Sunday 24 January 2010

brown / not brown

There are a couple of places in Scotland, near where Rocky lives, who have said that they can’t sell a brown book. It’s oatmeal, it’s a brown paper bag, it says good for you rather than enjoy. So, for the fun of it, and because rules can be broken, there is now a short run of the book with an alternative cover: still pretty severe, no mermaid in a loch at sunset, but shiny and with a picture of Rocky himself at the age he scampers through the book. Selected outlets only. But if you’re ordering online and prefer the colour edition, say so in one of those boxes that crop up as you punch your way through.

Here, on the other hand, is a bookshop that likes the brown books and is currently stocking the complete CBe list. Glass instead of bricks and mortar, cages instead of shelves: it’s a greenhouse, a place where things grow. In summer it must be blisteringly hot; in winter there’s a woodburning stove. It’s in the grounds of the Wapping Project: art, photography, music in a 19th-century pumping station with much of the heavy industrial apparatus left intact. Good food and bar. Films screened outdoors in the summer. And outside the big brute building, this tiny space of glass and light, the domain of Lydia, where you find unexpected things and where the readings on Thursday nights are eclectic and intimate.

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