There's something about days off, wet days and bookshops. Don't get me wrong...I just don't go into a bookshop to get out of the rain......but can you think of a better way of spending a satisfying hour or two in a snug little shop surrounded by fascinating new books to look at?
If it's fine, there's always other things to be done...getting the washing out on the line, going for a lovely walk, being on the allotment catching up in a mad frenzy of digging and planting....useful things, busy things.
But I mooch about in bookshops whatever the weather. I adore them, it's the most wonderful feeling seeing new books, dipping in between the covers, inhaling the intense smell of a shiny new book and whiling away blissful guilt free minutes in other worlds and other times.
And that's exactly what I did last Saturday afternoon as it persisted down relentlessly -I toddled off to my local ,and one of my favourite ,bookshops.
It's in Kibworth and called....wait for it.....the Bookshop, and I have to say it's the teeniest, tiniest shop you could imagine. About the size of an average size sitting room .But it's so pretty.....and full of books that I want!
I'm not surprised that the Bookshop has been shortlisted in the Independent Bookseller of the Year Award for 2012. The shop has already won the Midlands and Wales title, and now Debbie James who owns the shop, is hoping for great things on 14 May when the main award is given out at a posh dinner.
I first met Debbie the first week she opened the shop...just before Christmas 2009 - the month that Borders...yes...big ,bold Borders closed its doors.
Now at a time when the number of bookshops here in the UK is declining, that's a brave move.From 2006 to 2011 nearly 400 independent bookshops closed -almost a third of the total number .
You get a friendly welcome when you enter the shop from Debbie who's chatty, knowledgeable and efficient.You could be forgiven for thinking that she's been in the business for years. But she hasn't....this is her very first bookshop although it's always been her dream to own one...and before that she wasn't even in the trade - she was touring around Europe (she's fluent in German) as a sales advisor for Premier Drum.
It was risky even opening the shop....so in the New Year I hotfooted back to the shop to interview her for a feature on BBC Radio Leicester -A new year, a new business. I also interviewed Darren, a local computer consultant who was also venturing into a new career as a builder. Both I'm pleased to say are doing brilliantly.
But back to Debbie. Although she was new to the business,....she's spot on when it's come to building it up. She already runs three bookgroups - the one that takes place monthly in the shop always involves wine and cheese straws, and the other two take place at a local restaurant called Bobolis. I suspect wine makes an appearance there too!
I know how hot she is at customer service from personal experience. Whatever I want, if she hasn't got it ,will be ordered and usually be available to be picked up the next day. But one day, I rang up to see if she had a paperback...a rather obscure one. Debbie said she would order it as usual. I was at work the following day though and wouldn't be able to get into the shop before closing time. And I needed that book first thing the following day to give a present.
Debbie thought for a few seconds..."What time could you be here by then?" I said I couldn't get there until an hour after she closed.
She beamed....and said she would meet me then in the the village pub. So the following day, I met her in the pub where she was with a friend, picked up my book and ended up staying for a few glasses of wine. That's what I call friendly service!
Luckily there are still hundreds of other lovely,local , friendly bookshops like this one....
but they do need your support. Without it, and the fact that on line sales of books are rocketing and the rise of ebooks - so many may disappear.
So go on, support your local bookshop too....and you don't even have to wait until a rainy day either.....
Today's track is "Wrapped up in Books" from the sublime Belle and Sebastian ,I saw them perform at Leicester's Summer Sundae festival back in 2006. Their clever, catchy songs delighted ....