To the pub after work to meet my new friend with the special powers. Suddenly he flies into a rage at just how crap Winter in Madrid by Christopher Sansom is. I tell him in no uncertain terms that it is his own fucking fault for going trois pour deux at the sign of the golden W. He sighed and, to make amends, palmed me a copy of their Christmas catalogue.
Now, the first thing that needs to be said here, and as a matter of great urgency, is this: If anybody should meet Tim Waterstone in the near future please buy him a cup of tea and then lead him sympathetically to the nearest secure padded cell. It will be for his own good for should he ever come across this publication he will surely mash his shiny forehead to a bloody pulp in a matter of seconds.
God alone knows what the people who work there and regularly recommend books such as this in their staff choices bay think. No wonder Clive James looks a bit shifty on the cover of North Face of Soho, you should see the company he is keeping; cheek by jowl with Alan Titchmarsh and Roy 'Chubby' Brown with Jade Goody bringing up the rear.
Turn to the fiction section and you would not know that there were new books by such former Waterstone's staples as Martin Amis, William Boyd, J.G. Ballard, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy or Richard Ford, let alone the Booker Prize winner or indeed the new Thomas Harris. What you will find instead is Stephen King, Ben Elton and Jeffrey Archer.
And don't go looking for poetry. There is no poetry. People clearly don't give poetry at Christmas. And Art. There are three books in the art section, one of them the Schama thing; another, one of those list books of 1001 paintings to see before you die and the third a book that they had obviously taken the loot from the publisher for, but then couldn't decide where to put it.
Oh, but there is a section labelled Cloakroom classics. Cloakroom classics! Who amongst us doesn't have a cloakroom? No? Me neither. I have two lavatories, toilets, bogs, whatever, but the nearest thing to a cloakroom is full of kids coats and shoes and I am not about to lock myself in there to read Dylan Jones' advice for the modern man. Not even if the stress levels reach thermonuclear on Boxing day.And truly, someone is tempting fate listing Is It Me or is Everything Shit? Volume 2 in this section - and is that not (though I have yet to see a copy) the book that ate its own tail?
There is, alas, one book in this catalogue that has managed to give me the right hump. England in Particular by Sue Clifford and Angela King, founders of the charity Common Ground. If ever there was a book, beautifully produced as it is, with its celebration of the local, vernacular and distinctive, that represented the antithesis of half-price Britain, this is it. Published in May it has sold very well and at £30.00 represents great value and a cracking Christmas present. I was looking forward to piling it high. I'm not anymore.
Hodder, you are a bunch of nervy limp tits, with, quite obviously, no faith whatsoever in the books that you produce. I'm sure the W will shift bundles for you along with Jamie and Kerry and Derren and Wayne and Stevie and Chantelle, but at what price eh? England in Particular, my arse.