Interview: Jon of Word on the Water

Well, the way I look at it is if it doesn’t sell today, it’ll sell tomorrow. You know what I mean. Like as I was saying many bookshops closed because they wanted the quick sell but that just not how it is now.

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You may or may not have seen it, but earlier this week I found the place at Word on the Water, the London bookbarge. Needless to say, the name alone had my wordplay side gripped from the moment I saw it. After I left, I could not stop thinking about how it had come about, and got on the Facebook to ask for a word with them to fulfil my craving.

Thankfully Jon, the owner, agreed to talk with me when I went back to visit later in the week. The afternoon was warm and sunny when I went back to meet Jon, and being the amateur I am I had prepared a pen and paper set of questions. Almost immediately I regretted this decision as Jon had so much to say I tidied them away pretty quickly. Let’s skip the rest of the rigmarole I keep typing and erasing and get down to what we actually spoke about…

So, I suppose my first question would have to be when did you start up the bookbarge, and how did you come up with the idea?

Jon: Well in 2011, we started up here because…well I had a bookstall, I still do, it runs on Saturdays at Archway, word on the Street that is. But anyway, so my mate he lost his job and came to work on the bookstall. And we were living down the canal at the time and one morning he said to me “Wouldn’t it be good if we could just stay at the canal and didn’t have to go to work?”. And so that’s what happened.

Wow, that’s literally the dream, wouldn’t it be good to have work come to you. So, does the barge have to move along the canal, I imagine barges aren’t often stationary?

Continue reading “Interview: Jon of Word on the Water”

Word on the Water

The atmosphere at the barge is laid back and as the kids are saying these days: chill. The ships dog lolls about soaking in the sunshine and the jazz while Jon watches the people decide what they’re reading next.

Have you ever gone somewhere and instantly fallen in love with it? Not the butterflies in the stomach, lightheaded kind of infatuation, but the deep feeling of belonging that comes with true love? A kind of comfort and peace that makes you think “Hey, I could get used to this…”

Recently, due to a rather dramatic incident involving the severe heat of 31 degrees (we’re in London, that’s hot for September) and a computer who clearly had enough to burst into flames (and a hot tip from a friend), I found such a place: Word on the Water.

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Having grown up in a city criss-crossed by canals I do find the canal a particularly peaceful place to be. There’s waterways, but it’s free of the rush and tumult that accompanies a full-blown river. Also, they’re shallow, so if like me you aren’t the strongest swimmer, well you probably aren’t going to drown should you fall in. So, this place was already off to a great start for me.


As you can see here the books outside the barge are a curated collection of second hand volumes chosen by Jon, the owner, to reflect his interests and also what people are reading. Inside there’s a different story, it’s a beautifully managed mixture of new paperback, new hardbacks (I do love a good hardback myself), and old hardbacks of classics which “If they don’t sell today, will sell tomorrow” Jon told me in a brief but very enjoyable conversation.

The atmosphere at the barge is laid back and as the kids are saying these days: chill. The ships dog lolls about soaking in the sunshine and the jazz while Jon watches the people decide what they’re reading next. Standing in the sunshine looking at the barge, I wanted to blow off the evening of study and pop to the shops for some coffee or a sneaky G&T to unwind by the water and listen the the music while reading whatever it was I happened to pick up.

Keep an eye out for my interview with Jon in the coming days, or better yet visit Word on the Water yourself if you happen to be in King’s Cross with a few minutes to spare, you will not regret it.

The London Bookbarge, Word on the Water, can be found on Regents Canal just behind King’s Cross station. Take the steps down from Granary Square and follow the canal. The shop is open from 12-7 every day so there’s really no excuse for not going. It’s not to be missed!

-Moz

Literary Excursions: The Sherlock Holmes Museum

“Under such circumstances I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained” – Dr. Watson, A Study in Scarlet

Much like my dear colleague Moz, I too recently upped sticks from the west of Ireland and moved to London Town. Many trips back and forth over the years cemented my love of the city and I felt the best thing to do on my first full weekend as a new inhabitant would be to combine fond childhood memories with beloved literary idols – which of course meant a trip to the Sherlock Holmes museum on Baker Street.

