An English bookshop in France

Beginnings 2: The house and the shop

On a limestone rocky outcrop on the west bank of the river Gartempe stands the church of Notre-Dame. Winding gently up the hill away from the church and into the Cité de l’Écrit is the narrow street of rue Bernard Harent (Companion of the Liberation). Our house is on the right hand side opposite the entrance to La Preface – an exhibition centre and point of information. You step off the street and straight into a room of some 25 square metres with a window overlooking the street and it was this room that we thought we might be able to develop as a bookshop.

Change of use seemed a good place to start – if we could not obtain permission to change part of the house into retail premises then we would have to rethink things. I had already toured the bookshops of Montmorillon and spoken to the booksellers; all of them seemed enthusiastic about the idea of a shop selling English-language books. Perhaps the most helpful and welcoming was Gerard Poucel who has a shop just down the hill from us and whose wife Chantal has an antique shop, specialising in fabrics, close to the station. Gerard told me to talk to M. Castillou at the town hall.

With my rather shaky command of the French language I attempted to explain to M. Castillou what it was I wanted to do. As he listened his smile got broader and broader and he greeted my idea with enormous enthusiasm: the town hall was on my side! There would be no problem about change of use and I should proceed with the setting up of the business and open the shop

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