We have been closed since end of play on Christmas Eve, but we now have a date for reopening – all being well! 12 April, which is six weeks away. Time to dust off the cobwebs and get the Tree House shipshape in time to welcome everyone back.
With that in mind, I am happy to start taking donations of books again. If you have books you would like to bring to us, get in touch, and we can arrange a time. We can keep our distance – open the door and let people drop books inside – and I have now been vaccinated too, so I should soon be a bit less of a risk. I think the vaccine takes three weeks to become effective, and it’s nearly a week already since I was jabbed.
I am also making plans for a few small things to do when we reopen – still thinking about them, but nothing major. And from now on our charity focus will be to support musicians, who are still facing a year of uncertainty and often not covered by any of the government rescue packages. (Thankfully we have received government grants, which is how we have survived!)
Well, we were due to reopen tomorrow – Monday 4 January – after our Christmas break, but of course we are now in tier 4, so we have to remain closed until that changes. I have yet to decide if I will be furloughed or if I will try to run some sort of business online and via local deliveries, but furlough is the most likely – I will make that decision today. I don’t think we can really operate without being open.
Here’s hoping we won’t be closed for too long, but maybe hibernation will be good for all of us, and we can sit out the coldest weeks and avoid the virus as much as possible! Thank you so much to those who have bought books and attended art talks and brought donations between the lockdowns, and generally given lots of encouragement. Every message means a lot! Each lockdown is a bit tougher, but my thoughts are with those on the front line, those suffering and those separated from loved ones, especially those who have relatives in care homes and hospitals whom they can’t visit. I am luckier than many! As long as I can pay the bookshop rent we will be OK, though I do need some income too, but for now, and with some government financial support, both I and the bookshop are just about OK.
I did some little live videos on Facebook each day in Advent, with a book recommendation each day, so if you missed those and want to catch up, head over to our Facebook page and look for ‘videos’ – I don’t think you need to be on Facebook to watch them, they should be public. I may do a few more little videos if lockdown carries on, just to keep in touch! But we are not selling any books for now, and I may be even less prompt at answering bookshop emails if I am furloughed.
Meanwhile it’s Sunday, so I am off to make some lunch and watch Columbo. Happy reading everyone!
One thing you have to embrace as a retailer is that Christmas starts in September. As someone who grew up in a home where the tree did not go up until Christmas Eve (something I still think is wonderful), this took a lot of embracing. But some things do have to be planned in advance, and it’s time to start thinking ahead!
I have launched our annual Advent calendar of books – quite time-consuming, so we have to start now! 24 individually-wrapped books, one to open each day in Advent. Great fun, and always popular. Head to the page to order one – we sometimes run out of books, so don’t leave it too long! We can post them too, but will need to work out a postage charge – usually not as much as you might think.
There will be no big event for the lights switch-on this year, sadly – another casualty of that other C word – but we will do our best to make the shop fun and magical during December. Not going to spoil any surprises on that yet.
We will also have lots of ideas for stocking fillers, and since we can’t have a craft fair, we will be selling things by local crafters in the shop too. More of that soon.
But if you’d like a bundle of wrapped books for Advent, get in touch – early orders are great as it gets a bit manic by mid-November!
We have been in business now for 7 years, and have not put up our basic prices since we opened. The standard price of a paperback novel has been £2 right from the start; some are £1.50, especially crime and thrillers and chick lit, the kind of books people read once and bring back or pass on, and if books are in poor condition they are put at £1 or in our 50p boxes, depending on the book (and the condition!). Hardback non-fiction is individually priced, as are children’s books – we keep all children’s paperback fiction under £1, much of it is 50p-80p so that kids can spend their pocket money or buy more than one, and parents can buy several if they want to.
However, I’ve decided that it’s time to put our standard paperback price up to £2.50, for fiction in good condition. This is still less than the price of a coffee in most cafes, and still very good value, I think! Half the price of a magazine.
