‘...a template for what an independent bookshop should be ’
– Country Life

Contact: 01547 530 744

Business Hours:
Mon - Fri: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Sat: 10:00am - 2:00pm
Sun: 10:00am - 2:00pm

The Aardvark Blog

Random Thoughts from Lockdown 4

Random Thoughts from Lockdown 4

I had hoped to be able to manage a blog on a weekly basis, but last week I was so tired that I spent Saturday in a near coma on the sofa, dozing and half-listening to music. It is a strange part of the CV experience that one needs to constantly find new ways to cope. It is like a jigsaw puzzle that can never be finished. Or if you are of a literary bent - which you probably are if you are reading this blog - Tantalus in the Inferno. Normality is always just that little bit out of reach. Meanwhile those who claim to lead us seem like just so many minor characters from the Commedia dell’Arte (maybe Pantalone?). I have taken to watching parts of the daily briefing without the sound. I find it reveals more of what is actually going on.

As Monday - the date from which non-essential shops can re-open - approaches, the number of calls from people wanting to know when we will be open again has increased. We took the decision some time ago to re-open in the week of the 6th of July, although we are yet to work out our exact opening hours which will be different from previously. Ethel will be posting full details on the website and on our various social media feeds. Many many best wishes to our brother and sister booksellers who are re-opening tomorrow. Please support them with your thoughts, prayers and most importantly your wallet.

One date that I can reveal is our first ever Aardvark Car Boot Sale which will take place on Bank Holiday Monday 31st of August. Sadly in a world of social distancing we cannot run our usual flea markets, but I think we can safely do an outdoor car boot. We will be using the car park and the field opposite and so there will be plenty of room. If you would like to take a pitch give us a call. I will hope to have live music and there will be outside food. With all the local events cancelled I have been feeling a little sad, and this is our response. If life gives you lemons.... and actually if anyone wants to bring home made lemonade that would be great.

I have been spending quite a lot of time recently going up and down to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, and each time I go I marvel at what a truly horrible series of buildings the hospital is housed in. It reminds me of a comment that an American tourist once made to me in the Scrovegni Chapel: ‘Why do they have to make these places so goddam gloomy!’. Years ago I worked with an American publisher called Patrick of whom I got very fond due to his very laconic Southern sense of humour. He it was who explained to me the complicated process by which US universities admitted promising sports people on athletic scholarships (they are given a mirror and are admitted if they can make it go foggy). Patrick came from a poor background and paid his way through college by spending his summers pouring concrete on construction sites. He explained to me the different ways that concrete can be made, and what it costs to make really well made concrete buildings. We were in Finland at the time - the country of Aalto and the Saarinens- which has a climate that is not dissimilar to ours and which somehow avoided many of the mistakes we have made with the medium.

I have been finding it hard to concentrate and as a result my fiction reading has been lamentable. Why it is that I have managed to read the Times, New York Times, Guardian, New Yorker and many other daily and weekly publications, and yet not been able to read a whole book is beyond me. This duck has however been broken by the new Sara Paretsky novel "Dead Land". I can already tell 50 pages in that it is not going to be a classic, but even medium SP is so much better than other writers' best offerings. Always a pleasure to be in such good authorial hands. Also spent too much time re-reading the essays and looking again at the illustrations in the RA Picasso catalogue. The standard of their productions is always really high, but this one is outstanding. Great choices of paper and great reproductions (not easy with drawings).

Speaking of the New Yorker, I have been reading each issue cover to cover (always for some reason starting at the back) and this week’s issue has a great short review by Peter Schjeldahl of a new Hopper show in The Beyeler Foundation in Switzerland. He is not a critic with whom I always agree, but he is some-one who I always enjoy reading. On Hopper he pulls out a number of parallels and facts which had not occurred to me.In particular he points to links to Courbet that I had not thought of before. He also makes the point that Hopper’s buildings are always self-portraits. He talks about Hopper’s debts to European Romanticism and Symbolism, and I had thought before that the only other artist who captures the same piercing solitude is Casper David Friedrich. And then I wondered whether there was something of Redon in the dreamlike quality of Hopper. Schjeldahl makes a very telling parallel to Hitchcock and the way in which they would both storyboard their works. Finally he talks about Hopper’s politics - strongly against FDR and almost Randian - and his influence on De Kooning which I had not been aware of. All in all a model of what a short review should be.

Lockdown has increased my consumption of trash TV and it has made me think about what makes the perfect disposable viewing. I am not talking about truly great shows like Justified or Friday Night Lights or the Wire or for that matter The West Wing (which Ethel has just started watching having been sent the complete set as a very generous lockdown gift), but the lesser everyday studio fodder. My rules for series that make the cut are: 1) there need to be enough episodes to be worth investing in the characters, 2) the actors need to better than the material. 3) the writers need to be able to manage plot development without just getting silly (no musical episodes, no time travel, no lost identical twins). And finally most importantly the characters need to develop. So series that make the cut on these criteria include Rookie Blue, Unforgettable, Republic of Doyle, Blue Bloods, and Grimm. Series that fail include Lie to Me, Quantico, Trust Me and too many others to mention. Some great series only made it to one outing which is frustrating - whoever cancelled The Dresden Files you know who you are. Truly great TV is always rare but if you have a liking for sci-fi I would point you towards The Expanse which has a panoply of superb actors and is based on the peerless novels by James Corey. Also Lucifer is coming back shortly apparently so there is plenty of time to catch up on the first four series. The first series was shot in Vancouver before production was moved to LA and strangely the later series do have a more gothic feel.

One great thing about the last few months has been getting to know R whom has been working  with me on keeping Aardvark going and readying the building for re-opening. Her cultural recommendations are always great and it is down to her that I have signed up for the Hay Player which is quite simply the best possible use of £10 imaginable. So many great historical recordings, and this morning I finished listening to the great Hay session with Glen Baxter from a few years ago. Baxter has been a hero of mine since I was first introduced to his work by a friend at university in the Eighties. I had always wondered where such an intriguing artist came from and had speculated on his influences. This talk makes it clear that he came from an art, not a graphic art or cartoon background, and that his is a very European talent influenced above all else by surrealism and particularly Breton. Also key to his emergence was Edward Gorey and the Gotham Bookmart. I found the GBM by accident when wandering around New York in the late 80’s and as a customer who knew nothing of its history or Gorey’s connections I found it both glorious and infuriating - it was one of those bookshops where as a customer one always felt something of an interloper, or an outsider witnessing an in-joke. It had a brilliant metal sign outside that said ‘Wise Men Fish Here’. Like many of the great New York Bookstores (where are you, Scribners when we need you most?) it is no longer with us having closed in 2007, but its legacy lives on.

Ethel tells me that I write too much so I am going to bring these thoughts to a close. We are starting to think about life after lockdown so if you have books or libraries to sell, get in touch. The world will have need of good books if we are ever to make it back to the before time. Until then I leave you with this classic Baxter image.

 

Published by Aardvark Books Ltd on

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