It is late August. I sitting here at my desk tanned, relaxed and a few kilos heavier after my annual summer holidays. After a busy year bookselling I need my rest and most years I can be found bobbing about somehwere in the Mediterranean or Adriatic seas during Augusts hot days and devouring the local fish at various restaurants in the evening. I have, on occasion, been known to take a sip of the local wine too.
This year I was lucky enough to have two holidays. One, on the beautiful Spanish island of Menorca, with very good friends of mine that also happen to be bookdealers. Amazingly enough there was little book talk during this holiday. This was partly down to the withering "Oh No. Do you have to?" looks that many bookseller's partners have perfected over the years when they hear the start of a hilarious bookselling related anecdote, but mainly because we were far too pre-occupied with the importand issues of the day, like; What time was lunch?, What time was dinner?, and trying to keep the little people amused by letting them attempt to drown me in several different ways. Normally quiet and sweet natured children can be brutal when you poke fun at their 'Hello Kitty' armbands. Be warned.
My second holiday was with non-bookselling friends on the Greek island of Corfu. The Greeks discovered fishing with Dynamite in the 1970's and managed to not only kill off all the adult fish but the inafnts and the breeding grounds as well. The result is that Corfu is an island with very little fresh fish on it. It took me 3 or 4 days to get over this fact. I had been looking forward to trying new and different tastes. I got kebabs and feta cheese.
This holiday was markedly different from my earlier trip in many ways, the main one being that 2 of my friends have teenage boys who spent most of the holiday mumbling, pouting and shuffling along at a snails pace behind everyone else. Only the passing of bikini clad girls and huge plates of food made them break into a smile, and then not for long. If I was anything like them when I was their age, I would like to apologise to everyone I ever came into contact with.
The end of the summer means the start of the bookfair season. Traditionally the York Bookfair kicks off the whole thing in early september.
The largest antiquarian and second hand bookfair in the UK, York has some 220 exhibitors spread over three floors of the Knavesmire Suite at York Racecourse, for 2 days. This years the dates are; Friday 8th (1 - 7pm) and Saturday 9th (10am - 5pm).
Because of its fairly central position, York is easily reachable in a few hours from most parts of the U.K by car. The result is that the bookfair has dealers from Scotland, Wales and most of the counties of England. You will find part-time and fairly new dealers alongside some of the biggest and longest established firms that our little world has. This leads to an interesting mix of stock. All subjects, all ages and all price levels. This combination proves very popular with the bookfair customers and it is always very well attended. There really is something for everyone. Last year a regular customer of mine took great delight in showing me a couple of Edwardian postcards of his home town that had cost him just 50 pence each. Also in his bag was an early travel book that he had just parted with a few thousand pounds for. Many dealers make a point of bringing a wide range of stock to cater for this broad customer interest and there will be books, maps, ephemera and often assorted other odds and ends on paper for sale from pennies to tens of thousands of pounds.
After the lull of the Summer and with my batteries re-charged it is nice to look forward to the bookfairs again. After the June fairs in London my appetite for standing about in a brightly lit hall with a hundred other dealers for several days is very low. This follows the previous 9 months of assorted trips around the UK and overseas, from Toronto to Chelsea to Boston to Los Angeles to San Francisco to New York to Olympia. By mid June I don't want to see another shipping case again, or prepare yet another packing list to keep Customs officials quiet.
Now that it is all about to start again I feel myself getting excited at the prospect of the coming months of bookfairs that will kep me busy until June 2012. What I will find to buy? What I will sell?. What interesting new people I will meet, both dealers and collectors? Then there's the new restaurants and bars to try out, and the old favourites to be re-visited.
Should you want to see this glowing optimism in the flesh, I will be at stand number 7 on the ground floor for this years York Bookfair. Please stop by and say hello. If there is anything from my stock that you would like to have a look at, just send me an email ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or call me ( 020 8876 7424 ) and I will bring it along. I have a few complimentary tickets available so please do ask if you want one (or two).
See You there.