There will still of course be books at cheaper prices, as above. And I am not relabelling anything, so most fiction is still £2 for now – if it says £2 on the label, that’s what you pay! I will simply price new stuff that comes in at the new price.
We will also be hiding books around town – if you find one, its yours to keep! There is another little game tucked inside it, but that’s for you to discover.
I have been remiss in not posting on here that we have reopened! I did it quietly, as I wasn’t sure to start with what our opening hours would be and whether I was really ready to reopen. But we have been open since 21 July, and it’s been very busy, which is so wonderful. People buying lots of books! Maybe it’s post-lockdown frenzy, maybe it won’t last, but maybe it will! After five weeks we are still selling lots of books, so it’s all good for now. It’s great to see our customers again. We have basic covid precautions in place: there is hand sanitiser on the way in, and masks in case you have forgotten yours – including lovely reusable/washable ones that are made locally; we have a screen at the cash desk, and we ask people to be considerate about keeping a distance from other customers. So far we have not had to restrict the number of people in the shop, but of course it’s something to keep an eye on. We can’t have the jigsaw puzzle available, nor can we offer tea and coffee, and of course there are no evening events for the foreseeable future, but otherwise it’s pretty much the same as it was before!
We have some new merchandise: some Tree House pens and mugs – have a look at the Merchandise page. We also have some fabric bookmarks that a friend of the shop has made, and we still have our lovely handmade greetings cards. I will add photos to the Merch page. All of these can be posted out.
The shelves were very depleted when I took the photo of Lifesize Nick below, but they are much fuller now. And lots of new stock still to sort through, so do come and have a look.
I meant to post a link to the personal website I have been using while the shop is closed, and I forgot. In case anyone is interested, you can find it here! You can even see videos of me in my pyjamas with lockdown hair (I cut it all off short one day near the start of lockdown). I can’t remember what I talk about, but it all seemed important at the time. I am in the process of making the most important one yet!
You’ll find details of Kenilworth Reads there, my attempt to get people in the town to read the same book, but I have failed to get my act together – there is still time!
I am waiting to see what the Human Haystack (aka our esteemed Prime Minister) says at the next lockdown review, in terms of reopening the bookshop. If I do open in June, it will be on Saturdays only, as I work out how to do it as safely as possible, and the proceeds from those days will go to my fundraiser to help musicians, who have lost everything and seemingly for some time to come.
Anyway, just checking in – thank you to those who have missed us! I hope everyone is OK and managing lockdown and hope to see some of you before too much longer. I was really struggling with the physical side of the shop before we closed, but I now have a mobility scooter, so life is and will be a bit easier! You may see/have seen me zooming around town on it.
The bookshop, as you know, closed a couple of weeks ago, and I thought I would be able to carry on with some online things (including our Cicero Boxes), but we are now ceasing trading all together during the current crisis. The Tree House is a limited company, and I am employed as its director; for the last 12 months I have been able to join up to PAYE and pay myself a small monthly wage. My accountant has suggested that I should be furloughed, and so henceforth I am indeed on furlough, which means the company has ceased trading completely. So no more Cicero boxes, and no more web posts for now. We are also eligible, as a small retail business, for a government grant, and so I hope that in due course we will open again, along with all our high street neighbours in Kenilworth. But I am not allowed to post on social media or here, as that implies the company is still operating. I will be setting up a personal website, where I can post bits of art history and blog about books and music, and I will post a link here when I have done that.
I leave you with the song that Bob Dylan recently gifted to us – a song he wrote and recorded a number of years ago but has never released until now. It is partly about the assassination of JFK, but really it’s a hymn to 20th century American culture and the need for music in dark times and, written well before Trump came to power, it strikes me as a powerfully anti-Trump statement too. It’s 17 minutes long and utterly glorious. Listen to it several times, listen to the lyrics, and it will soon have you under its spell. There’s no one like Bob.