Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Blackwell’s on-line book service (update)

March 11, 2021

Yesterday I reported appalling service Blackwell’s on-line book orders. Two days to process an order, not delivered, messages left on social media ignored, unable to find telephone number on their website, find via google, call, inaudible message telling me not to leave a message as it will not be read, another message left on social media.

Today I received a response, edited ensuing conversation.

Zoe (Blackwell’s Bookshop)

Good afternoon Mr Parkins, I am very sorry to hear of the issues you have had. Could you please let me know your order reference so I can take a look into this for you? With best wishes, Zoe

Me

Coffee – Jonathan Morris

I also added order reference number.

Me

I will expect this book to be delivered by tomorrow, if necessary by courier.

Your service is appalling. I will not be ordering again.

I contrast with Oxford, where service in-store excellent.

Had I ordered from Amazon, it would not have taken two days to process the order. The book would have been delivered the next day. That is why Amazon is always first choice. It is not that they are cheaper, it is that they provide service.

Service an alien concept Blackwell’s on-line ordering.

Zoe

Thank you for providing this Mr Parkins. I’m sorry that your order has not yet arrived.

To confirm, this order was despatched on 3/3 by standard post to the address on your order. For standard UK delivery, we usually advise 2-4 working days after despatch but at the moment we are finding that it can take longer than this.

I can see here [tracking data] that your order has been handed over from our courier to your local Royal Mail centre yesterday, 10-03-21. Beyond this point, as this order has been sent via standard post, there is no further tracking information available but this does mean that it is in the final stage of delivery.

I’m very sorry that it is taking longer than expected for your order to arrive but I would be grateful if you could please allow a bit more time for your order to be delivered.

If it has not arrived with the post on 17-03-21 then please let us know – this will be 10 working days since the date of despatch and from this point we are able to advise further if your order remains delivered.

I’m very sorry once again for the delay and inconvenience caused – Zoe

Zoe also provided tracking data.

Me

No, if you cannot guarantee deliver today or tomorrow, then I require a refund, with confirmation of refund. I can then place an order with Amazon for delivery tomorrow.

Zoe

Good afternoon Mr Parkins. I have refunded your order as a gesture of goodwill, when the book arrives please keep it with our compliments.

Once again, I am very sorry for the inconvenience caused – Zoe

I will send an email confirming this refund now, please expect one shortly, and please allow a few working days for the money to show on your account – Zoe

Me

Thank you for your gesture of goodwill. I have received your e-mail.

But …

Your on-line service appalling. It does not take two days to process an order. Handed to your courier service on 3 March, they do not hand to local delivery until 10 March. What were they doing?

I do not know if this is a one off, or the norm. But you either have to pull the plug on on-line or dramatically improve. This is giving Blackwell’s a bad name.

Last autumn I travelled to Oxford to pick up a signed copy of a book by my friend Yanis Varoufakis, Another Now, to take to a friend in Cyprus. I have often passed by, but never ventured inside. I am usually heading to and from coffee shops.

  • Café Society
  • Colombia Coffee Roasters

I encourage support indie bookshops, but no way could I recommend order from your on-line service, not unless wish to wait weeks before receive book.

I would still encourage support indie bookshops, if in Oxford pop in Blackwell’s in Broad Street, an excellent bookshop, the staff very helpful, but on-line, unless can match Amazon for service, let alone price, not unless happy to wait days for delivery, in this case weeks, and as I write, I am still waiting (maybe it will arrive today with the post).

If order from Blackwell’s, their phone number, not that anyone answers and the inaudible message they do not listen to messages left.

  • 01865 333536

What I am highlighting here is not restricted to Blackwell’s. If to compete with Amazon, it may not be possible to compete on price, but have to provide service as good as if not better than Amazon.

To her credit, Zoe did accept that something had gone wrong, as a gesture of goodwill refunded, and said I could keep the book when it arrives.

The book I ordered, Coffee: A Global History, which luckily I did not require next day, my concern was it had not arrived weeks later.

