Being Typecast

My best beloved is into Am Dram – amateur dramatics for anyone outside the UK – and he is good at it (rather to my surprise.)

The first time I went to see something produced by the company he was about to join, let’s say the benchmark for my expectations was sort of skirting board height.

But I was wrong. It was Amadeus, and it was brilliant.

Anyway he has got involved, and I am used to evenings alone when he goes to rehearsals, and reading all the other parts for him as he learns his lines.

(We have sat on a train in Spain with him putting his all into his lines (loudly) with Spaniards looking on rather bemused if not downright alarmed.)

We have also spent many an evening with me stirring a risotto with the play in one hand and reading all sorts of characters (badly) whilst he is sitting on the sofa, with a dog on his knee, ‘playing’ whatever part he is doing at the moment.

I have to say though, that the directors have got his card marked.

He was the bishop in ‘All Gas and Gaiters’ and it was not much of a step for him from normal life-speak to pontificating. Indeed I recognised some of the word patterns in our breakfast/dinner/tv suppers conversations.

( He was the voice of Snoozy in the Snow White pantomime and I reminded him of that as I woke him at 10am this morning…)

Currently he is rehearsing Time of Our Life by Alan Ackybourn and is the pompous paterfamilias and again, boy do I recognise him – though of course, his acerbic money-orientated wife is not me. Indeed she isn’t.

And of course, dear reader, he is not like that at all – or not much…..

But it got me thinking, how would I be typecast?

Well, of course, that requires a considerable degree of self-awareness and that is not my forte.

However, I am sure if you asked my best beloved he would be able to tell you……






Bring Me Your Childrens’ Books

If, for you, a story of an amazing find in the Petersfield Oxfam bookshop is getting a bit ho-hum, you should look away now, and maybe put down your reading glasses and head off to do something more productive.

Because, we are on a bit of a roll. But to get to the exciting stuff will take a while.

For previous exciting finds, please see, yes, previous blogs. ( I am not going to repeat all that except to say, we are still with children’s books.)

So, if you willing to carry on….

Our very nice book expert came in for a whole afternoon on Monday and we decided to wade through all the books I couldn’t, or hadn’t, priced.

I don’t often get a whole afternoon of his time and so with some cups of tea, a bit of gossip, chat, and swapping notes, we got on with the job.

Yes, there were two lovely books dating from 1700, in French, by someone who was an early Enlightenment writer. When I say lovely, the binding was in bad nick but then you would be if you had been around since 1700 and you had valiantly protected the insides. (£85.)

But the point here, is that I need him to describe all the stuff which makes really old books saleable on the internet – and I take notes…..

Full, or half calf binding, buckram, AEG (in case you want to know All Edges Gilt), strained hinges, free endpapers, steel engravings, woodcuts, etc etc.

I am learning, but I need him to hold my hand as it were.

So, we did a few of those.

The plan was that he would dictate the description of old books, I would type furiously and they would be on the net in no time at all and we would clear the whole two shelves.

It was always an ambitious plan.

As I say, we did a few of those and then went looking for ‘tasty treats.’

Then we rootled out a book which we have looked at before and wondered about, several times and this time we said we would definitely get that sorted, and on the internet that afternoon – but we got distracted.

First up distraction was a book we had looked at before but never had time to really check out.

It is a small thing, dating from the early 1800s, and inside it has illustrations of ‘Nearly One Hundred Familiar Objects’ ( don’t you just think, ‘Oh go on then, make it the full 100?)’ And of course the ‘nearly one hundred’ objects of the early 1800s are different from ours.

There are bonnets and top hats for example, and each page has words with hyphens so that the child can learn how to say them.

After a bit of research we are going to put it on the internet for £225. This little book has lasted all these years and is a snapshot back in time and, believe me, it is a rare find.

But the real surprise was this book.


Now, I have to say that I am used to looking inside children’s books and I am looking for illustrations/images/drawings/woodcuts…

This book was, again, small and had no illustrations but it did, as you see, have a nice cover.

I would have easily put it in the box for £1.00 books except for the cover – and how wrong, dear reader, I would have been.

In my defence the book expert also thought it was not going to be that special and he has a lot more experience and expertise than I do.

So, we started checking it out on Bookfinder and Abe Books and we were, as they say, gobsmacked.

There was a version signed by the author to Rose La Touche – George apparently was the go-between for her and John Ruskin – at more than £4,000, and another similar to ours but not as good, at £450.

It turns out that George MacDonald was quite an influence – he influenced Lewis Carroll, C S Lewis for the Narnia books and JRR Tolkien among others. Look him up on Wikipedia – he looks like Rasputin but was a Scottish author, poet and christian minister.

I fear we got a bit carried away and we may have to reduce the price, but at the moment, it will go on the internet at £650.

Do I know who donated these books? Should I try and contact them and tell them that at the bottom of those bags or boxes they left with us after clearing out their parents’ house, are worth lots of money. ( Of course, I don’t know that they were clearing out their parents’ house but it is often the case.)

