Posts Tagged ‘books’

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.

Derelict mansion

December 3, 2019

An essay in Walking in Athens, A forgotten staircase beside the Acropolis, features this derelict mansion behind the back of the Acropolis Museum.

I pass by the derelict mansion on my way to Little Tree to pick up a copy of Walking in Athens.

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.

Little Tree

November 22, 2019

Coffee at Little Tree. Saturday it was packed.

Note to self: Avoid Little Tree on a Saturday.

Walking to Little Tree passed a derelict mansion.

Flipping through a book in little tree, it fell open at an essay about the very same house. Walking in Athens, a collection of essays by Nikos Vatopoulis, A forgotten staircase beside The Acropolis.

Little Tree a bohemian bookshop cum coffee shop is tucked behind the Acropolis Museum.

Blue Bear Bookshop opening launch party

November 16, 2019

Serendipity I was in Farnham passing by Blue Bear Bookshop during their opening launch party.

For the last week or more, dreadful weather, cold, raining, never sure what the weather will do as check the day before then within less than twelve hours the weather has changed again.

I have gone out when it looks like it is not about to rain.

This week and last week, I have popped into Farnham midweek, thus no need to visit today, but on the spur of the moment, I changed my mind, even though no need to visit Farnham.

Usually I alight from the bus and walk into Farnham along the River Wey and up Downing Street. I also cut through alleyways, avoiding The Borough.

The Borough is unpleasant, heavily congested, narrow pavement jostled-into the road, very heavily polluted.

Today though I was walking through The Borough.

I noted Oxfam had swapped shops, the bookshop now in The Borough. A very professional job, remove the Oxfam sign and would never know it was an Oxfam shop.

Past WHSmith, a dreadful store, a huge mistake relocating tho Post Office into WHSmith.

I then noticed a new bookshop, Blue Bear Bookshop, a new bookshop packed with people.

I looked in and happened upon the launch party of the Blue Bear Bookshop.

Food, cakes, flutes of Champagne or at least fizzy wine. In a corner a young lad knocking out poetry on demand on an old typewriter.

I went in search of the Big Issue seller, could not find her, by the time I got back, the food had all but gone.

Whoever did the catering did an excellent job the food and cakes excellent.

People, kids, dogs. Barely able to move.

The books aesthetically arranged on the shelves, though means fewer books.

Very much work in progress.

Currently a wider selection in the Oxfam Bookshop.

And therein lies the dilemma, stock best sellers which are the bread and butter, but in doing so will be undercut by Waterstone’s and the supermarkets, or stock more interesting titles which may not sell.

Worth a visit to P & G Wells in the backstreets of Winchester behind Winchester Cathedral, the bookshop Jane Austin used. Always interesting titles in the window, how bookshops used to be, books tempted to buy, not the best selling hyped rubbish the publishers dump on Waterstone’s.

Blue Bear Bookshop not only a bookshop, also a coffee shop. The coffee shop side very much unfinished business.

I ordered a cappuccino. My expectations were not high. To my surprise drinkable, on a par with Krema in Downing Street, thus now have two excellent coffee shops in Farnham.

The coffee Wogan Coffee I have never heard of, nor has anyone I have spoken to, a coffee roastery in Bristol.

The image on a box resembled a 1960s Soho gangster.

Coffee served in takeaway coffee cups not good. But I was assured a temporary measure for the opening and they will be serving coffee in ceramic.

The staff trained, but training a barista does not make, learn by employing a skilled head barista, who acts a mentor. Small changes make all the difference.

I did though note the coffee freshly ground, coffee carefully weighed.

The girl who served me had worked in a coffee shop in Finland.

I know not of Finland, but Sweden has a high reputation for coffee, as does the Baltic States.

Currently only from the espresso machine. Future maybe pour over. I strongly recommend source from Coffee Gems as local to Farnham and very high quality coffee.

I am reminded of Little Tree, a bohemian bookshop come coffee shop where sit drinking coffee under the shade of the trees, later in the evening craft beer.

At Little Tree, a far greater choice of books, philosophy, poetry, literature, politics. Not that I have ever seen anyone buy a book. Though I am told people buy books in the morning.

Having said that, I recently bought Walking in Athens, a collection of essays, little vignettes of Athens. And in the past have bought music.

Something Blue Bear Bookshop may wish to copy from Little Tree, bookmarks featuring writers, writers of literature not best sellers, the bill for the coffee, always brought with a glass of water, attached to the bookmark with a paper clip.