Coffee: A Global History has been turned into a podcast, A History of Coffee, a collaboration between James Harper of Filter Stories podcast and Jonathan Morris, Professor of History and author of Coffee: A Global History.

A History of Coffee a six-part podcast.

Note: Late afternoon, the post delivered long awaited very late delivery from Blackwell’s.

Blackwell’s on-line book service

March 10, 2021

Appalling service.

Order placed 1 March 2021.

Two days to process.

Still awaiting delivery.

Message left on social media. Ignored.

Contact number not shown on website, or if is is there, well hidden and not possible to find. Obtained number indirectly via Google.

Tried calling. Inaudible message, told do not leave a message as will not be read.

Had I ordered from Amazon, would have been delivered next day. Had there been a problem, it would have been dealt with promptly.

This is why people use Amazon, it is not because they are cheaper, it is because they provide service.

A Spy in the Struggle

January 23, 2021

When you find out who you are, you will no longer be innocent. That will be sad for others to see. All that knowledge will show on your face and change it. But sad only for others, not for yourself. You will feel you have a kind of wisdom, very mistaken, but a mistake of some power to you and so you will sadly treasure it and grow it. — Lorrie Moore, A Gate in the Stairs

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. — Isaiah 43:19

“We’re all fools,” said Clemens, “all the time. It’s just we’re a different kind each day. We think, I’m not a fool today. I’ve learned my lesson. I was a fool yesterday but not this morning. Then tomorrow we find out that, yes, we were a fool today too. I think the only way we can grow and get on in this world is to accept the fact we’re not perfect and live accordingly.” — Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man

The editing of your own soul. — Franz Kafka

Yolanda Vance an attractive Black woman, intelligent, successful, graduates from Harvard Law School, works for a corporate law firm, a Chelsea apartment, until six months after joining the law firm they are busted in an FBI raid, securities fraud.

Yolanda is the whistle-blower, when the FBI raided she handed over the papers she had been instructed to shred.

Now a pariah, no law firm will hire her, she decides to join the FBI. A follow up position not what she wanted, the salary is half what she was earning as a corporate lawyer, but two months behind with her rent, all other options closed to her, FBI is all that is left.

During her training she is on a firing range next to an asshole who brags about the guns he owns, he lets off shots before she had donned her ear defenders.

She complains, but to no avail. Told she has to learn to handle a gun in all situations.

Next time she is on the range the asshole is intimidating another woman. She shouts at the asshole. He cannot hear her and takes off his ear defenders. When he does she lets off a volleys of shots, the woman he was intimidating does the same.

Following training she is allocated white collar crime. She is about to show her boss what she has found on laundering dirty Russian money, when he introduces her to a colleague who wants her for an undercover operation in San Francisco. She is not their ideal person, too young, lack of training, but her background fits the profile they are looking for. Her target teenage activists.

Black teenagers join gangs, not because they wish to be gangsters or drug dealers, they join because it gives them a sense of belonging, something they lack in their lives.

Red Black GREEN is a gang of teenage climate activists, they are targeting a corporation. The corporation has been given land by the city to build a facility. No benefit to the city, no taxes paid, no employment, but the residents do have a problem of dumped hazardous waste, increased incident of cancer.

Planet Greener, a dodgy Big Bushiness environmental group, provided initial funding to establish Red Black GREEN. A PR stunt to distract from oil drilling on their land.

Yolanda finds a group of teenagers, not drug dealers, not jihadists, not domestic terrorists, a group of teenagers who wish to help their community, fight climate injustice.

FBI had described the teenagers as Black Identity Extremists. What Yolanda found was a group of teenagers who wanted decent schools, safe air and water, and not to get shot by the police. What was extreme about that? In other words she had been lied to and mislead by her superiors at the FBI who had asked her to go undercover.

She begins to doubt what she is doing, checks out COINTELPRO, learns Fred Hamptpon leader of the local Black Panthers was killed in cold blood by the police. Not a lot has changed.

