Even after 25 years, I still resist being defined by my occupation. It would be different if I was a composer, writer or artist - I could say any of those with pride. But bookselling is something you do when you don't know what you want to do.
In the past, the job had its compensations. I got to read new novels months before they were published. I met novelists, actors, artists, gangsters and models, enjoying the demimonde of London without having to buy a single drink. I also worked with some lovely people.
However, today my working life is mainly one of drudgery. I buy books in bulk, knowing that most of them are worthless, hoping that the few that are of value will keep the wolves from the door for another month or two. So far I've kept going, but the sales have been rather patchy recently.
My book sales used to be fairly predictable. I knew that I would sell x number of books per thousand on sale, and that 60% of the orders would be from within the UK.
However, that's all changed. For some reason, the ratio of domestic to foreign orders has reversed and on some days, I sell more books to Amazon Germany than its UK branch. I thought I was doing something wrong, but when I spoke to a friend who sells ties on eBay, she said that she'd had an awful summer.
It looks as if people in Britain have stopped buying things they don't need. I'm in trouble.
As a result, I've neglected blogging and days out, so that I can knuckle down and increase my sales inventory to compensate for the downturn in sales. I've been taking so many boxes of books to and from home, that several neighbours have assumed that we're moving. It's been hard work, but I have come across some interesting books.
"I just need to measure the light by pressing this against your chest"
This is from a 1960s book on taking portraits. The 'glamour' element is creeping in, but there are also some interesting pictures that don't feature tasteful nudity:
The name sounds vaguely like a New York boxer or gangster, but he was every inch the English gentleman:
De Manio was one of the original presenters of Radio Four's Today and when his laid-back, clubable persona didn't fit with the more earnest, news-oriented direction the programme took in 1970, he resigned. He was almost sacked in 1956 for carelessly announcing a programme called Land of the Niger as Land of the Nigger.
De Manio's autobiography, Life Begins Too Early, is a very entertaining account of his bizarre childhood, when he had to compete with a monkey for his mother's affections. There are also some amusing accounts of his wartime experiences, during which he was both awarded the Military Cross and dismissed after a Court Martial. It's only a penny on Amazon, so you have nothing to lose.
I barely remember the 1960s, but these creatures made a very strong impression on me:
I still remember the terror I felt when I saw a Dalek in Arding and Hobbs - a department store at Clapham Junction. It moved, waving its sink plunger menacingly. I had no idea that a small child had climbed inside and put a shilling in the slot for a one-minute ride.
Finally, if you were born in Britain during the 1960s, you may remember this:
The fourth chapter, called 'The Big Job', asks children to "Draw a crate and write on it a mark which makes another mark when it is upside down."
I never liked 'Len and the River Mob'.The social realism always depressed me. 'The Boy From Space' was more my cup of tea, and it was in colour.
I shall keep the momentum going on the book-logging front, so I hope that I'll have some more interesting titles for a future post. In the meantime, here is a wonderful author photo from an earlier period: