The Aardvark Blog
Previously in Aardvark Books ...
Previously in Aardvark Books ...
So much has happened since my last blog, and Aardvark has enjoyed its most popular summer ever. When I last wrote we had just purchased a large library from an academic's estate in the Midlands, and were just working through it.
Such has been the stream of visitors and events that I am ashamed to say that we are still working through putting the books on the system. Needless to say a number of other titles have come in at the same time - yesterday I bought a fantastic small group ( just over 100 ) of books on philosophy - Heidegger, Sartre, Foucault, Derrida - so the shop has a very erudite look to it at the moment.
Just after my last blog the 7th Mortimer Country Food Fair burst upon the world. Perfect weather,allied to the star presence of Jo Brand and James Strawbridge, led to record numbers and a thoroughly enjoyable day. Jo was extremely funny and privately extremely modest. Given that she had driven from London that morning after a very busy week, and that she launched the event without payment, I was somewhat stunned that when I saw her to her car she ended by thanking me for inviting her. She is a national treasure, and I look forward to her new show picking over the Great British Bakeoff with her customary wit and good humour. And what a handsome and charming fellow James Strawbridge is. One member of staff is still getting over having been mistaken for 'Mrs Strawbridge' by one of the visitors. Again James had come all the way from the West Country to see us - also without payment - because he believes passionately in the values that the Fair espouses.
Speaking of the bake-off Aardvark is again privileged to be working with the Flavours of Herefordshire on the book signings for Mary Berry. Working with authors was always very much my late colleague Edward Tobin's forté, and we miss him very much at all of our events. This week we will be installing two picnic benches outside the shop in his memory. It will be hard not to think of him sitting outside of a summer's evening, glass of wine in hand, looking out to Harley Hill.
Also since the last blog Ethel Aardvark and I have been visiting France. By coincidence we ended up spending a week next to La Charite sur Loire - France's leading book town. A beautiful small town on the banks of the Loire, dominated by a huge Cluniac Monastery and Abbey, the area is a Unesco heritage centre and a perfect place for a quiet week away. Also brilliantly sited for visits to the vineyards of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. The latter is difficult to find at reasonable prices, but Sancerre is a larger area and some good values do exist. Should you find yourself heading in that direction do call in on Domaine de Rome in the village of St.Gemme. Superb wines at very reasonable prices, accompanied by all the good humour and companionship that one has come to expect from small French winemakers. As we were leaving the owner rushed up with a bottle of the 2013 white Sancerre to have that evening when we got home. Perhaps we should do the same in the bookery, and offer customers a parting book.
Good to see that interesting independent bookshops still exist all over France, but as here they are not finding life easy and as many have closed ( 1/3rd ) over the last decade in France that has kept price maintaince as in England that scrapped it some years ago.
Finally next weekend we have a range of interesting things going on in the bookshop for our History Weekend. Professor Charles Watkins and Peter Burden will be talking about Herefordshire and the Picturesque, Martin Hackett battlefield historian extraordinare will be talking about the siege of Brampton Bryan and the battle of Mortimer's Cross, and there will also be a number of exhibitions and exhibits. I am particularly pleased with a collection of photographs that I have found of the Marches during and immediately after the first world war.
Last night we were in Brecon for the Jazz Festival and a first visit to Wales by the very talented young singer Laura Mvula. Trained at the Birmingham Conservatory, and with a background in Gospel and Acapella singing, her work is hard to classify, but difficult to get out of one's head. She played the extended version of her hit Green Garden, which combines her original song with an homage to Nina Simone. Simone is just one of the artists that I think about when I hear her music. Bizarrely another is the Beach Boys in their late period ( Pet Sounds). How fortunate we lovers of music are to live in the Marches. Coming up later this month is the incomparable Presteigne Music Festival ( programmes available in the bookshop), and then in October Tom Bowes is again running his Arcadia Music Festival over a long weekend at the beginning of the month. Tom will this year be holding one of the concerts in my home village of Kingsland, and better still will be playing Messiaen's 'Quartet for the End of Time', one of my favourite pieces of music, and perhaps the most significant composition of the 20th century, written as it was in a concentration camp for musicians who were imprisoned alongside him.
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