She confides her concerns to a senior FBI agent who warns her to be careful, to assume she is being watched, document everything because when it all blows up they will be looking for scapegoats, will dump it on her as the rookie.

Thanks to Naomi Klein for the recommendation.

I would love to see A Spy in the Struggle dramatised by Jed Mercurio as a BBC and US network collaboration.

Aya de Leon is an American novelist who teaches creative writing at the University of California Berkeley.

Farnham coronavirus tier 2 day seven

December 8, 2020

A pleasant sunny morning, though very very cold, barely above freezing.

A trip to Coffee Gems with beans roasted in Ceylon, confirms my thoughts, over roasted at too high a temperature but underlying notes suggested possibilities. Need 1kg of green beans to evaluate, or if different varieties available, 1kg of each variety. Shipping roasted beans from Ceylon is not a realistic or viable option.

Very cold walking along the River Wey and through Gostrey Meadow.

Downing Street is going through a phase it went through several years ago, with many businesses closing.

To Blue Bear Bookshop. A coffee and a cake. Cakes and coffee better than Gail’s bakery.

Many of the books shrink wrapped in plastic. This is not good news. The only reason to visit a bookshop is to browse.

Hand sanitiser before touching books, then leave books to one side for a couple of days.

Dead stock, but no more dead than if shrink wrapped.

It is possible to buy from Blue Bear Books on-line via Bookshop.org but its ethics no better if not worse than Amazon, bookshops get less than if book purchased in-store and they are forcing independent publishers to give bigger discounts than Amazon. What amounts to little more than a thin veneer of greenwash, we are not Amazon.

To the Oxfam Bookshop. A good selection of books.

I picked up The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula le Guin, and to my surprise found Gone With the Wind.

Oxfam has hand sanitiser by the door but it is hidden, only seen as leaving the store.

Waiting in the cold for a late running bus.

Μ Ν ΣΑΚ ΚΟΥ ΛΑΚ

December 1, 2020

Walking from Kolonaki Plaza to Duo Goulies & Duo Mpoukies via a route I have not walked before I pass by an interesting coffee shop, Μ Ν ΣΑΚ ΚΟΥ ΛΑΚ, state of the art equipment, coffee shop for the bookshop of a publisher.

Horrendous location, busy polluted main road, or would be but for lockdown.

The coffee served Redd. I do not stop a coffee as earlier I had had a cold brew from Redd.

Tired & Suzanne

August 2, 2020

We’re tired of being white and we’re tired of being black

Tired

We’re tired of being white
and we’re tired of being black,
and we’re not going to be white
and we’re not going to be black any longer.
We’re going to be voices now,
disembodied voices in the blue sky,
pleasant harmonies in the cavities of your distress.
And we’re going to stay this way until you straighten up,
until your suffering makes you calm,
and you can believe the word of G-d who has told you so many times,
and in so many ways, to love one another,
or at least not to torture and murder
in the name of some stupid vomit-making human idea that makes G-d turn away from you,
and darken the cosmos with inconceivable sorrow.
We’re tired of being white and we’re tired of being black,
and we’re not going to be white and we’re not going to be black any longer.
We’re going to be voices now.

— Leonard Cohen, Book of Longing

Tired by Leonard Cohen from Book of Longing, followed by Suzanne.

From a live concert Who By Fire?, First Aid Kit and friends, a concert of poetry and music Stockholm 2017 to commemorate the life of Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen on Hydra

July 20, 2020

In 1960 Leonard Cohen bought a house on the Greek Island of Hydra.

Once you’ve lived on Hydra you can’t live anywhere else, including Hydra. — Kenneth Koch

Leonard Cohen wished for somewhere quiet to write. He left Montreal on his first trip outside North America with a Canadian Arts Council Grant of $2,000 and one published book of poetry. He was writing a novel or trying to, blackening the pages three pages a day. Hydra seemed the ideal place, warm and sunny, especially compared with cold and grey and damp London. He arrived on Hydra with his green Olivetti. He had taken up an offer of Barbara Rothschild to stay on the island, only when he arrived at the house and mentioned her name, he was turned away by the housekeeper ‘we don’t need any more Jews here’. Leonard Cohen put a curse on the house and within six months it had burnt to the ground.

