Furlough

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.

Let’s try again…

nick reading 1Well that went well, didn’t it!  I did think restrictions on movement were coming, but went ahead anyway.  In light of the government edict, we won’t be able to do our book deliveries and mail order parcels.  However, I think we can still do our Cicero Boxes, and this is the perfect time of year to order one.  This is our monthly subscription scheme: two second-hand novels, a few flower seeds from Higgledy Garden, a bookmark and some sort of treat in the post each month.  £10pcm inc P&P.  Bargain!  And April is prime time for sowing flower seeds.

Why can I do this but not the other?  Well, I can go and retrieve a stock of books from the bookshop and at just two books per person, it will be easier to manage.  I can print off postage labels here and go to a post box as my daily exercise or food shop without having to go into a post office, as the boxes I use fit through a letterbox.

Normally I charge extra for a one-off box, but I won’t be doing that during this strange period.  So if you would like a box, let me know – contact form below.  Easiest just to do that in the first instance, and then we can discuss further details in email (you can still give me ideas about the sort of books you like/don’t like).  Also makes a lovely gift for a friend or relative you might not be seeing for a while.  The seeds can be grown in pots and windowboxes if you don’t have a garden.

A word about Higgledy Garden.  This is a wonderful little company – really just Benjamin Ranyard and his Viszla hound Flash, who live on a narrowboat.  They have a bit of help now from one or two others, as the business has grown.  Ben sells British flower seeds, and gives guidance on growing them, to create lovely cut flowers in your garden – though you don’t have to cut them of course!  Do have a look at the website, it’s lovely.

And why do I call them Cicero Boxes?  Well, Cicero, the great Roman orator, said that if you have a garden and a library, you have all that you need.  I think he forgot the single malt, but maybe that was assumed.  According to a Classicist friend, he actually said ‘a garden IN a library’, which sounds amazing, but no one quite knows what it means.  Maybe he had a very big library.  Anyway!  That’s why.

Get in touch below for any further info – or look at the Cicero Boxes tab, and ignore the bit about the different price for a single box.

Stay safe people!  For me, three weeks of enforced staying at home is a gift, but I am very lucky, as someone who lives alone, has a garden and is a natural introvert.  I know others are not so lucky in many ways.  But reading books and growing flowers are lovely things to do during a crisis.

 

The C-word…

bob whiskey
Bob Dylan reading (photo: Heaven’s Door whiskey)

Hello all – hope everyone is OK.  What a strange time.  That sounded flippant – I genuinely hope everyone is coronavirus-free.  We have now closed our doors until the shenanigans are over, but until the nation is put into lockdown, we can still provide a few second-hand books to see you through confinement and isolation.

COVID-19 (sometimes incorrectly written CORVID-19, which alarms me: the crows and magpies in my garden seem cross enough, I don’t want them to think we are blaming them for this too) is a major challenge for all of us, and I think is showing us all sorts of interesting things about ourselves and our society – some bad but also some very good.  And I hope it will at least force us all to slow down and think about our priorities, our sense of entitlement, how much we take for granted, how much we have in so many ways, and how to treat each other better all the time, not just during a crisis.  It is heartbreaking to close my little business without knowing when we will reopen, but it has to be the right thing to do as a means of keeping us all a bit safer.

george reading bob
George Harrison reading about Bob Dylan

But what is lengthy isolation without plenty to read?  And we will still have bills to pay.  So until we are forced into full lockdown (I do love all the terminology!). we can offer a few second-hand books to keep you going.  We can deliver within Kenilworth, and we can post further afield.

nick reading 2
Nick Cave reading

Who knows how long we can offer this, but we’ll keep going as long as we can.  I am also planning some online things, so keep an eye on the website or sign up to our mailing list (see tab above) if you’re not already on it and would like to stay in touch.For local delivery, we are planning on £5 for three novels, £10 for a bagful, £8 for a bagful of children’s books.  These will be books that we choose, though you can give us ideas of the sort of thing you like (and don’t like) and if we have specific titles you want, obviously we can include those.  Best thing is to get in touch by email or via the box below and we can deal with any particular requests.

Stay safe, everyone, and keep reading!

nick reading 1
Nick Cave perfecting his ‘Go away I’m reading’ face – my resting face.

