Monday, June 25, 2007

hope for us all

all day yesterday I'd meant to write something sensitive and literary- interesting yet humorous but each time I got to the keyboard all I could think of was how amazing the Stooges were at Glastonbury Saturday night.
Over the years I've seen hours and hours of footage from the festival occaisionally it's been exciting, often it's interesting but probably more of it has been disappointing.
But the Stooges and forget their age for a minute, were magnificent-- the best performance I've ever seen from Glastonbury on the telly, until they ran out of steam a bit towards the end, they were absolutely riveting. Forget the stage invasion where Iggy instigated more chaos than has probably been seen at the last 4 or 5 festivals put together. The sound was amazing- the most exciting thing I've seen on telly this year.
And they're in their bloody sixties- I'm 45 with a 3.5year old and a 9 month old when they are 18 and 15 I still want to be able to go to gigs with them- It never occurred to me that I stiil might make it to the mosh pit! I've gotta go- press-ups and a bullworker await.

p.s gossip were pretty awesome too.

Friday, June 22, 2007

the customer is always....

blimey, reading that last post how pooterish do I sound? Although in this case it was not entirely my fault- I was writing it at about 9.55pm and intending to put a joke in about the fact that we had just started considering charging for windows. (This is true- I've got someone in at the moment whose experience is in larger and more formal stores to cast a fresh eye over the place- I don't think we will but who knows??- probably a bad time to start now!))
I failed in my whole set joke up, tell joke scheme as I got quite a long call from a customer and it just so happens that the phone call reflected a little on other work we are doing at the shop at the moment- namely a staff questionnaire/suggestion box come survey about how we could improve thing a bit. One of the themes is customer service and on one of the sheets in the staffroom (god how frightening does this sound- the stairwell to our staffroom looks like an asylum) I've mentioned that 2 of our regular customers have found us to be a bit grumpy sometimes of late. It's actually an observation I, sort of, agree with.
But only 'sort of'' and only sometimes; in fact- very rarely.
Back to the phone call and I hope this customer doesn't mind me mentioning this-she was very nice and, I think, so was I. She asked for a book that we had in stock, then asked if it was the paperback- I said I didn't think so, she said Amazon have it. I said I'd look it up and no, sadly, we didn't have it- now, our system does do one really neat trick-from the stock card at the touch of one button we can find if any wholesalers have a title in stock, they didn't. I was now a little surprised and said I'd check Books-in-print to she if the title was available- again to be told that Amazon have it, I asked if she was sure there was an actual on hand figure, again to be told that Amazon had it listed- now trying to learn from my girlfriend that when someone does not really understand what I say I shouldn't just repeat it - I explained that Amazon have a number of titles on their screens which are not yet published , as indeed, do we. I was then told that the customer had not rung me up 'to be given a lecture on how to use Amazon', to be followed by- about a second later- oh, they haven't got it, it's not published yet. Now, I didn't bat an eye over this and took a reservation for the hardback and placed an order for different book too so was happy with the whole transaction.
But- although I am quite capable of being hectoring, lecturing short tempered and rude, I was pretty sure I had been none of these things this time and my colleague- one of the most mild mannered people I have ever met and who has put up with me when I have been hectoring, lecturing etc etc also assured me I hadn't been. I'm pretty sure that if you tell a cabbie they've gone the wrong way, a chef that they've overcooked the pastry or, heavens forbid, tell a publisher that their jackets are lousy (actually they do often listen) you'll get a reaction but on this side of the till we have to grin and bear it. It doesn't normally bother me, I love working at a till in a bookshop and occasionally people don't appreciate you, what's the big- but sometimes you do feel that you're getting judged just a little unfairly.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

all publicity etc etc

I've just had my first (I say first, that may be a bit of an assumption) customer in who has sworn never to enter Waterstone's again, she feels completely betrayed by the whole windowgate / christmas catalogue expose. It wasn't so much the fact that positioning was being paid for- she understands that retailers are here to make money but really that so much effort was put into it to make these look like genuine choices.
While it is, obviously, not true that there is no such thing as bad publicity it is a pretty safe bet that media exposure will generally do you nothing but good but some real damage seems to have been done here. Mind you, we don't know how many people woke up, heard the news, realised that what they had been missing these past few days was a good book and found themselves in the chain whose name had been planted into their heads that morning

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

good to be back

as the more sharp sighted of you will have noticed, nothing much has been posted on this site for a while, the principle reason being that I normally do this at home (due to pressure of work. ridicule of colleagues etc.)- we're currently upgrading our computer at home, going all wireless and broadband, as you will no doubt guess that means our system completely conked out for a bit, well, quite a bit actually. By the time I came to accept the relatively simple fact that I'd better do this at work I had a/. got used to not doing it- very easy and b/. forgotten Sabers's easy to remember code words- even easier. By the time I'd gotten round to asking Saber (much lamented ex member of staff now residing in Bath) I think he'd forgotten them too. Oh well, we're back on track now.

The funny thing is, over the last month, while cycling in to work, I've probably had more blog ideas than while we were regularly posting but I suppose that this is as predictable as upgraded computers being worse than they were pre improvement

Anyway, back to the title of the blog, I'm not referring to the blog itself or, indeed to top 70's pop tune by a dodgy pop star. It actually refers to something I'd hoped to see but didn't think I would- a seventh Tales of the City novel, 'Michael Toliver Lives' and the job I'm looking forward to most today is to put it in the window.

I loved these chronicles of San Francisco life, they are as much a part of my 'eighties and early 'nineties as anything i can think of. And when the TV series came out the pubs of Manchester must have taken a fierce dip in profits as they were denuded of booksellers. Mind you, they probably made most of it back again as we all went in the next night to talk about what we'd seen. Having recently watched them again it is with some sadness that I have to report that I do not think they have aged well but the same cannot be said for the books.
Their magazine origins ensure a tight plot with plenty of cliffhangers and they are so much of their time that I don't think they will ever date. Indeed, aging well is, I now think, the prime theme of the sequence. The books are often dismissed as just pieces of fluff- well, apart from what is so bad about that, top class fluff is probably one of the hardest things to write- this also ignores the later books as the younger characters pass into their thirties and forties and, essentially, grow-up and many of them grow old or ill and not just how you deal with aging but how you deal with mortality becomes a prime concern

Maupin has said that this new novel is 'not a continuation of Tales of the City' but it does include just about every character you would expect. The focus is, obviously, on Mouse, or Michael Tolliver as, just about, everyone now knows him. How much of that focus is now on Maupin himself is another question. Unlike many authors who do their semi-autobiographical novel at the beginning of their careers Maupin's later novels seem to be increasingly about him, and here we seem to see one of his most famous characters complete a process begun over 18 years ago and completely morph into his creator. It would be interesting to know how much of Michael Tolliver has seeped into Maupin.

Not a lot happens in the new book, but enough to make the two people I lent the proof to cry, and it is a sad, elegiac book but, like the others, hopeful in the end. I, like the others, loved it, recommend it and have now written too much about it.