When I was a child, I received new books for Christmas and birthdays, so from the time I was quite young I associated books with something special. And so they are.
Probably because of my reading, I also became a great seeker of treasures. My cousin and I used to visit the local tip in the hope that we might find something wonderful – a wishing chair, a jewelled sarcophagus, a Roman helmet or an old trunk filled with gold. The tip was strictly verboten but, Goody Two-Shoes though I was, I knew that all would be forgiven when I came home with my booty.
After school, my friends and I used to go into the ‘Second-hand’ Shop on Queens Parade – another forbidden place. We would sneak in and prowl around until the old man who lurked behind his dusty merchandise, darted out flailing his arms to drive us off. What more evidence did we need that there was treasure to be found right there, on the way home from school? And we had discussed the ethics. It was only fair that when we found the treasure, we shared it with this man, nasty and suspicious though he be.
Is it any wonder, then, that I decided to be an archaeologist? This prevailed until someone told me that you had to dig up dead people. That turned me right off.
So – what does this have to do with National Bookshop Day? Every time you enter a bookshop, you are on a treasure hunt – not a lacklustre virtual hunt, but a real, physical experience. You can pick up the books and feel their newness. (I like to run my hands over the cover.) After reading the blurb, I scan little snippets to see if I want to read more. I pick up another book. Do the same thing. Agonise. I can only afford one, but I’ve now got four I could very well buy. I talk to one of the staff. Bookshops must be one of the last bastions of real customer service. Staff know their stock. They can recommend. They can order. They can find the book that you heard reviewed on Books and Arts – the one where the author’s name might have started with a ‘B’ or that could be an ‘F’? Anyway it was about someone who accidentally…’ The treasure is found and someone else does the digging.
I am took my young granddaughters to a Dragon Day at the Eltham bookshop today. They had great fun and came home with some colouring in, bookmarks and a dragon story each. They are not only little treasures, but like me, treasure-seekers.