Books, books for sale! Coffee table £2 , hard back £1, paperbacks 50 pence!
It was my local south London Fete at the weekend, something I’ve blogged about before ( see Local Music ). This year was slightly different in that the Clapham Book Festival folk were helping on the second-hand book stall, which meant that I went to help them set up the stall on Friday.
I was astonished by what some people ‘donate’.
Dusty tomes, literally. Books which were falling apart, books likes Guides and Manuals which, of their nature, needed to be current, but which were decades old. Plus some books which certainly didn’t belong on a public book stall, not even if it had a top shelf. Certainly not a book stall in a church. Then a fellow helper told me tales of working in a charity shop and receiving second-hand clothes covered in filth, grime and other suspect substances. Compared to that, the books were fine.
There were gems. Pristine art books with full colour plates, art exhibition catalogues, lovely old illustrated hardbacks without their dustcovers, but lovingly inscribed. Clapham writers had given too – pre-publication copies some of them, or books submitted for prizes by publishers and read only once. Special items – £5!
Sport, cookery, biography, fiction A – D. Humour, history, crafts, fiction E – L.
Someone had donated what seemed like the entire works of Anita Brookner and the entire works of Nina Bawden. Where did these paperbacks come from, who had they belonged to? And why were they all on our stall? A story lies behind those books. I think of Calvino, Borges.
Pallets full of books, their spines upwards, glossy and matte (the more recent the publication date the more likely to be the latter, glossy dustcovers being out of fashion for years). Boxes of sundry books for free – these were older, tattier, but still worth rummaging through for that special find. Who cares if the manual is for a motorcycle long gone, if it was once yours and most beloved. Lost youth and memory.
Poetry, nature, fiction M – T. Non-fiction (general), science, outdoor pursuits, fiction T – Z.
We can make the signs tomorrow. It’s hot and dusty and there’s a bottle of rosé chilling in the fridge.
The following day the church is already full of Fete goers when I arrive, browsing the bric a brac stall, amassing small piles of purchases as a local school choir sings. Whistles and applause follow. Then the Welsh male voice choir (last seen performing later a capella outside the local pub and gratefully receiving drinks bought by those being entertained). Tea, strawberries and cream, delicious looking cakes (all in the church, which is cool, in both senses of the word). Lots of people buying books.
Art books over there, poetry on the last table down. That’ll be £1.50, madam. Would you like a leaflet on local writers appearing at the Lambeth Country Show?
Friends appear, Clapham Book Fest people, writers too. Ah, I think I donated that book two years ago. This frees me and others to have lunch, walk around the Fete, watch one of us in a dance demonstration ( I knew nothing about a dance called the merengue before Saturday, now I’ve danced it, drawn in, how ever much I protested ). Eat tasty salads, think about buying the fresh oysters being shucked outside a local restaurant. Sit at tables in the road, free sunscreen samples from the local beauty shop gratefully received by all. Watch the dog show, talk about the books, our books, any books.
A very good day.
With thanks to @VillageLifeSW4 for the photograph above.
For more about what Clapham Writers and the Clapham Book Festival is up to try Out and About Thriller Summer Books
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