Really pleased to have Eleanor Wood, YA author, on the blog today talking about a bookshop which makes me think I definitely need to get round to visiting Brighton soon!
I am the worst Christmas shopper ever. Official. Actual worst.
Last year, I somehow managed to leave the lot until Christmas Eve. But it’s OK – I always do my Christmas shopping in one hit, and I get everyone a book from City Books. Easy peasy.
Attempting to kill two birds with one brilliantly multitasking stone, I put on my running gear and jogged the couple of miles from my house to City Books, slipping and sliding on the icy pavements in my neon trainers. I burst into the cosy, busy shop and started grabbing books.
The new Lauren Oliver for my sister (we both love her). Music biography for my dad. Indian cookery book for my Nan. ‘Eleanor and Park’ by Rainbow Rowell for nearly all my cousins (as it is bound to change their lives for the better, obviously). An art book for my fashion student stepbrother. A lovely diary for my auntie (the stationery selection here is as good as the books).
I could barely see over my towering stack of books by the time I’d finished. I was pretty delighted with myself and my own efficiency, if I said so myself. I had a nice chat with the lady behind the counter while she rung up my many purchases.
Then her face fell.
‘I’m so sorry,’ she said as she swiped my card. ‘There seems to be a problem with your card. Shall I try again?’
She tried again. I started feeling very sweaty in my running gear. The queue behind me began to build up.
‘I know I have money in my account!’ I blurted out.
Apparently the card was coming up with a very strange error message. I glanced at my watch – early afternoon on Christmas bloody Eve; time was ticking.
I mumbled awkwardly, ‘I’ll run to the bank and try to get this sorted out…’
‘Good thing you’ve already got your running kit on!’ She laughed. ‘Listen, I think the bank will be open, but it’s Christmas Eve… Seriously, if it’s a problem, I can take your address and give you your books on credit until after Christmas.’
In my panicked state, I almost wept with gratitude. I ran to the bank, sorted out my card (I did have money! It was fine!) and took out a wodge of cash just in case – then sprinted back to the shop just before it closed. I left laden down with books and grinning from ear to ear – not just because the mini-crisis had been adverted, but with pure joy that someone had been so kind and generous on Christmas Eve. Surely in this corporate world that’s pretty much unheard of – offering someone books on credit to help them out at Christmastime. Sadly rare, but independent bookshops are pretty special and I think City Books is especially so. You don’t get that from Amazon, obviously.
I loved City Books before that day, but I have loved them even more ever since. Not only are they a kind-hearted hub of the community, they always have every book I could possibly want on their brimming shelves. They organise amazing author events that I always get really excited about. I love to spend hours in there whenever I can. Everything a brilliant local independent bookshop ought to be.
If I could buy one book from there as a Christmas present…
I would give a copy of Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. by Viv Albertine – from the legendary all-female punk band the Slits – to every teenage girl who has ever wanted to be in a band. It’s a fascinating story about the punk era: funny, moving and – above all – really inspiring.
Thanks for a fab post, Eleanor! Catch City Books on their website and on Twitter, and check out Eleanor's blog and Twitter.