On the coffee counter by the cakes was a pile of a magazine I have never heard of, Chapter Catcher.

Chapter Catcher launched in June by John Bird, the guy behind Big Issue, a selection of reading, samplers to encourage people to read if not buy books. It cannot have gone beyond the launch issue as it was the launch issue on the counter.

But who is going to pay a fiver for a magazine never heard of that is sealed in an envelope and cannot browse the content?

I suggested they may wish to sell high end magazines, Standart, Drift, Ambrosia, Cereal, or at least dot around for people to browse.

In the centre a large communal table. Good for discussions, poetry reading, and they are planning events.

Possible future events Dhan Tamang UK latter art champion on latte art, a talk on The Alchemist.

A must for the large communal table, The World Atlas of Coffee.

Down wooden stairs a cellar. Appearance of a store room. More work in progress.

Opening an indie bookshop or even a coffee shop, is a risky business, especially in today’s failing High Street.

The location not good, a very polluted street which is best avoided, but may have been all that was available.

We hear much of the failing High Street, of towns turning into ghost towns, each week of another corporation chain gone into liquidation.

But chains have brought it upon themselves. They focused on expansion, not on profitability, paid ludicrous rents, and in doing so drove up rents for everyone and put local businesses out of businesses and are now paying the cost of their unsustainable businesses practices.

When chains collapse, we should welcomes the news, as it provides the opportunity for local small business.

I have seen too many good bookshops close, Thorpe’s in Guildford, Readers Rest in Lincoln, to name but two.

To see a new bookshop open is good news, and a double reason for celebration, a coffee shop too serving speciality coffee.

It is now for local people to support. If you see a book in Waterstone’s not discounted then buy from Blue Bear Bookshop. And unless you really enjoy drinking disgusting undrinkable coffee from tax dodging chains that have to be doused in syrups to make palatable, there are now two coffee shops serving excellent coffee in Farnham, Krema and Blue Bear Books.

Cappuccino al fresco at Little Tree

May 15, 2019

Located beind The Acropolis Museum, little tree is a bookshop cum coffee shop. I have though yet to see anyone buy a book.

Great place to relax with a coffee or later a craft beer. They do food too.

Something though needs to done about the near continous convoy of noisy pollution belching tour buses, like close and pedestrianise the roads.

A break in the pollution belching bus convoy, it is lovely and peacefull and quiet under the shade of the trees, then along comes the next pollution belching bus convoy.

Excellent cappuccino, coffee supplied by Taf.

Pleasant and friendly staff. Nice comment when one said you are one of us. In other words an Athenian.

Last time I visited, there was music I fancied, and I regretted that I did not buy. I did not know what it was, neither did they when asked.

I took a chance and picked up the sole remaining copy of Amorgos by Ada Pitsou.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss

December 3, 2018

Why 111 coffee shops, why not 100, why not 120?

That is what I hate about these series of books, an artificial list, someone hired to fill the list, rather than someone writes and publishes a guide to London coffee shops.

Having said that, 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss exceeds expectations, excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Each coffee shop occupies two pages, a page of text, a picture.  What to expect, the coffee, roaster used.

At the back, a couple of pages of maps. The largest concentration of coffee shops Soho, north of Oxford Street second. Strange therefore Bar Italia, located in Soho, one of the oldest, if not the oldest coffee shop in London, a Soho icon, Soho as once was, does not merit a mention.  Nor Monmouth Coffee in nearby Covent Garden, one of the first artisan coffee shops in London, well before they became trendy places to be.

A couple of coffee shops I am familiar with, if not visited. Pufrock I am told I should visit, but have not, Taylor Street Baristas I have not visited in London, I have the one in Brighton, which sadly closed a couple of years ago, the excellent Curio Cabal the only coffee shop listed that I have visited.

I would have liked to see as with The North and North Wales Independent Coffee Guide, telephone number, web address, twitter and facebook.

I like the hot tips. A place of interest nearby worth a visit.

How to get there, nearest station.

Coffee roasteries are not included, and no guide is complete without. All the more surprising when often mentioned in the description of the coffee shops.

Noticeable by their absence, Bar Italia, Ethiopian Coffee Roasters on the South Bank street food market, little coffee kiosk at foot of Hungerford Bridge on London South Bank, Monmouth Coffee.

At the back, a useful glossary of coffee terms. One term that was new to me, espresso flight, a single-shot espresso,  a single shot cappuccino, served side by side. Only one coffee shop have I been served this though not given a name and not side by side, in a line, was Coffee Aroma, an espresso, a cappuccino and a glass of water, served in a line on a hollowed out wooden board.