Prior to the purchase of his house, Charmian Clift and George Johnston offered a room in their house. He would sit writing on their terrace.

It was on Hydra he met Marianne and where he wrote ‘So Long Marianne’ and ‘Bird on the Wire’.

In a letter to his mother:

It has a huge terrace with a view of dramatic mountain and shining white houses. The rooms are large and cool with deep windows set in thick walls. I suppose it’s about 200 years old and many generations of sea-.men must have lived here. I will do a little work on it every year and in a few years it will be a mansion… I live on a hill and life has been going on here exactly the same for hundreds of years. All through the day you hear the calls of the street vendors and they are really rather musical… I get up around 7 generally and work till about noon. Early morning is coolest and therefore best, but I love the heat anyhow, especially when the Aegean Sea is 10 minutes from my door.

What more could an unknown writer ask for?

He was part of a group of writers and artist and poets who used to meet at Κατσικάς Katsikas.

One of his friends Charmian Clift wrote Peel Me A Lotus her account of living on Hydra in the late 1950s.

They were all cursed. Charmian Clift killed herself after leaving Hydra, George died a year later.

His first concert in Australia was dedicated to the couple and he opened with ‘Bird on the Wire’.

We have photographer James Burke to thank for a series of photographs of these days in 1960 on Hydra.

A Theatre for Dreamers a fictional account by Polly Samson seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old girl, who with a thousand pounds left to her by her mother escapes from an abusive father. She reads a book Peel Me A Lotus by Charmian Clift, sent to her mother by the author a close friend of her mother, of life on Hydra. She remembers the friend of her mother from when she was a child and writes to her asking if she can find her a room to rent.

We start in 2016, Leonard Cohen has recently died, a very sad loss, and Trump has won the US Presidential elections. Word reaches Hydra ‘and spread rapidly like a stench along the agora. There were horrified groans, even from the donkeys, disbelieving splutters from every table, passer-by and boat. For a moment it was a comfort to think at least Leonard had been spared this.’

Jane Ayre

April 15, 2020

National Theatre production of Jane Ayre.

Live streamed last week, only a few hours left, as only retained for a week.

A very avant garde production, nigh impossible to follow, not helped the cast keep morphing into different characters, leaving one with glimpse of what is happening.

Excellent music.

A very powerful and moving production.

This week Treasure Island followed by Twelfth Night next week.

Hard to believe long long time ago I read Jane Ayre, humanities faculty English literature, university first year.

Waterstone’s the J D Wetherspoon of the book trade

March 22, 2020

Boss of J D Wetherspoon Tim Martin was more than happy to put staff and clientele at risk by forcing sick staff into work under threat of no sick pay.

The same irresponsible attitude, encouraging going to the pub, failure to heed advice on social distancing.

Waterstone’s are showing the same contempt for staff and customers during coronavirus crisis. No ban on cash, no hand sanitiser, no social distancing. Office staff sent home, staff in book shops forced to carry on working.

Waterstone’s where greed rules ok. There should be hand sanitiser by the door, everyone walking in required to use. Contactless card only. Close early at three every day. This was the norm in Sheffield last week.

Contrast last week with Steam Yard coffee shop in Sheffield. Hand sanitiser by the door, close at three.

Or contrast with fish n chip restaurant Elite on the Bail, restaurant closed takeaway at the back, social distancing, hand sanitiser on offer to use.

Waterstone’s destroyed Ottakar’s. I had hoped James Daunt may improve, but no. Still the rubbish dumped by publishers piled on tables, staff treated badly.

Why is it always the big corporate chains that treat their staff badly?

Indie coffee shops as always leading the way. Coffee served in takeaway cups, no reusable cups, hand sanitiser by the door.

