From the very beginning of this blog there have been certain constants: my obsession with bookshops, my excessive book-buying habits, my cat, and a big comfy armchair.
Back in the early days of this blog the bookshop still had a long way to go before it joined the real world, but I enjoyed following its progress and was particularly disappointed when I was unable to make the opening in late 2014. Then, finally, I found myself vaguely north of the Watford Gap and knew this was my chance to meet The Big Comfy Bookshop and finally experience that big comfy armchair for myself.
A good range of secondhand books lines the walls, including fiction and non-fiction, with everything from modern classics to everyday reading to the pulp novels some would consider too low-brow to own up to. That's the beauty of The Big Comfy Bookshop: All are welcome here.
During my Sunday stay a steady stream of customers passed through, picking up books, stopping for cake and a cup of tea and generally making the most of their surroundings. Visitors ranged from a family to friends catching up to waifs and strays such as myself, including another Twitter acquaintance of the bookshop, a musician who'd also randomly decided to drop in (and whose music I've now become a fan of).
So what's the secret of Big Comfy's popularity in such a short space of time? Well apart from the obvious – it's a very good bookshop – I'd say it's also down to the fact bookseller Michael, who's generally to be found behind the till, is such a great bloke. Friendly, welcoming, happy to leave customers be or join in the conversation, I found myself chatting to him for a good couple of hours and could easily have stayed for longer.
While I was there we talked about the bookshop itself and how he's really taken to his 'big comfy' brand: the armchair may be the icon, but it embraces Big Comfy Sessions and all the music events they involve. Music is a big part of this bookshop, and it fits in perfectly. The name doesn't stop there, with Big Comfy Conserve among the bookcase of local crafts and preserves; and even the possibility of Big Comfy Beer in the future. In short, Michael's enthusiasm for the bookshop and everything it involves is clear.
Naturally drawn to the great selection of sci-fi (especially some older classics) I spent a long time dithering over which I should buy, before being swayed by the highlights table where Miranda Dickinson's I'll take New York was on display. Not an author I've read before, I follow her on Twitter and this continued theme of social media acquaintances – along with the chance to pick up a signed copy – swayed me to select her book over the rest.
I also picked up a Big Comfy Mug before finally, reluctantly, making my way home.
The Big Comfy Bookshop may still be comparatively young, but it already feels like it's found its place within the community. My only complaint? I was so busy enjoying the bookshop proper I forgot to actually sit on that big comfy armchair – I'll just have to wait until next time.
The Big Comfy Bookshop
Far Gosford Street,
Tel: 07710 400428
*to find out which author 'he' is you'll have to visit the bookshop