books · short diatribe · waterstones

A bookshop so good it furnished me with a wife

So it turns out that my local Waterstone’s is closing down after all. It moved in to share a unit with HMV a while ago and now with HMV closing down there is nowhere for it to go. Needless to say, I think this is a shame. I made a concerted effort to buy my books from there a while ago after I realised that I was hopping on to Amazon every time there was a book I wanted to read. The convenience of Amazon is nice, but I wanted a book shop, so I tried to support it. I even bought my Kindle from there – take that, Amazon!

Quite a lot of my friends have worked there over the years. Even my wife, before she was my wife. The formative months of our fledgling relationship were played out over her Saturday lunch breaks, and after we moved in together I used to meet her after work, leaving with her via the staff entrance. It wasn’t even a Waterstone’s at the time; it was an Ottakars, but you know, same difference. So now the only bookshop in Basildon is WH Smiths, which is something, I guess, but just isn’t quite the same.

I suppose not every town can support a bookshop. Especially with online shopping and digital downloads. It’s a shame, but its also just progress. I don’t remember what shop was in the unit where the old Ottakar’s was – it was quite a few years ago – but I do remember when I was kid shopping in a different bookshop, which later became a Virgin Megastore, and is currently a Burger King. This is just the way things go. I don’t want to complain too much. It’s not really anyone’s fault. After the Waterstone’s moved in to share with HMV it became a Past Times, and on the day that closed down (it didn’t last long) I heard a member of the staff there complaining bitterly that the town hadn’t supported the shop (or a sentiment to that effect.) I remember thinking how unfair that was. That you can’t blame a whole town for not wanting to buy vintage cushions and novelty memorabilia.

But a bookshop? Surely by its very nature it has something for everyone? If you don’t fancy a literary classic, have some genre fiction? If you don’t like fiction have a biography. Some Self-Help? Travel writing? Philosophy? Science? Something? (Erotica?) But clearly this isn’t the case. Like I say, some towns obviously can’t support a bookshop. Basildon also couldn’t support the Italian ice cream parlor, or the xbox gaming cafe.

There are other Waterstone’s reasonably close by. The weathers getting nice so a train to Southend isn’t such a bad proposition. It’ll be worth the effort to browse the shelves. You can’t browse a website the way you can browse a bookshelf. Just a quick glance at my bookcase and I see books that I never would have discovered without picking them up from the shelf. Mark Z Danielewski, Reif Larson, Scarlet Thomas, Stephen Hall; all discovered by chance in the bookshop in Basildon.

Goodbye Waterstone’s Basildon, I wish I had loved you better.

02/04/2013 Well, like so much of what I write on this blog, time has made it all a little irrelevant. It seems that the Basildon Waterstone’s isn’t closing down anymore, so my earnest goodbye is now redundant. Maybe someday I will write something here that isn’t obsoleted within a matter of weeks, but it’s not today.

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