Talking to an employee of 200 Degrees a small coffee shop chain before they were forced to close, she said refusal to put hand sanitiser by the door, no interest in health and safety of staff or customers.

When the ban on pubs, bars, coffee shops came in, I walked down Lincoln High Street, indie coffee shops closed, Caffe Nero and Starbucks open.

Use contactless card. I prefer cash, cash is anonymous, cards are traced and tracked, inflate profits of banks, but these are not normal times, cash is dirty. Similarly, good coffee is to be appreciated, sit and relax with coffee served in ceramic or glass, but not normal times, takeaway protects staff and customers, minimises contamination.

Support your local indie bookshop

  • P&G Wells – Winchester
  • Lindum Books – Lincoln
  • Blue Bear Bookshop – Farnham
  • Ideas on Paper – Nottingham

and indie coffee shops

  • Marmadukes – Sheffield
  • Steam Yard – Sheffield
  • The Specialty Coffee Shop – Nottingham
  • Cartwheel Coffee – Nottingham
  • Outpost Coffee – Nottingham
  • Madame Waffle – Lincoln
  • Coffee Aroma – Lincoln
  • Krema – Farnham and Guildford
  • Coffee Lab – Winchester

By no means an exhaustive list.

Tuesday of last week, UK was two weeks behind Italy, one week behind Spain, with one big difference, Italy and Spain already had measures in place before they introduced ever tighter measures. In UK, too little, too late.

If you wish for something to read, stuck at home, read an e-book.

Paulo Coelho has made available several of his books for free download.

Something other writers and filmmakers could do.

Mark Thomas has made available for almost free download one of his shows (he asks make a donation to a food bank).

When Primark, McDonald’s announced they are closing, we know it is game up.

Waterstone’s announced they were closing. But will staff get paid. Staff who were off sick, suspected covid-19, told to take out of their annual leave.

James Daunt the Tim Martin of the book trade. Shops closed but more likely no one on the streets, no one buying books, shops losing money, than consideration for the well being of staff and customers. Plus with shops closed staff on furlough government will pay 80% of their salary

But what does this say of Pepsi Trump? China gave us time, we squandered it. Tuesday of last week UK was two weeks behind Italy, one week behind Spain. With one big difference, both countries had measures in place, and have since tightened those measures. It was sporting bodies which decided to close, led the way. Now it is shops closing, taking the initiative. Still no lockdown of London. Bars and pubs serving drinks.

Yogurt and cappuccino at Little Tree

November 27, 2019

Wednesday four weeks ago, end of October, I was intending to climb Hill of the Muses, last warm day before the weather changes.

Last warm day end of October before the weather changes to cooler weather. I got as far as Little Tree, and no further.

AirBnB causing major problems in Athens and other major cities. In Athens dirty Turkish, Russian and Chinese money buying apartment blocks, local residents forced out creating ghettos.

Graffiti most apt.

Synchronicity: Passing by the derelict mansion behind the Acropolis Museum a lady stopped and spoke to me, asked was I interested in buying as she had similar properties for sale. I learnt such properties were protected, could not be demolished, expensive to buy and would cost as much again to renovate. She was on her way to an appointment, could not stop and chat.

I regret I did not ask how much to buy?

Derelict mansion featured in Walking in Athens, a collection of essays by Nikos Vatopoulos, in an essay A forgotten staircase beside The Acropolis.

Yogurt and cappuccino at Little Tree bohemian bookshop cum coffee shop located behind Acropolis Museum.

I made a mistake ordering a freddo cappuccino not a cappuccino. Waiter brought me a freddo cappuccino before I could correct my mistake. I said a mistake, he took away freddo cappuccino, brought a cappuccino, billed me for both.

A chat with a young lady who had a white e-scooter, her own not a rented e-scooter. She agreed the dumping of e-scooters everywhere is a menace.

I mentioned Mallorca was now taking action on e-scooters. We agreed long overdue Athens did the same.

Then a very long chat with a young guy, H G Wells, democracy, AirBnB, Greek financial crisis.

By then it was dark and turning cool.


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