BLOG POST: Back to School

I’ve just had a conversation with Jo, the manager here at Red Lion, where the C word was mentioned.
How is it not even the end of Summer and we’re talking about Christmas?
But that’s how the pages turn in a bookshop, we’re always looking ahead. Whether it’s the new Kate Atkinson (Shrines of Gaiety), Stephen King (Fairy Tale), or, as she is known here in the shop, Queen Maggie (The Marriage Portrait), we’re always trying to second guess what is going to be on our customers’ must buy lists.
For now, though, I’m still very much in Summer mode writing this blog post; with my short-sleeves, water bottle and the continuous hum of the antiquated shop fan, you know, the kind you might get in a film noir as Humphrey Bogart waits for the femme fatale to arrive.
You’d half expect there to be a bit of a lull in a bookshop over the Summer months but not a bit of it. There’s the parent/s looking for something to amuse their little or big ones during the school break, the holiday-maker planning how best to occupy their time on the beach in some far flung resort, and of course the general booklover who, whatever time of year, needs their monthly fix.  If you didn’t mind the heat too much, and if you had nowhere exotic to go, it was possibly the best place to be this year. Downstairs we had fantastic artists Mary Pullen Deacon (still here until the end of September) and Lucy MacBrayne, who made an incredible collage of our shop, as well as some really great events. I
t’s very cool downstairs, which is why I’m writing this post here, to get away from the heat.
As we fast approach the start of September, a new term at schools and colleges, it’s a new beginning for many of us, and what better way to settle ourselves into a new era than by buying a book.
I’ve gone pretty eclectic recently with a DK travel guide to Amsterdam and Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity, which was one of the many inspirations for Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel.
Talking of inspirations, and Queen Maggie, and going back to school for that matter, when I did my teacher training during lockdown one of my favourite poems I had to study, so I could teach it for GCSE, was My Last Duchess by Robert Browning, a chilling dramatic monologue from a Duke about his last wife, and what possibly might have happened to her.  Which just happens to be the inspiration for The Marriage Portrait.  I’ve always said working in a bookshop is a joy, but also an education, and as we leave the hazy summer months behind us, with a certain amount of trepidation of what the future might bring locally, and globally, remember there’s always solace in a good book, whether it’s learning something new or just pure escapist fun – and don’t worry, we’re here to help you find the right one, in hot months, as well as cold.
Neil Jones – September 2022