A QR code to pull up an interactive map. At least I assume it was, but is not. At least can see where the coffee shops are. It would though have been better if each pin had pulled up information on Google Maps. There is a menu, which takes through to a list of all 111 coffee shops. Click on any entry, and that does take through to Google Maps. A somewhat indirect route.

The problem with any guide, even on-line, is dated as soon as writ, if not before.

Taylor St Baristas no longer use Union-Hand Roasted, they roast their own beans at Taylor St Roasted and their excellent Brighton coffee shop has closed.

An indication of how things date, as I wrote this review, I learnt Taylor St Baristas were returning to Brighton. I miss the one that closed, I will look forward to their new coffee shop.  Or at least that was what I initially thought. Actually they will be supplying the coffee. Maybe one day.

111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss puts to shame the utterly useless Where to Drink Coffee.

An excellent well researched guide, a must if visiting London and appreciate good coffee.

I prefer to wander and discover, if not, reservations aside 111 Coffee Shops In London That You Must Not Miss is an excellent guide to coffee shops in London.

Although I prefer to wander and take me where my feet take me, I have to admit, several of the coffee shops intrigue me and I am tempted to visit next time I am in London.

Also check out London Coffee, an account of London coffee culture rather than a guide to coffee shops.

Book in hand, I did attempt to visit one cold misty day in London at least a couple of the listed coffee shops. I managed all of one, Algerian Coffee Stores, and that only because my lovely Russian friend Tatyana told me it was a must to visit if I ever found myself in London.

I was not that I did not visit any other coffee shops, it is that I tend to go where my feet take me.

I found Four Corners a kiosk outside Waterloo Station. They told me they have a coffee shop in Lower Marsh. Beany a kiosk at the foot of Hungerford Bridge, excellent coffee but no time to stop. Grind in Covent Garden I looked in did not like and walked out. The Espresso Room, a tiny coffee shop in Covent Garden serving excellent coffee. I looked in Bar Italia in Soho, excellent coffee, but no time to stop. Jacob the Angel an English Coffee House, a new coffee shop in Neal’s Yard, serving Square Mile which is a good sign, but about to close. Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden I stopped for a cappuccino.

Failure of British bookstore chains to display or stock Hippie

November 2, 2018

Hippie, a major international best seller by Paulo Coelho, yet noticeable by its absence in WHSmith or Waterstone’ s, two British bookstore chains.

I checked in Guildford High Street, a few weeks after publication.

WHSmith. No Hippie. Not on display, not in stock. Talking to a helpful guy he said he cannot recall ever seeing in the store let alone on display.

Waterstone’s across the street no better. Hippie not on display. I did eventually find, spine only, on the bottom shelf next to the floor with new books. A little direct action. When I left,  on display on table by the entrance.

I inquired the week published. No one knew what I was talking about. WHSmith not only not in stock, not even shown on their system.

I had hoped to find at Gatwick Airport. Not there either.

Contrast with Athens, Hippie in window display of all major bookstores, one even had a display poster on the door.

In conversation with Stephen Leighton

March 14, 2018

An afternoon of conversation and book signing with Stephen Leighton, head of Hasbean and author of Coffeeography.

Launch event for Lincoln Coffee Festival took place in the first floor lounge of Coffee Aroma.

A very interesting afternoon of conversation with one of the lead players in coffee.

Stephen Leighton talked about the people and farms he obtains his coffee from. Long term relationships, friends of the family.

From a very humble beginning, Stephen fell in love with coffee as a child passing by a coffee shop with coffee roasting, he started with green beans, roasting on a pan at home, selling his roasted coffee off a market stall.

It was then trips to origin, where has formed long term relationships with the growers.

One family will recommend another farm, often in a different country.

Oxfam were invited to the event, they may have actually learnt something.

Stephen Leighton engages in direct trade, the farms are paid a higher price for quality.

Contrast with FairTrade. Farms are paid a tiny premium over and above commodity price. Fine if low altitude, low quality commodity coffee, they get a tiny margin above what they would otherwise get for low quality coffee destined for instant coffee or the coffee chains.

Instant coffee. Beans are boiled to remove any resemblance to coffee, then chemically adulterated to provide a coffee flavour.

FairTrade there is no incentive to the growers to improve the quality of the coffee, coffee is coffee is coffee, a commodity, price determined by international coffee markets in London and New York, a price determined by speculators.