Well, I don’t know who there are and none of them were Gift Aided which would have allowed us to get their address – anyway would I have contacted them? I am not sure.

I like to think they would be delighted that the books had been discovered and not sold at £1.00, and the money will go to a good cause.

And on that note, just before I leave you…..

We had a lovely 12 panel map of The Thames from source to sea dated from about 1914.

We put it as a centrepiece in the window surrounded by books and maps – and on the table, a travel theme.

Alongside it was a sign describing it and the price of £100 and a gift aid label. In the Message Book under the counter was a note saying the map was £100.

One volunteer was asked if there was a deal to be done on it but she didn’t know whether there was, so said no.

Another volunteer was walking through the shop when someone asked to look at it. She reached it down, failing to notice the BIG notice showing the price and, later told me, the customer asked the price.

‘I’m not sure,’ she said, ‘ The rest are about £2.99, so let’s say that.’

Later, she saw the notice.

She rang the shop next day to apologise and she had been awake in the night realising what she had done.

These things happen, but I have to tell you, I felt sick. Does that customer know what she has got, or might it be re-donated one day…..

A Very Good Day

As you know, there are good and not so good days ‘working’ at the Oxfam bookshop in Petersfield – and today was a good day.

I am going to save the best bits to last, so you are welcome to skip.

Volunteers are always a scarce resource but we have a few, valuable, new ones and they are making such a difference.

They make my life a whole lot easier because they do things I mean to do but just haven’t time and, of course, the more volunteers, the less the chance we have to shut the shop when someone goes on holiday, or is ill, or has a better offer for an afternoon.

Today one volunteer did a sterling job of putting in date order the five crates books of the Institute of Naval Architects from 1940 to 2004 and logging the missing volumes so I can list them on the internet. (Should you be interested, £200 and buyer collects.)

Another volunteer said she liked sorting things out so I asked her to sort out the jumble upstairs on two shelves of travel books, natural history books and transport books – Steam Railways Past and Present should not be in natural history…..

After that I walked her round the shop and explained what was what on each shelf.

Now, dear reader, you might think that the shelves would be like a supermarket – here is history/baking goods, here is academic/canned vegetables, here is crafts/cheese, but it is rarely that simple.

We have no control over what is donated and we cannot have empty shelves so we are always juggling shelf-fillers and categories.

(Who’d have thought we needed to fill two shelves with books on mathematics and maths puzzles – but that is what we did when the Christmas goods were over and removed.)

I was worried that she would be overwhelmed and put off but at the end of her afternoon, she said, ‘I feel as if I have only been here 5 minutes and it has been hours, and there is so much left to do, this is  great.’

That’s what I like to hear – someone who has found what they like doing in the complex business of running a bookshop and is planning on putting more money on their car parking ticket next week so she has longer to sort things out.

So, now to the bits that added a good feeling to the day.

Readers with a good memory will recall that some time ago at the bottom of a box of rubbish books, I found a book called The Square Book of Animals – a children’s book with lovely illustrations and which sold on the internet for £450.

Well guess what, at the bottom of another box of books a few days ago, I found something called The Rabbit Book by Charles Pettafor, and again I thought this might be worth something.


(Children’s books of some age that are not wrecked, scrawled on, and in one piece are often worth a bit – just because they have survived relatively intact.)

I looked it up on Bookfinder and Abebooks but couldn’t find any for sale. I looked it up on Google and found it mentioned, but non for sale.

Now that makes it rare.

So I called our excellent book specialist and said I had a tasty treat for him – I don’t ask him to come in all the time, just when I have something(s) I can’t price.

Usually, he can find its price and, usually, I am disappointed, but I am learning from his tuition and this time I thought it was a good find.

He came in and we looked at it. ‘It is pre Beatrix Potter,’ he said, ‘It is about a rabbit and look at the illustrations. Could he have influenced her? Could this rabbit have sparked her?’

Not according to Google – he was not listed as an influence in her.

But still, we had a book that people were looking for. We had a book which we thought had a small print run. We had a book which was a children’s book from about or pre 1900 in great condition with lovely illustrations.

We decided to put it on the internet for £500. I will let you know if it sells for that.

And, finally.

Some time ago I found a small glass vase and I mean very small, on the shelf out the back and it was very light.

I happened to be meeting that very same book specialist and he is also an archeologist and a trustee of the local museum and so I asked him whether it might be old.

(I love the idea of old glass – how can it have survived? How lovely that it was blown by hand as it were…)

Last time I rang him, I asked whether it had got information on whether indeed it was indeed old and he said –  he couldn’t find it.

‘What,’ I cried, “ I wanted to buy that!’

‘OK, I will bring you another Roman glass vase instead’ he said.

And he did – how amazing is that….?


I can’t tell you how delighted I am with this.

It turns out that the local museum has the original and if that turns out to be real rather than a good fake, I will buy that too.

A good day or what?