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Random Thoughts from Lockdown 2

Random Thoughts from Lockdown 2

Random Thoughts from Lockdown, 2
 We have been spending much time and energy over the last week thinking about how to open the shop safely once the all clear (ha ha) sounds next month and we can welcome customers physically instead of just online and on phone. I have named this discussion ‘Project Stormtrooper’ in honour of the protective coverings we will have to wear to protect customers and ourselves. The thought of filling the shop with signs and directions has left me extremely depressed as they are the exact opposite of our ethos. Aardvark’s warm persona came originally from the character of my late colleague Edward who died in 2014. Edward had such personal warmth that even though he is no longer with us, his spirit remains, imbuing everything in the shop with a particular vitality. I have been unsure how much of this spirit would survive into the new Covid era.

But this morning as I was walking Coco around a windy village green, I started to think about Kenneth Clark and what he did in the National Gallery during the war. Clark had moved the collection to abandoned mines in Wales. This left the building empty, and Dame Myra Hess approached Clark with the suggestion that she play a lunchtime concert in the deserted atrium. From then until 1946 Hess and her musicians played Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and Brahms to 3/4M people, continuing even during the worst of the Blitz. Later in 1942 Clark had the idea of presenting a single painting each week and many people flocked to look intently at each picture. And so I thought to myself even a reduced Aardvark can be worthwhile if we stick to our principles and offer it with love (as Edward would have done).

Yesterday R staged an intervention in the shop as I have been so obsessed with Neil Young recently that it has even started to depress her. The Fiona Apple CD I ordered has just arrived and I am under strict instructions to listen sparingly and under no circumstances to go anywhere near Nick Drake (step away from the Pink Moon). The Aardvark household has always had its musical no go areas (just as my parents during their marriage kept a lifelong ban on playing Monopoly and wallpapering) such as the 'no Jacques Brel' rule, but lockdown has widened the list of aural prohibitions. I am now avoiding Lhasa, Jeff Buckley, Piaf and Nina Simone (although I am going to exempt her version of ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’). I am writing this listening to Record Review which is featuring one of Schumann’s song cycles which will not be a hardship to give up (my romantic soul likes the idea of Robbie S, but musically I have always preferred the works of his wife following a concert at the official Edinburgh Festival I attended as a teenager).

This week at the shop has continued pretty much the same as previous lockdown weeks, with a multitude of online orders and an increasing number of telephone requests. Next week things are due to change as P is going to join us to help with the packing, thereby liberating me to be able to increase the speed at which I can work through the warehouse backlog. Our aim is to hold our July sale as previously (although sadly without the Jazz Brunch) and I am going to spend the next month or so ensuring that there are lots of bargains for people to enjoy.

The best thing that happened at the shop this week was that I got an email from one of the art publishers we work with, offering me a parcel of books. Having not bought any books for two months this made me realise how much I had been missing the joy of opening the boxes and finding new and surprising titles. One would have to be unusually unreflective not to have spent part of lockdown thinking about the life one has lived and what one misses. It has also made me think again about what it is that I like about being a bookseller. Think of the scene in High Fidelity in which Rob admits he would rather own a record store than be an architect, but without the criminally underused Iben Hjejle (come to think of it, why has one of the other stars of HF, the luminous Lisa Bonnet, not been offered more roles over the years?). I have come to the conclusion that the two things I most enjoy are the interactions with customers and the buying of books. It is not that I don’t love books themselves or reading, but the fact is that I will never be the kind of bookseller that my friend Anna Dreda was. Her close reading of texts and her skills at enthusing readers with her love of particular works, are attributes that I do not possess.

