Littlehampton bookshop is ‘real luxury’ for town as stores continue to close

Fireside Books is a real asset to the shopping centre...
Fireside Books is a real asset to the shopping centre...

Wandering around the town last week, I could not help but notice the ever-growing number of closed stores.

The hardware store, the textile shop and the large High Street wine shop – if a wine store were to survive anywhere, you would expect it to be an eternal fixture in Littlehampton!

On the upside, I felt congratulations were in order for one of the survivors and popped in to say hello to Rob, the owner of the Fireside Bookshop. It hardly seems possible that the store arrived at our somewhat down at heel arcade four long years ago.

It can be great fun running a book shop but it does have a downside and I speak from bitter experience. Having a book stall at a book fair is very much part of a bookseller’s lot.

It is a real necessity when competing with the likes of Amazon and of the many internet sellers who often do not have a clue as to the product they are handling.

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However, to attend a fair, one does need a very strong back. Lugging boxes of books is backbreaking and usually done at some godforsaken hour in some out-of-the-way venue and in all weathers. Even sitting behind the counter in a comfy store can be a bit of a trial.

For instance, the regular chatty customer who trolls the poetry section and begins a long conversation with you, perhaps as a ploy to show you how well read and clever they are, and finally ask for a book they have already carefully checked to see you do not have.

Having dashed your hopes of a sale, they wish you a good morrow and gently close the door behind them. Still, you never know, they may return one day and actually buy something. Booksellers generally live on hope.

The Fireside Bookshop is a jewel and a very real asset to the town and I for one hope it goes on surviving for many years to come. To find such a store in any small town these days is a real luxury.

I left clutching to my bosom, my lucky find, a Folio Society edition of the collected ramblings of the very wonderful Dorothy Parker – I once owned such a copy but loaned it to a friend who did not comprehend the meaning of the word ‘loaned’.

Ms Parker once famously said: “I’m not a writer with a drinking problem, I’m a drinker with a writing problem.” And who also said of meeting Orson Welles: “It’s like meeting God – without dying.”

One witty lady.

IT actually was a good week all round for finds. Popped into the Dolphin Hotel for a pint of ale on Saturday and found it to be an Irish session organised by local musical minstrel, Mal Sims.

I love pub music but these days it is all too amplified and noisy for me, too difficult to even hear oneself think. This then was a very different afternoon, all acoustic, one could sit and listen even above the chatterboxes who were not there to listen.

Something very magical happens when, expertly played, fiddle, mandolin, bodhran, banjo, guitar and gentle voice all come together. The Fields of Athenry sent shivers down my spine, I will be back for more for sure.

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