 

Children’s books buy one, get one free for half-term

treehouse6I know it’s Thursday already, but there are still two days of our offer on children’s books!  Our books are cheap anyway – children’s fiction is mostly 60p-90p – but even better when you can get twice as much.  Bring the kids in to browse and stock up on a bit of reading; or they can sit in the treehouse and read for a bit while you browse for your own books – a good half-term activity in itself, and excellent value for the children’s pocket money.  We have lots of books in at the moment, and a few more boxes of children’s books to unpack today, so do come and have a look.  It’s windy – the market is cancelled – but we’ll be wind-free, and you may even be lucky enough to catch Nick Cave playing on the CD player.

nick hs2

Radio Abbey

Did you know that I am a DJ as well as a bookseller and Kenilworth’s most famous art historian?  (The latter title bestowed by Neil and Gayle, my great friends and fellow DJs, hosts of the wonderful Brunch with the Bradleys.)  I do two shows on local internet station Radio Abbey, one about books and folk music, one a celebration of nostalgic tunes from my youth – meant to get everyone dancing!  Here is this week’s episode of both.  BookFolk is on a Monday from 1-2pm, Old School Disco! is on Tuesdays from 6-7pm.  You can also Listen Again later.

Daytime art history at the Tree House Bookshop

monday art lecturesWe have had art lectures at the bookshop pretty much as long as the bookshop has been open (which, as an aside, is an amazing six and a half years!).  Mostly these have been evening lectures, but we are often asked about the possibility of daytime talks.  So this autumn there are art history talks on Monday mornings at 11.

The lecturer is me!  I am an art historian as well as a bookseller, with a PhD from Bristol University and 20 years of lecturing experience.  I still do a bit of professional teaching, but online (for Oxford University), which means I can do it from home in my pyjamas…perfect!  But now that we have the new projection equipment, lectures are even easier at the bookshop.  And even though it means I have to get dressed, it is all good fun.

Sometimes people say they feel daunted, and don’t come because they think it will be too highbrow or because they haven’t looked at paintings before.  But my lectures are informal, friendly, inclusive – suitable for all levels of knowledge, which sounds a tall order, but it isn’t really.

My specialisation is in the art of Northern Europe in the Renaissance (15th and 16th centuries), but I do a few other things as well, including tracing what I call the Northern Tradition through the Dutch 17th century, German Romanticism in the early 19th century, and into the 20th century, and of course I look at Italian Renaissance and late medieval art too.  This all sounds very grand, but the key is simply taking a painting and looking at it, and that’s what a lecture is for: you can read about art in books and on the internet, you can go to galleries, but a lecture gives you the opportunity to explore and discuss and ask questions and spend time looking closely with a guide and some fellow-explorers.  Paintings – and the labels that go with them – become much less daunting when you do this.

I have mentioned paintings, but my PhD subject was sculpture, which in Germany is an incredible thing in the Renaissance, and prints, which grew out of the development of printed books in the 15th century.  It’s all marvellous!

So if you’re free on a Monday morning, do come along at 11 o’clock – or if you prefer an evening talk, I still do those on Tuesday evenings once or twice a month.  Lectures are £8 on the door, including coffee/tea, and last about an hour plus time for questions.

This coming Monday, 28 October, I’ll be talking about the greatest European painter of the 15th century: Rogier van der Weyden.  A bold claim, but a genuine one!  Why have you heard of Botticelli, who is not as good nor as important/influential, but not of Rogier van der Weyden?  I can tell you that too if you come along.

Victoria (aka Dr Vic, or Doc Tors as some Bristol friends used to call me!)

Film club launch, Friday 25 October – free screening!

There is a lot going on at the bookshop this autumn…to be kept up to date, it’s a good idea to join our mailing list!  I am not the world’s most efficient promoter (ahem…) but the more avenues you follow to find out what’s going on, the less likely you are to miss something!  So if you’re on Facebook or Twitter, do follow the Tree House Bookshop there too, and I will be working extra hard to keep all the different media up to date.

This Friday we are launching our new film club with a free screening of The Philadelphia Story.  We’d love a few more to sign up to the club to pay for the licence!  Our new equipment is working very well, it’s a joy to use – thank you to Mustard Presentations of Coventry for an excellent job! – and the films and lectures we have had so far have elicited very positive responses from the audiences.  So do join us on Friday if you can!  Film starts at 7.30pm.

More soon about other things that will be happening!

Tree House Bookshop Film Club

Live music is the BEST!

jack rutterOur live music gigs have been fantastic this year – all of them sell-outs, and word seems to be getting around!  We only book professional musicians, usually on national (or international!) tours, as well as a few local bands and performers who we think are good, and the quality of the acts we book seems to be paying off.

kim lowings

We have two coming up very soon, in quick succession, both major names on the folk scene, so I am very excited.  Jack Rutter is coming on Sunday 12 May and Kim Lowings on Friday 17 May, as a duo with her father Andrew Lowings.  Tickets are available from the bookshop or online, and advance booking is strongly recommended.