Speaking as I was above of luminous actresses, yesterday I found myself telling R about my love for Rivette’s ‘La Belle Noiseuse’ which features a wonderful performance from Emmanuelle Béart, who is simply the most arresting actress I have ever watched. I know of no other film that captures the difficulty of being a creative person better than LBN. There is also a subtle supporting performance from Jane Birkin as the painter’s wife - a marvellous under-rated actor. Rivette is one of the less well known directors of the New Wave, but alongside Rohmer, my favourite. Speaking of the NW I caught a fantastic edition of the Film Programme yesterday with a tribute to Agnès Varda, perhaps its only female member and the director of ‘Cleo from 5 to 7’ amongst other works. Also - something I hadn't realised - the wife of Jacques Demy (director of the ‘Umbrellas of Cherbourg’). She was particularly riverting on Goddard whom she revered but then fell out with.

Another thing that has cheered me up this week is that I got an email from the Algerian Coffee Store to say that they were re-opening to online orders. Needless to say they were immediately overwhelmed with demand (we ACS acolytes are a dedicated bunch!) and the first few times I tried ordering the site was closed again. But yesterday I got an email saying that they were taking a small number of orders at 11am this morning and I got my shopping cart ready and raced through the ordering process having been sent a special code. It felt like the scene in ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ when the leads run round NY desperately looking for clues to where their favourite group (has there ever been a better band name than ‘Where’s Fluffy’) are holding a secret show. After a couple of failures when the system rejected the code, my name and my whole reason for existence, at last - success. I can already taste the organic Peruvian medium roast coffee, and most essentially the Osprey Lapsang Souchong, my stocks of which have become critically low. I have also added a pack of dark chocolate coffee beans for Ethel who has been finding the last week particularly hard.

So to end my highlights of the week I would like to add this morning’s reading of the Summer 2020 edition of the Royal Academy magazine (see jacket above). Under the circumstances it would have been a triumph to produce any magazine at all, but weirdly this issue is the best for years. A superb article on Ruth Asawa, Eva Jiricna on an Eileen Gray chair, a poem by Alice Oswald and so much more. If you are not a friend ask some-one who is to lend you their copy, or call the RA shop. Speaking of the RA a number of their exhibitions had just opened when lockdown came, and to alleviate our disappointment at not being able to see them they have prepared insightful online tours - one of which on their Picasso and Paper exhibition I watched last night. What a triumph that exhibition was, and what a tragedy that it was open for such a short time. I found out about the online tours from listening to an interview with Rebecca Salter on the ever excellent Art Newspaper Podcast. Also in the RA magazine are tempting adverts for an online exhibition of Lynn Chadwick’s work from the setting of his home that has been put together by the Pangolin Gallery, and a whole raft of new live films that have been produced by the ever inventive Goldmark Gallery on some of their artists. Such lockdown treats.

Finally, today I have a new Jean-Luc Bannalec Brittany murder mystery to start and despite the wind I feel myself warmed by thoughts of the French Atlantic coast which I have loved since I first came to know it in my early thirties. Speaking of France - and the west coast in particular - makes me inevitably think of wine and my ultimate highlight of the week - sipping a chilled glass of Muscadet made by the generous Michel Delhommeau at his homely chais in Monnières, south of Nantes. Up until about 15 years ago I shared the typical British disdain for this grape - bad examples of which were a staple of trips to restaurants in the 1970s a - but I came to know it again in its original homeland of Burgundy where is is known by its true name Melon. Like many of the lesser grape varieties in France, it holds extraordinary promise and in the hands of dedicated makers becomes an elixir of the gods. When we drove in to see Monsieur Delhommeau last year he was having a very difficult time. The weather in 2019 had been uncooperative and he had lost over half of his crop to a disastrous frost in April. Also he had managed to cut his hand very badly when pruning the vines and had a huge bandage on his right arm. Needless to say this did not stop this prince amongst viticulturists from opening bottle after bottle for us to try, even running out to the car as we were leaving with a present of one of his sparkling wines. This week, having had an hitherto alcohol-free lockdown I finally weakened and opened a bottle of his sublime 2010 special cuvée. It tasted divine, and amazingly even improved a little the next night when I shared a glass with Ethel over the magic of FaceTime. Courage mes braves, all is not lost in a world where such domestic joys are possible.

