Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tim Waterstone

Every time I go to my annual managers' meeting - previously at Ottakar's, now at Waterstone's - vowing to go to bed early and not drink too much. Every year I fail. However I can at least take comfort in the fact that this year I wasn't sick on the train and haven't had to spend a whole day in bed afterwards. I must be getting older and wiser. Or maybe it was a text message that my wife sent me at midnight which read Remember yr less witty when yr drunk.

It is now 25 years since the first branch of Waterstone's opened and the mood of the gala dinner was generally celebratory, with guest authors paying tribute to their favourite bookshop chain. However, amidst the anecdotes about favourite branches and the thrill authors felt at seeing their books on the shelves, there was one conspicuous absence. No-one mentioned the man who made it all possible: Tim Waterstone.

It would probably be something of an understatement to say that Tim Waterstone is not very popular with the current owners of the chain that bears his name. He regularly criticises them and occasionally launches abortive attempts to buy the company back. However, for all his faults we owe him a debt of gratitude. Thanks to Tim Waterstone's vision and entrepreneurial flair, most towns in Britain now have a bookshop with a decent stockholding and the benefits to readers and publishers have been enormous. I drank to his health.

1 comment:

bye bye bellulah said...

At convent school in the cold war when Andropov died (84), our English teacher made us say an Eternal Rest for him. To remind us that even people who might seem to be enemies are God's children too.
Your post reminded me of that!