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Front of Museum

I first visited the museum over ten years ago having stumbled upon it by accident. Cast your mind back, dear reader, to a time before Robert Downey Jr’s and Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayals, and the Holmes museum was not as big a draw as it proves to be this day. In fact I only happened to find it as they had an actor dressed as Watson loitering outside of Baker Street tube handing out business cards with the museum’s location to mostly ambivalent commuters. Not so the case in this day and age, as the intervening decade or so has made everything Homes related a very hot commodity indeed – as seen by the queue of people looking to gain access to the museum and gift shop on my visit last week.

The museum itself is a treasure trove for Holmes fans, both casual and ardent. The creaky narrow staircase guides you to the first floor where Holmes’s bedroom and living area have been lovingly imagined and recreated. Deerstalker hats are aplenty and visitors get the opportunity to take a closer look at Holmes’s belongings. There are some lovely additions here for Holmes fans – a personal favourite being Watson’s diary left open on a writing desk to reveal his handwritten notes from The Hound of the Baskervilles.

 

Some things to note for visitors however – the museum is not for the claustrophobic. It is incredibly narrow and the rooms are quite small so some manoeuvring is required to see everything without bumping into people. Also, if you have a fear of waxworks the third floor isn’t for you! Seminal characters from the short stories have been recreated and are housed here, but some are lifelike enough to cause momentary panic!

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Professor Moriarty – reports that I jumped in fright thinking he was a real person remain unconfirmed

If the £15 museum entry fee proves too steep for you however, it is worth a trip to see the gift shop alone. Everything any Holmes fan could possibly want is featured here at a variety of price points. I have made frequent trips just to the gift shop in the years since my first visit to the museum (however for my own sake, I’d rather not think of all I’ve spent there!)

When making your way back to the Baker Street tube, I recommend stopping by the statue of Sherlock that stands in front of the entrance. If you look behind the statue you’ll notice there’s a web link that allows you to receive a “phone call” from Homes himself as he tells you all about the statue and its sculptor John Doubleday. I found it utterly delightful.

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(Pinterest via Google Images)

Lastly, no Sherlock day out is complete without a quick stop to the Sherlock Holmes pub on Northumberland Street (short walk from Charing Cross tube). With its casual food and drink – and even an opportunity to try their Sherlock or Watson ales! – it was a perfect end to the day. Whether a die-hard fan or a casual observer, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most iconic literary figures ever created and as lovers of literature (which I imagine all of you are if you’re visiting this humble blog) you owe it to yourself to pay homage to this most charming of creations.

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(All images Die’s own unless otherwise stated)

London’s Literary Locs Vol. 1

Want to feel the literary history and spend as little as possible, while avoiding the crowded tourist traps? Moz’s big day walking the bookshops of London Town has you covered.

Apologies for the long break, it’s been a hectic week, and my portable dongle ran out of internet before Sky have managed to hook me up. It seems the elders of the internet do not know who I am. Luckily my local library has internet access so I’ve managed to find a (free) haven to post from. In reviewing news, I do have a review of The Secret Scripture to come but thought seeing as you’ve waited 8 years since the book’s release you’ll wait a little long to hear what it is I think.

So, as the better half had an interview in central London yesterday afternoon I decided to get up and out and do some touring of my own. Due to my cash strapped nature I avoided the tourist spots of Platform 9 3/4, Baker St., and anything else that charges entry opting instead for the peace of looking in second hand book stores. Keep reading if you want to see great spots for reading/buying  books while avoiding crowds.

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This guy just hangs around outside the British Library.

Starting from King’s Cross underground station, the first stop had to be The British Library. Follow the signs for The British Library from the station, it shouldn’t take long to find the library, and once there you can see the massive collection of tomes available.

After breathing enough of that beautiful library smell and seeing the free exhibits, the other half and I headed to buy some of the titles coming up in the book club we are part of. Taking the Euston Road exit from the library we took a right along Euston Rd. then crossed the road and headed down Marchmont St. to Judd’s Books. Judd’s is a charming shop filled with hundreds and thousands of secondhand copies, downstairs in the old cellar there were even more than we had time to see as we were running along to try and fit in as many shops as possible on our tour. Continue reading “London’s Literary Locs Vol. 1”