 

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2018
End of year thoughts Thanks for the Christmas Fair, Poetry Breakfast, 2019 Where does the time go? A return to normality? Autumn Brocante Back from Frankfurt, Brocante on Sunday, Winter Event Autumn returns Long time no blog Bank Holiday Monday - Vide Grenier hoorah! Vide Grenier on Monday, J L Carr Day on 1st September, H.Art opens on the 8th of September Art Books, Angelfest Kingsland, Vide Grenier, Carr Celebration, H.Art Brilliant Scarecrow Sunday, lots of books, looking forward to J L Carr, H.Art and Ludlow Food Festival, sad goodbye Scarecrow Sunday, Applications for Café position, Idle Thoughts of a musical & vinous bent Art Opening - Summer Sextet, Scarecrow Sunday, Radio Fame, Pop-Ups, lots and lots of books Meetings with Remarkable Books, Summer Sextet, Scarecrow Sunday So much has happened, and so much is coming up Fabulous May Brocante about to open ! Don't Forget - Bank Holiday Brocante Bank Holiday Weekend, Out of the Hills Art of the Print, Blue Haze Quartet, new cake selection, looking forward to the Brocante and beyond Bookfair books all stowed away, Art of the Print, Out of the Hills etc Aardvarks Back from Norfolk, Art of the Print, Point to Point, hard pounding What a week its been Busy week in the bookshop, 'Art of the Print', 'Out of the Hills' and Much More Big thanks to all who made Easter so fantastic! Snow again, busy week, April book bonanza, Easter and sculpture, Jazz amongst the bookshelves Snow no more, Borderlines Sponsored Film, even more books Opening Hours 3rd of March Closing Early 2nd March Valentine's event is finally here Spring Fair, Epic victory in Kingsland Quiz, 'The Bookshop' performance at Courtyard, Valentine's Event And so the new year turns Roadworks, new philosophy library and lots of CDs New Year and lots of books
2017
New Year Resolutions 2 New Year's resolutions 1 Nothings gives pleasure more than a good book, a beautiful music and a wonderful view Christmas Fair cancelled, Christmas opening etc Christmas Fair, Aardvark Christmas opening, 2017 Thanks Winter Event - Bill Sewell, Jobs at Aardvark Winter Event, False Lights Review, Aardvark in 2018 Employment at Aardvark Books October Brocante, Frankfurt update, Winter Event Back from Frankfurt, Brocante Sunday, much more to come Syrinx and Harp Arcadia at Aardvark, Frankfurt Bookfair, October Brocante, Weekend helper required 'Syrinx and Harp', October Brocante, new titles in store False Lights, Tickets for Arcadia Music, Stall bookings for October Brocante Ludlow Food Festival, False Lights Book Launch, Syrinx and Harp Why Buy Art? Health updates, Vide Grenier news, H.Art, Literary Ludlow, Book Launch: False Lights Only two days to the Vide Grenier Civil War Weekend continues, H.Art, Literary Ludlow, Launch of 'False Lights' Civil War Weekend Awaits Thank you for best wishes, Re-enactment, History books galore Aardvarks back in the saddle, Jazz Brunch and Sale, Forward to the Re-enactment and the autumn Aardvark is Cyclist heaven, Solstice Exhibition, Changes to Jazz Brunch line up Last weekend of Shropshire Hills Art Exhibition, and opening next week of 'The Solstice' And Humour Books, Music and Art: The answer to all life's problems Mad May Bank Holiday, Shropshire Hills Art Week, Even More Books Catch up, books and forthcoming exhibitions Map exhibition opening, Bank Holiday weekend Last weekend of Fire and Earth Ceramics exhibit, excitement ahead of 'Maps and Mansions', big house clearance An incredible 3 years CDs, Fire + Earth Ceramics exhibition Clwyd Art Fund, Shropshire Books, Map Exhibition, Fire and Earth, Stuart Davies London Book Fair, Building a Library-'Quartet for the End of Time', Books Books Books! In memoriam Paul Williams,London Bookfair Blow Up, Borderlines Film Festival, Blow-Up Part 1 Beautiful bright day, Peter May, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts Richard Strauss, Rodrigo on Building a Library, Valentine's Day, Peter Reynolds Musicologist, Art of France Valentine's Saturday Who would have known it - books are back in fashion Busy week at Aardvark Books! Hope Bright clear morning, and exciting events to come New Year 2017