Have a look at our Live Music tab under Events at the top of the page to see what else is coming up; everyone on it is superb (otherwise we wouldn’t book them!).

Anyway – here are Jack and Kim to whet your appetites!

Advent Calendar of Books

advent booksI know it seems early, and I always used to hate it when shops started bleating on about Christmas when summer was barely over, but as a retailer (of sorts!), I now realise why they have to.  Maybe not all of them…but some Christmas things need preparation.

Every year we offer an Advent Calendar of Books: 24 individually wrapped books, one to open each day up to Christmas Eve.  We tailor them to specific requests, and can do them for any age – last year we did one for a gentleman in his 80s and one for a baby who wasn’t born when his mother ordered the calendar, and most age groups in between!  We charge £12 for children up to 12, £15 for 13-15 and £25 for 16 and over (adults), which reflects the differences in price we usually charge for the books.  These are a bargain though!  You can tell us the gender of your children, their reading ability, anything really, and within reason we will try to meet requests – each one is done to order.   You can do a shared one, and we will wrap books for different ages in different paper so that each child knows which is theirs.  For adults, we intend them to be fiction only, but we might be able to accommodate some non-fiction calendars, it just depends what we have in stock at any one time, as all our books are donated.  We get loads of fiction and children’s books, so are confident about providing good things in those categories!   Just email me for any more info or to place an order.

They are lovely because they have real substance, you have the excitement of opening an actual gift each day, and there’s no temptation to rip the back off and steal all the chocolate!  (Not that we had chocolate ones when I was growing up – the books bring back some of the magic, I think!)  It’s something that builds excitement leading up to Christmas but in a way that helps to satisfy it too!  A present every day – who doesn’t want that?

But grown-ups also treat themselves, and while 24 novels might seem a lot, it will keep you going for a bit!  Or you can share them with friends.

In short, it is something intended to add to the magic of Christmas – which I adore! – and to give those you love lots of books with an element of surprise.

We can post them out, though obviously P&P is extra – let me know if you’d like that, and I can let you know postage costs.  For little children it’s not too bad, as the books are thin and light, but as they parcels get bulkier, the price of postage goes up.

So – if you want an Advent calendar with a difference, one with real substance and magic, some extra fun at Christmas – do send me an email.  You can collect at your convenience, and pay on collection, but the more time we have to get them ready, the better.

For the benefit of…

logoFor a long time, I have been wondering about making the Tree House officially a non-profit social enterprise business.  We are a limited company, mainly because that was the easiest thing to do when I first set up the business.  But after five years, I feel I have invested so much of myself in the whole venture that I am struggling with the idea of giving up overall control – that says a lot about me, I know!  It is still a longer-term possibility, but for now I don’t feel ready to change the status.

The principle remains though: we operate as a non-profit.  Any profit we make is ploughed back into the business and given to charity when we can – though we don’t technically make any profit, as I don’t yet earn a wage from running the place, and profit would begin after staff wages were considered.  We are, however, getting there, and the phenomenal support of the local community continues in humbling ways: a long-time supporter has just set up a very generous monthly standing order, which will help us to put in place some ideas that should generate more income in the longer term.  More on that in due course!

One initiative I am going to start from September is a more formal way of giving to charity, and making our non-profit aspirations more transparent.  We will be supporting two charities each month – one national, one local – by a variety of means.

I will be installing a filter coffee machine, and coffee will be available on a donation basis.  Half of what we get from these donations will go to our chosen charities.  (You can have tea as well, just ask!)

Since we started our Tree House Sessions four years ago, we have charged an entry fee – intially £2, now £3, which includes a £2 book voucher and tea or coffee.  From the next THS, on 1 September, we won’t have a charge; we will ask £1 for tea/coffee, and we will raffle a £10 Tree House book voucher each time.

Our book clubs and Nifty Needles will also be donation-based, and half of the donations going to the charities.

There will be other one-off events at times – coffee mornings, raffles, book promotions, etc.

September’s two charities have really been decided for us.  We are joining in with the Macmillan World’s Biggest Coffee Morning, as we always do, this year on Friday 28 September, so Macmillan will be one of our charities; and Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance have a charity week earlier in September, so they will be our local charity.

So – do come and have a cup of coffee – bring your reusable cup if you want to take it away – and leave a donation.  We’ll be using good coffee, you can drink while you browse, and the aroma should be fab!

I hope we will be able to be both more regular and more generous in our charitable giving, and people will see more clearly that their donated books are creating a place that has all sorts of benefits.