Thursday, 31 July 2014


I have only been to Stirling once, to visit the castle during the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1986. I don't recall it much, a vague impression of a long and cobbled road leading up towards the castle lined with antique shops with porcelain in their windows.

Almost thirty years later and only part of my recollection is incorrect. Stirling is a good wandering town, once you find your sense of direction. There's an art gallery underneath the castle mount that has a good history of the area (and there is a lot of history bound up in that part of Scotland).

Sadly though it was a bit of a whistle stop visit. Lunch, a couple of bookshops and record stores, then on to the next destination.

While we were in Stirling I also bought The Man With The Golden Arm (Stirling Books) and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Oxfam).

Leggy Mambo, Cud, Wake of the Flood/From The Mars Hotel, Grateful Dead, Big Bang!, We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Going to Use It, Southside, Texas
Europa Records, Stirling

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The most friendliest of librarians [not in the Fahrenheit 451 sense]

There is a place in Scotland where I was able to do something I never, ever thought I would do. I touched while reading a first edition version of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queen. It was a kind of of a good feeling. It is also an odd feeling, the book is worth a lot of money (certainly more than I am accustomed to when handling books), and yet the Faerie Queen was practically thrust into my hands to read.

Where was I? This was an unusual sensation for me, very unusual. Aside from the Queen I was told I could read through parts of an English language bible that predates the King James Bible. I passed up on this for the Discovery of Witchcraft. The first few wild sentences of that book, published in the 17th century, more than made up for it.

Anyway, where was I? The Library at Innerpeffray, which was set up during the Enlightenment to lend books to the public. At the time, the most welcoming of staff informed us, literacy was at close to 75 percent of the Scottish population, with England at less than 50 percent (I am a little sketchy on this, so don't quote me in a dissertation or other academic journal). The Library is situated near a bend in a river, not far from the St Andrew's Golf Course, and was lending first editions to the public from 1680 to the mid-1960s.

I suggest you visit and see for yourself.

Also, on the travels today I bought the Brightonomicon (PDSA in Callander) and Renegade by Mark E Smith (British Heart Foundation Scotland). Renegade is the second book I own relating to the Fall, though this is about Mark E Smith himself (speaking for himself) rather than a collection of stories based on the stories in Fall songs. I was put on to Renegade by a former colleague who put me on to the best ever remix of a James song (Sabres of Paradise's Jam J, forty minutes of absolute dub heaven), so this book will be good.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The type of recordshop I'd be a customer of...

A trip to a new city, a visit to the wild unknown beyond normal travelling distance from the fair city of Leeds. What could make it better than the sheer lovely sense of exploration? Why yes, unexpectedly finding a record shop that turns out to be rather good, rather, rather good.

We're in Scotland, for a holiday that took in the Commonwealth Games, the Hill House in Helensburgh, and Dundee. This is my first visit, and aside from an odd experience of contraflow in roadworks, it was enjoyable. There's lots to see though to be honest one of the best bits was turning in towards the car park to spot a sign for a record shop, Grouchos Records. It will be a good visit.

The shop is big, with lots of vinyl to flick through. I did a lot of flicking though thought I couldn't find what I was looking for, Tangerine Dream. So I asked, only to be shown a clearly marked section for the band. Oh well, customers can be idiots.

I liked Grouchos, there is a nice sense of care for music and the scene in the shop. There's lots of rarities and lots of decently priced normal records.

Also in Dundee: amongst the charity shops and other amusements of Dundee (you really must go to the Discovery Centre, go now, go early, go often), I purchased Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By from a Red Cross shop.

Dare, The Human League, Disco, Pet Shop Boys, Rubycon, Stratosfear, Tangerine Dream, Sunshine On Leith, The Proclaimers, Greatest Hits, Steely Dan, Professional Widow, Tori Amos, 20 Golden Greats, Diama Ross, Greatest Hits, The Rolling Stones
Groucho Record Store, Dundee

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ok, Go!

Awards are funny things. In publishing there are some relatively small awards that should be shouted from the roof tops compared to some of the mainstream ones that seem to warp time to include the latest release in their longlist.

Today I popped into Ok Comics. I shop there fairly regularly, they keep me stocked up in 2000ad, and I get collections and trade paperbacks from there. Jared and Oliver are really friendly and helpful; ask for a recommendation and they will suggest something you'll be glad to have read.

Anyway, I popped in today and saw Jared being interviewed outside the shop door. He was discussing how awesomely amazingly groovy (my words) it was to be nominated to the shortlist of twelve comic book retailers in the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. Ok Comics is the only European retailer in the list for the award which is like the Oscars for comic book stores (Ok Comics words).

The prize is announced on Friday night, I can't imagine what the atmosphere will be like if Ok Comics won. Probably the same as New 52 launch night with Free Comic Book Day times by ten, and then some more.

Aside from the recommendations and the events, Ok operate a free graphic novel library and one of the best loyalty schemes ever. Visit, say hello, enjoy a truly independent shopping experience in Leeds: I am willing to say that more than 80% of non-sequential art readers will find something they will enjoy reading.

The other big publishing award news this week was the release of a longlist. It seemed to include a book that seemingly has only been released this week too, so either it is very good or very heavily promoted. I won't name names.

All I will do is highlight how wonderful the Green Carnation Prize is. If you ever get the chance to listen to Simon Savidge talk about books take it: it was one of thee best book events I've ever been to.

Postscript. If by popping into Ok Comics my colourful shirt should appear in the background to any video content then the only thing I will say is this: I am fighting a war against the white shirt-wearing office workers of Leeds. In the words of Los Campesinos! it is a war I will surely lose.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Shipping containers and their drivers

With some bookshops and record stores one has a pretty good idea where their focus lies. They might have a theme; only sell antiquated first editions; have the largest collection of romance in Cumbria. They may also have a pretty clear business plan in that over 95% of their sales are online so therefore their retail space is primarily to support this with occasional visits from the public.

Secondhand books and records sell well on the internet, and the possibilities of finding that elusive record or book increase once one goes online. Out of print Brautigan? Why yes, those collected editions of the novels are online waiting for your card details. James’s One Man Clapping record which will not be reissued according to the band? It is there, on CD or vinyl, and tape if you want to go that far*. The internet connects people, sometimes the people charge a little too much or expect a low price automatically, and if one wanted to they could amass a library of word and sound from the comfort of their arm chair.

Over the Grand Depart weekend in Yorkshire we found ourselves the other side of the Pennines with only a trip down and around Manchester to get home. Sharston Books is in Manchester and we’ve been meaning to go for years. They sell online and have books upon books upon books in a warehouse and shipping containers, so it seemed there would be a lot of choice. Sharston Books is based on an industrial estate just off the M60, near Manchester Airport (I think, the only reason I have for this is passing the rather dated looking Airport Hotel near the junction for said motorway), and easy to find. It is a warehouse and there are shipping containers, though everything is relatively well organised. To me it gave off the impression of being a store for their online operation that one was able to look around – this is no big thing though.

I came away with the second volume of Robert Graves’ Greek Myths (a much better looking edition than my first volume), the first in the Vampirates series, and Douglas Adams’s The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. My wife also found Mary Poppins Comes Back (see above) amongst other titles, and we were impressed with the price. Might not be rushing back though if I’m driving by again and have a little spare time will pop by.

Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Robert Graves, Greek Myths Volume II, Vampirates
Sharston Books, Wearlee Works, Longley Lane, Manchester

*Tape is a terrible format, my original copy of One Man Clapping was on tape and it warped in a car stereo never to sound the same again.