2016
New Year's Eve 2016 Five reasons to be cheerful for 2017! Christmas Eve 2016 CHRISTMAS FAIR 2016 Xmas Fair on Sunday, Greg Lake, Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy Grey Sunday morning, but ice free Barbara Strozzi on Building a Library, nearly at the end of Frankfurt Books, plans for Christmas Fair Winter Event, plans for 2017 Wigmore Abbey, Poobahs, Leonard Cohen Summer sun, Wi-fi in Café, working through Frankfurt books, next year's programme Slight wi-fi delay Post Frankfurt, Show tunes, new staff member, the coming of wi-fi to Aardvark Café 9 days of problems, followed by a period of sanity Arcadia continues, Brocante next Sunday, yet more books Arcadia at Aardvark; Arcadia weekend; more book Last day of H.Art, that's it for exhibitions for 2016 Good news on Aardvark H.Art; new books in stock; October Brocante; Arcadia Music Jobs at Aardvark Books; H.Art, Autumn programme H.Art & Ludlow Food Fair Vide Grenier day and the weather is fantastic! Vide Grenier Excitement, David Evans, Jill Alford Sale, More changes Charity Sale Today, Vide Grenier on Monday History Weekend (Day 2) History Weekend; H.Art preparations The Poetry of Ted Hughes So pleased with our 'Take Five' Exhibition Fantastic opening for 'Take Five', wonderful summer sunshine Back from La Belle France to Scarecrows, Art and More Work Too Many Tears Books the ultimate consolation Geoffrey Hilll, Peter Florence,Marking Time, Food and Farming Day To Friedrich Schiller in profound gratitude from a poor bookseller An Artist's Life, tragedy in Yorkshire and France, Folio Society Books Shropshire Hills Art Week Exhibition well and truly open Brocante well underway! Opening times over Bank Holiday Weekend and Half Term Arcadia, Vivaldi, Flea Market, Bank Holidays Bliss was it in that Dawn to Be Alive Last day of the map exhibition; thinking about 'An Actor's Life' Shropshire Hills Art Week, May Brocante, Travel Books Non-Marches Interloper for last week of map exhibition Slow morning Wonderful Carlos Acosta Maps Exhibition Opened, Awful weather, Cozy Fire Maps, books, random thoughts LBF, New York Review of Books, Map Exhibition Yet more changes at Aardvark, H.Art already, more DVDs and loads of art books Busy week, peculiar nature of media, Lots going on in April Easter holidays at Aardvark Easter Saturday, Sad News - Jill Alford No claim to infallibility; lots new in Superb bright Sunday morning; changes to the bookshop Slow start, busy week coming up Stop Press - wonderful children's books Beautiful morning, exciting days and weeks ahead As You Like It, the return of the sun Saturday Morning, the wonder of David Sedaris, Carter Dickson More and more and more books, Lucie starting, 'The Garden' Stunning sunny day, thoughts on London and being a country mouse Death of Mary Campbell, CD Review and R3 Schizophrenia, Wes Montgomery and Milt Jackson, fantastic academic library purchase Great Valentine's Day, Cimarosa, Friday Night Lights, Exciting News of Aardvark Appointment Valentine's Day is upon us Any Questions, Valentines Day, Jacques Rivette, James Lee Burke Two good pieces of news, Valentine's Day, Changes to tax reporting for small businesses and the self-employed, Working at Aardvark, D is for Doyle, Davis, Dexter, Deaver, Carter Dickson, Dunant, Durbridge, Dodge and Dickens Extending deadline for job offer, 'The Garden', Sale Tent Wonderful Royal Ballet, less than wonderful politicians Last weekend of sale - but don't despair Quite a busy month Bookshop and Café Person required B is for Bludgeon, Beaton, Bentley, Berkeley, Martin Beck and Burke First day of aardvark sale, job applications, cold weather, thoughts on the year CVs, Sale and more and more books More books for 2016 A is for Alibi, Ames, Allingham and Ambler Change, Change, Change 2016
