Well it's been a very busy couple of weeks. Mother's Day is always a busy time for me and it seemed a lot of people decided on Saturday afternoon that what their Mum really needed was an old cookbook, or one of the vintage aprons I sell in the shop. But what really makes May busy every year is that on the first weekend in May I take the shop 'on the road' as it were, attending the Clunes 'Back to Booktown' mega-bookfair.
Clunes is a small former gold-mining town about 20 minutes outside of the large former gold-mining city of Ballarat and about 2 1/2 hours away from home. In 2007, as part of a move to revive the town's fortunes and establish a permanent booktown, it became a Booktown for a weekend, with dozens of booksellers converging on the town on a Friday, followed over the weekend by thousands of booklovers. While the permanent booktown is not yet a reality, the weekend booktown continues to be a great success. This year I was among 61 booksellers who took over old buildings and empty shops in the lovely historical town precinct. It's always a great weekend, but exhausting. Book fairs require an enormous amount of work - in preparing, setting up and taking down and then returning everything to its place in the shop. I was positioned in the majestic town hall with four other booksellers (a lovely group they were too) and from 8am on Saturday morning to 4pm on Sunday had a steady flow of cookbook lovers coming past my stall.
Some were return customers from previous fairs, others had seen the business name in the book fair brochure, for others discovery was purely serendipitous. For the second year in a row a customer was almost brought to tears by the discovery of a copy of 'New Australian Cookery Illustrated" in its delightful red gingham cover, which she had been looking for for years and which her mother had used. I spent a lot of time comparing notes on cookbooks or discussing the merits of Elizabeth David over Jane Grigson (there seem to be 2 distinct camps). There was a small number of what a fellow bookseller termed 'prodders' and I call tire-kickers: those who pick up every book page through them, sometimes exclaim over how expensive they are and walk away never to be seen again. As usual I came away convinced that I have the best type of customers - people who love old books and who love cooking (or at least reading and talking about it!).