Valentine’s Day, it’s like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. As a child in primary school, I have to say that it wasn’t my favourite day, despite being a hopeless romantic.
Growing up in the 1980s, it was rather a competitive day, to see how many Valentine’s cards you came home with after school. And for me, it was usually zilch. And I’m not sure whether it was nature or nurture, or just pity, but I would come home to a card from a ‘secret admirer’ – signed by either my Mum or Dad. And, as they both have pretty distinct handwriting, it was relatively easy to guess who.
Fast-forward into my later years as an adult, Valentine’s Day has been more or less enjoyable. Often cooking a meal at home for my significant other, or going to watch a movie at the cinema. I’m an advocate of treating yourself whether you are in a relationship or not, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out recently that Valentine’s Day coincides with International Book Giving Day. I mean, what’s not to love about that?
Even more so for me, as in the run-up to Christmas, I started a new voluntary job in a book shop in my home town. It’s an independent store, owned by the community for the community. And it’s just wonderful to have such a place in our town centre.
There’s a coffee shop inside, plus a beautiful wooden hut which is perfect for our younger customers. We sell a wide-ranging genre of books for younger, older and adult readers; including fiction and non-fiction; poetry, classics – old and contemporary; manga, anime and graphic novels; local authors; stationery; games and puzzles; and children’s soft toys. The list is endless. Oh, and we sell National Book Tokens too, and redeem them in store.
When they say you read for a degree, I have found myself obsessed by each and every book I scan in at the till. In particular, the children’s illustrated books. If a book is out of stock with ourselves, providing our supplier has it, we can order it in for our customer. In October 2021, before the store actually opened, one of our first book signings was the author Robin Ince, co-presenter of The Infinite Monkey Cage with Professor Brian Cox. And although the Professor was not with him on the day, Robin did an amazing impression, including of the actor, Brian Blessed.
So, why then, does giving a book this Valentine’s Day make the perfect gift, whether it’s for yourself or someone else? For starters, you can’t beat the smell of a brand new book, whether it’s a hardback or paperback. Unless you’re reading with a glass of gin and tonic or prosecco, there’s not many calories. Whereas flowers tend to wilt after a week or so, books, they last for a long, long time. Says the fortysomething who still has a copy of Roald Dahl’s Matilda on her book shelf at home, a gift for my tenth birthday. And, well, books, they never really go out of fashion, unlike, dare I say it, lingerie?
Never has the slogan #livelocalshoplocal become more important in today’s consumer society, where buyers seek ethical goods and products. If you do decide to buy a book for February 14th 2022, I implore you to support your local independent book retailer, if you have one .If not, there are plenty of reputable retailers online, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look.