Today I completed my first new day as a born-again bookseller, in The Bookshop (does what it says on the fascia), Welwyn Garden City. This is a modestly-sized establishment which is cleverly stocked (without ignoring each crop of bestsellers) with a range of mid and backlist titles, with all the books being discounted. When I say that the first eight hours of facilitating the exchange of literature for various forms of legal currency exceeded my expectations, you have to understand that my expectations were so high as to be a slight nuisance to low-flying aircraft. The pleasing quality of my working day is party explained by the staff, who - while outlining the necessary procedures and activities to me with admirable patience and calm in the face of my natural resistance to learning - displayed a level of customer service and attention that left the patrons almost visibly glowing with satisfaction. This applied particularly to how they dealt with that thorniest of bookshop customer requests, suitable reading matter for younger children. It's a far cry from shopping on-line.
Alongside this, however, was a rediscovery of the sheer joy produced by being around and working with books, such that even those tasks positioned in the less obviously glamorous section of the literary spectrum (polishing, tidying, shelving) are rendered interesting and satisfying.
Annoyingly, I forgot to notice the first book I actually put through the till, but I do remember assisting a customer to order The Screwtape Letters and having an interesting conversation about the shorter novels of Thomas Hardy.
Christmas fever was well established, with shiny new children's books and a range of advent and standard calendars having just arrived, and I look forward to the increasing intensity of festive shopping, culminating in the Christmas Eve bacchanalia, where the last few desperate customers will exchange vicious blows for the right to buy Scroggin's History of Pipe-Laying, because they haven't yet got anything for Uncle Alfred.
If you are blessed enough to inhabit or work in Hertfordshire, or within physically bridgeable distance, come and browse and say hello. I'll be the one being gently slapped about the head by a colleague who is repeating 'Press F7; it's the one with an F and 7 on it; next to each other'. It will be for my own good.