To improve the quality requires more care in all the stages. Only the red coffee cherries, this may require several passes to pick the best ripe cherries, it requires careful sorting. All of which adds to the cost to the grower. Only worth it if these extra costs are recuperated if can command a higher price for the coffee. This will happen with speciality coffee, where everyone in the chain wants higher quality and is willing to pay for it, the coffee roaster, the indie coffee shop, the discerning coffee drinker, it will not happen with commodity coffee.

Therefore when buying a bag of Hasbean coffee from Coffee Aroma, or a bag of Square Mile coffee from Madame Waffle, or a bag of coffee direct from Union Hand-Roasted, you will pay a higher price, in return, higher quality coffee, a better price to the grower.

FairTrade has degenerated into marketing hype for low quality coffee, a brand.

It is difficult to know, has the latte levy had an impact, or at least the proposed latte levy, which the government has refused to implement?

It may have made people think, and the clientele in specialty coffee shops tend to care more.

Do we discourage takeaway coffee, encourage sit and relax with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic? If takeaway, encourage use of compostable cups or offer a discount if a customer brings in a clean KeepCup for a refill?

What are the life cycle costs?

What we do know, plastic is destroying the planet. At the very least we need a discussion between barista and customer, to explore the options.

Business as usual, plastic-lined disposable paper coffee cups, is not an option.

A 5p levy on flimsy plastic carrier bags has reduced their use by in excess of 80%. It has though had an unintended side effect.

People buy a cotton tote bag. Next time out shopping buy another, then another. There is now a world shortage of cotton and the price of cotton has soured.

Cotton is one of the worst environmentally damaging commercial crops grown. Big demand for water, toxic cocktail of chemicals sprayed on the plants, toxic chemicals used to process the cotton.

Apples in a supermarket are graded to give a uniform size. There is no rationale for this other than convenience for the supermarket. Those rejected as non-standard, perfectly good apples, go to waste.

The same happens with coffee. Kenyan AA, is no measure of quality, it is a measure of size.

The same bad habits in coffee, rejection of smaller beans. When cupped for flavour, found to be quality beans, beans that were being sold as commodity coffee, and thus commanding a low price.

Every bean has a story to tell. Coffeeography attempts to tell that story. Do we know that story when we drink our coffee? Coffee mats cf beer mats, postcards, information leaflets, a story on the bag of beans, a QR code to scan?

What is insufficient information, what is too much?

At the very least, farm where sourced from, Q rating, roast date.

What is a coffee shop, or at least an indie coffee shop?

Traditionally, from when coffee shops were first established as coffee spread from Yemen, across Arabia, through the Ottoman Empire and into Europe, places of discussion, discussion whilst drinking coffee.

A discussion with Stephen Leighton, over a coffee carefully brewed by Sarah hard at work downstairs, was to recreate if only for an afternoon those early days.

Coffee shops were also places where merchants met to discuss trade. And yes, trade was discussed.

Book signing for those who bought a book. For those who could not make it who wished to come, a few signed books have been kept back. Very limited numbers, first come first served. Please ask.

A couple of us were very lucky and given a presentation box of coffee samples.

As I write, a beautiful aroma is wafting across from the coffee samples.

The afternoon was the launch event for the Lincoln Coffee Festival. Check with Lincoln Coffee Collective for details of further events. Watch out for a coffee cupping session.

Special thanks to Stephen Leighton and those who paricipated for an interesting discussion, and to Coffee Aroma for hosting.

Last year Dale Harris Director of wholesale at Hasbean won the World Barista Championships.

Hasbean will be opening a pop up coffee shop in Brick Lane for the duration of the London Coffee Festival (12-15 April 2018).

Café W

January 31, 2018

What used to be Ottaker’s in the High Street got taken over by Waterstone’s. It had a Costa, which has been replaced by Café W.

Ambience ok nearly always empty apart from a few working on laptops or reading books scavenged from the book shelves.

Girl serving pleasant enough though not a clue on coffee. I have never ever seen anyone pour out of the side of a pouring jug. She did at least ask did I want chocolate.

My cappuccino undrinkable. Served piping hot and a very unpleasant bitter taste indicating rubbish coffee.

The coffee Mathew Algie catering supply. A skilled barista would be pushed to do anything with this rubbish.

Yes, excellent Waterstone’s have kicked out Costa, but if running as your own coffee shop, at least buy in quality coffee, employ skilled baristas and buy a decent espresso machine and grinder. Otherwise why bother?

For excellent coffee in Lincoln try Coffee Aroma, Madame Waffle and Makushi.