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.
A very happy 76th birthday to Bob Dylan, the single most brilliant, most influential, most indefinable singer-songwriter of modern times! I will take no arguments on this. One of the household gods of the Tree House, and a constant source of motivation, inspiration and sheer poetic beauty, which we all need in this troubled world.
I normally find having to think about Christmas too early spoils some of the magic, and as a shopkeeper you have to start thinking about it much too early…I’m the sort of person who puts up their tree on Christmas Eve, and apart from an Advent calendar doesn’t want to think about it too much before then. But I am feeling festive early this year, thanks in part to our wonderful Christmas tree. I had seen photos of these on the internet and often thought I would like to have a go at making one, but when a friend offered to come and do it, I jumped at the chance – I’m not very practical when it comes to being creative, lots of ideas but no skills! So Clare came on Friday afternoon and built us a Christmas tree, helped by Will (who also played jazzed up versions of Christmas carols on the piano while Clare worked – it was fab!). Lights arrived the next day, and the whole thing looks amazing – lots of comments online and in the shop about how lovely it looks.
Last year we had a wonderful papier mache tree in the window, made from pages of worn out books, made by the excellent Vicki, and I was heartbroken that it accidentally got thrown out earlier in the year – I don’t think Vicki was too happy either! So it’s lovely to have another tree, also made by someone in the wider Tree House community, though I still miss Vicki’s – would have been amazing to have both!
But that’s sort of the story of the Tree House – ups and downs, mistakes and triumphs, and through it all a wonderful group of people contributing in all sorts of ways. We have made it to the end of another year, always close to the edge financially, but with more support than I know how to respond to. Thank you Vicki, thank you Clare and Will, and thank you to whatever force in the universe keeps us going. I have a sneaky feeling it’s Warren Ellis, our patron, whom I plan to put on top of the tree…well, a picture of him, at least.
I’ll write an annual review soon, but in the meantime here is one of my heroes and another of the bookshop’s household gods – the man awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, and my favourite Christmas pop song of all (he didn’t write the lyrics to this).