2015
Post Christmas Thoughts Japanese Single book bookshop Busy day Christmas 2015 Books and opening times update Flaxman the magnificent; Christmas idea; last chance to see Fantastic day, beautiful morning So many art books and all for sale at incredible prices Only one more Aardvark Event before Christmas! Winter Event arrives on time Paris, Culture, What we leave behind Busy Beavers A wet day ... Autumn alert Frankfurt, Culture and Fleamarkets Through the fog, poetry and much more beside Books take centre stage - but art has a last hurrah! Back to life, back to reality H.Art, Ludlow Food Fair, Craaaaazy! Art, Art and a little food too! Phil Rickman at St James', Wigmore The pleasures of selling a special book The pleasures of Spenser Vide Grenier, H.Art, Non-stop activity Phew! Re-enactment under - our biggest ever Extraordinary evening at Brecon Summer Lightning Great opening! Back from an unsettle France, to a summer of madcap Aardvark Activity Make Your Summer Count! Make Your Summer Count! One door closes ... Long days, the Food Fair Camaraderie History is not Bunk ( it's official) Fantastic Iceland; Countdown to Food Fair Iceland is up, and will open tomorrow! Last weekend of Shropshire Hills Art Week, Food Fair, New Books Food Fair, New Books, Iceland Exhibition Fantastic opening to Shropshire Hills Art Week Bank Holiday Brocante Underway! Non-stop Aardvark craziness Great Lecture, Last day of the map exhibition Quiet days are made for Aardvark Books The Art of the Personal Lest any -one should think that there should be any lowering of the cake quality First week without Catherine; Maps Exhibition bonus; Brocante Update Last day for Catherine; great trip to London Bookfair; New Books in Stock Exhibition; George Butterworth; random culture Sunny Easter Monday; crazy Easter Saturday You heard it here first The exhibition is up; fingers crossed for Saturday! New members of the team; Easter events; Map exhibition Book Buying, CD Buying, Fantastic Eclipse Things I forgot Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. RSC 'Much Ado', new books, Welsh and World Book Day February ending, can Spring be far behind One down ... New Books, New Books Science Fiction; change is afoot New Carpet, Change, the Year Ahead Out of the loop If only we were all Charlie 12 Steps to Moving to the Country
2014
2015 awaits And at last it is Christmas Eve An endless river of books, a dreck day, a warm hearth Christmas Fair 2015 Christmas is very much upon us Christmas in the bookshop Busy Sunday, Wenlock Books Christmas Tree Flea Market Heaven More Upbeat Frankfurt; planning for Brocante Antiquarian Sales, children's books, Frankfurt preparations A quiet weekend, but some great sales! H.art sales! H.art carries on for two weeks Our H.Art exhibition is now hung and ready to open H.art is nearly here Vide Grenier, H.Art and onwards DVDs and CD's at Aardvark Books Day two of the history weekend History Weekend Preparations Previously in Aardvark Books ... Huge library purchase; last copies anywhere of Jo Brand Memoir Food, Food, Food First purchase for next year's map exhibition Why does dealing with publishers need to be so frustrating (2) Why does dealing with publishers need to be so frustrating Culture Vulture HIstory and fun this summer A warm Saturday in June Great response to the inaugural South Shropshire Art Week June starts with a bang Nearly a month on Driving rain cannot stop us What a month it has been Saddest News Imaginable Busy, Busy, Busy Quiet before the storm Thinking about books and bookselling Age recommendations on children's books Sunshine and children's books Theology Books and sunny weather Under the Hammer Valentine's Market All roads lead to Aardvark & Flavours of Hereford Festival Water, water everywhere ... Sale expectations The changing faces of winter 2014 comes with a fast forward button On tenterhooks with V I Warshawski Online Bookshop up at last ; acquisition of major literature library New Year Resolutions