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January 2012
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March 2012

and we were tickled no more.

We needed a new shower hose. The one we had had sprung a leak and if you were not careful you could get an extra shower in a special place. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with that, except that it could tickle and there is not much dignity in laughing alone when wet.

We were passing B&Q and so we entered the cave to the sound of a south Korean covers band playing  Born in the USA over the tannoy, and selected a shower hose that looked ideal. This will more than do the job, I said and it's only £7.99.

Except that it didn't. It was stiff and inflexible and it leaked water everywhere and having attached it I ended up with a wet-socked foot.

The next day I went to a specialist plumbing supplies shop.The man took one look at the old hose, Ah! an Aqualisa, he said in an instant, looking at its markings as though it were an exotic snake. A bit more expensive, but worth it for the quality, he added, fingering the screwy bit at the end with the air of a man who knew a thing or two about shower hoses.

He went to the stockroom to find a new one and came back stroking it. Just the ticket, he said.

In a perfect world he would have had the radio on and it would have been playing Bruce Springsteen, instead a man next to us asked him if he knew where he could get a good Italian sandwich from. 

This is a parable.

Hang on, that's not the twat who is the hideous media whore, is it?

I am looking up an author for a customer.

No, not this one. I think you're safe, I say.

Thank God, she says.

She is one of my favourite customers.

The telephone rings.

I answer it.

A woman says, You very kindly ordered The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur for me and left a message to say that it has arrived.

Yes,I say, We did.

I'm afraid I bought it in India, she says.

You did? I say.

And so I will no longer be needing the copy you specially ordered for me at great expense. 

I see, I say. Possibly not using those particular words.

I wouldn't worry though, she says, It's a very popular book, and you won't have any problem selling it to someone else.

I see, say. Again, not possibly using those exact words.

No problem at all, she says.

I put the phone down.

She is not my favourite customer.


Itchy and scratchy. The Little Book of Nits.

If you have school-age children then the chances are you will have come across this little fella. And If you tell me that you haven't, then you're a liar. The little buggers are everywhere, whilst advice on how to deal with them is both erratic and often downright eccentric - put your child's head in a bucket of vinegar anyone?

Help, however, is at hand.

Little-book-of-nits-cover1Justine, the Crow of this very parish, and her co-author Richard 'Bugman' Jones have been hard at work these past many months at what will surely come to be recognised as the vade mecum par excellence of head louse wrangling. I shit you not.

Justine does the funny, as anyone who has ever read her FamiliesSE book reviews will know, while the 'Bugman' brings on the cold hard science. It is a marriage made in heaven.

The book is published by A and C Black on May 15th and costs £4.99.

Why not pre-order a signed copy.


What I read. #fridayreads

SeaonfireThe Sea on Fire by Howard Cunnell. Howard is an old friend who at one time when we ran wild and free was my almost brother-in-law, and his book is a beauty. Imagine if you will, a cross between The Long Good Friday and Point Break both thrilling and original in its portrayal of a diving trip gone wrong. With echoes of early Richard Ford, Tim Winton and particularly the surfer noir novels of Kem Nunn. It probably won't sit too well with the pale boys worrying over Thomas Bernhard, but that's no bad thing.

It's published by Picador March 15th and you can order a signed copy from us here.

I also comfort-read for the nth time the first two chapters of Couples by John Updike on a Knidle with the font ramped up for my ailing eyes, which in turn buggered the kerning so that it became the visual equivalent of radio interference, but no matter, it was nice to be home again. Not enough Updike is being read at the moment and this must change.
Lastly I am reading Alys, Always by Harriet Lane a particularly breathless novel of literary north London that I have so far found nothing to disagree with Jilly Cooper's assertion that it is 'utterly brilliant.' I'm pretty sure that the main character Frances is going to shag someone soon and I think I know who. I have written their name on a piece of paper and sealed the envelope. We will see if I am right. Not, I grant you, the kind of service you get from the TLS.
Buy Alys,Always and see if I'm right.

Could you write down the title for me please?

Of course, I say.

Because, my customer says, I don't always order books straight away. In fact one time I think it was about five years before I actually ordered the book. He laughs.

Really, I say.

In fact the more I think about it, one time it was probably seven years, or even eight, before I ordered anything.

I hand him the piece of paper with 23 Things You Didn't Know About Capitalism written on it.

Thanks, he says, I just thought it looked slightly interesting.


A man comes in to collect a book.


I look up.

That's your name isn't it?

It's Jon actually, I say.

I'm sure she told me it was Steve, the lady who was here.

Well, sorry, but it's Jon, I say again.

I hand him his book.

It doesn't look as big as I remember it, he says. I remember a bigger book.

He holds the book up to the light, weighs it in his hand.

Or perhaps, he says, it was me that was smaller back then.


A customer asks me.

If a person has hurt their foot and is tired of walking what would be the best way for them to get home, would you say?

It depends, I say. Where are you going?

I'm sorry, they say, but I'm not prepared to tell you that.

Days pass. It gets colder.

Another customer asks. Did you ever find out who bought that copy of my dad's book?

Um, no I didn't, I say, thinking briefly that perhaps we should take the names and addresses and telephone numbers associated with every purchase. Just in case we are ever asked this question again.

Well, that's a mystery then isn't it? he says.

Yes, it is, I say.

A lady approaches, What can you recommend for me, she asks, for someone who likes fishing and red Indians and is in AA?