still room (just) to move around. The shelves well stocked with all the categories you'd expect - and a few you wouldn't ('Elderly Children's', 'Alcohol') - intelligently but not rigidly classified, allowing for surprises. The stock in good condition, every vintage from early Victorian to near-new, well chosen, with the emphasis on literature but some popular fiction too (scrupulously alphabetical, despite the impression of disorder). No obvious rubbish, and everything reasonably priced (and, when you visit, a half price sale is on). The odd stack of overspill books on the floor and in odd corners, and a small section devoted to miscellaneous bric a brac - a few prints and paintings, masks and fancy headdresses, some china, old-fashioned children's toys and trinkets - not to mention, elsewhere, well chosen greetings cards, and jars of home-made chutney, preserves and honey. Cheerfully friendly, but not twee, messages dotted about the place - and a cheerfully friendly, but not twee, proprietor who's happy to retreat from the secene and leave you alone to browse... Can such a shop exist in these times? Reader, it can - and I was there yesterday. I shan't name it, but will simply say that, if you find yourself in Osterley (the house, Osterley Park, is worth a visit - and the grounds look very well on a sunny autumn day), look out for it. And there's even an equally cheerfully f, but not t, cafe opposite.