Tuesday, 18 December 2012

On me book, Alan

For me, the day of our Alex Fynn / Alan Smith signing of Arsenal - the Making of a Superclub began ominously.  I arrived at Hitchin train station to be greeted by the sight of half the town standing in the forecourt. Dismissing the notion that these people had been gripped by a spontaneous mass outburst of festive bonhomie and were comparing basting methods, my razor-sharp faculty of deductive reasoning reached the conclusion that yesterday evening's problems with unsteady Flange Capacitors in the King's Cross area had been granted an extension.  Sure enough, the station was full of no trains in both directions, which necessitated my walking back home and driving to Welwyn Garden City.

Once I arrived at The Bookshop, however, a more positive mood was discovered.  Inspired by the imminent appearance of their former stalwart Alan Smith, Arsenal had walloped in an unfeasibly large number of goals against the hapless Reading the previous evening; the books had arrived in timely fashion, (we believe in the old-fashioned virtue of having books at book signings) and the advance orders with special dedications were neatly arranged for the pre-signing signing session. Even the potential and dangerous distraction from our event which manifested itself in the form of a children's choir on the ground floor proved futile, especially when our science-fiction obsessed colleague walked past them several times in the highly realistic zombie costume he had acquired at his last convention.

Soon, a spirited crowd had formed itself into a more or less orderly queue outside the shop, (although things did get a little edgy when someone suggested that Arsenal should be playing with a roving midfield sweeper behind a sagging diamond formation) and I had to suppress the urge to walk past them chanting Tottenham Hotspur slogans, which, I can assure you, required considerable effort.  Messrs Fynn and Smith were friendliness and charm themselves, as they signed for and were photographed with a steady stream of delighted pilgrims from The Emirates.

Smith (left) and Fynn
The business of converting the shop into a signing-friendly zone and then reversing the process, while the Christmas buying frenzy raged around us was a stimulating challenge. We've gone beyond multi-tasking, and have developed numerous astral projections of ourselves which can: simultaneously attempt to look up books described as being 'Blue' or 'About something'; diplomatically urge parents to intervene in the process of their child eating the stock; replace books on tables and displays as they are (increasingly rapidly) snatched up and reassure persistent customers that we're not keeping 'the best books' behind the counter for specially favoured patrons.  Late entrants into festive popularity, by the way, include Alys, Always and (perhaps boosted by Marina Warner's broadcasts) Philip Pulman's Grimm retellings.

In the end, all went well, star guests and customers alike were satisfied, and it was with good cheer that my colleagues boarded the special yaks, thoughtfully chartered by the rail companies, to travel home.

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