An English bookshop in France

Beginnings 3: Moving and storing books

In England my book stock was stored on the top floor of a mill in Old Town above Hebden Bridge and it was up a flight of 36 steps to reach this floor. There were some 5000 catalogued books and probably another 15,000 unsorted and uncatalogued. The mill was unheated and the conditions were far from ideal for storing books.

In Montmorillon I went to see M. Castillou at the town hall who seemed hopeful that they might be able to help. Patsy and I returned to England leaving our friends Gordon and Jane, an English couple living in Montmorillon just round the corner from us, to liaise with the town hall. Some weeks later Gordon phoned to say M Guelpin from the office of the mayor had just taken him to visit a space that seemed ideal – it was just round the corner, it was the right size and it was relatively cheap.

We came back to Montmorillon at Easter and I got my first look at Rue Saint Denis. It was perfect: a ground floor double-doored space with toilet, kitchen sink and central heating and all literally two-minutes walk from home. The town hall produced a one-year contract signed by the mayor. I took the contract home and read it with the aid of copious references to the dictionary. It all seemed straightforward so I signed and the space was mine!

Back in England all my catalogued stock was stored in marked cardboard boxes so it would be relatively simple to move. I also boxed up 50 or so boxes of uncatalogued stock. A contact of mine in the transport business came with a van and we carried the boxes down the 36 steps and into his van. He took the stock away then palletised and despatched it.

During this time my books were taken off-line on the various websites on which I list my books and my own site carried the information that orders placed would not be despatched until November (our planned final move date).

The books arrived and the pallets manhandled into my storage space. I bought a quantity of cheap shelving and unpacked most of the catalogued stock. This stock had been in boxes since I closed my shop in Hebden Bridge and it was a welcome sight to bring it all out into the daylight – I think the books were happy to be in a warmer and drier climate than they had been used to too.

Getting the electricity turned on was a simple matter, but the gas proved to be something of a problem. Face-to face French I can manage, but I do find the telephone more difficult so I landed my friend Pacome (a young artist and true Montmorillionais) with the task of making the phone calls. After several of those nightmarish long circular telephone calls where you are passed from department to department until you finally land back where you started the outcome was successful and the gas was turned on.

I then arranged for the boiler to be checked and suddenly I had a space that was dry and could be warm. I put my books back on-line and The Glass Key was open for business from its new French base.

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