While browsing at Ron's second-hand bookshop, be careful not to tread on the sleeping trampsby Jeremy Clarke / April 20, 1999 / Leave a comment
Published in April 1999 issue of Prospect Magazine
I have one friend. He’s called Ron. Although, to tell the truth, I don’t believe he actually likes me much either.
Ron lives in the vestry of an architecturally important, semi-derelict church which he bought 20 years ago with his redundancy money. When he first moved there (he’ll go absolutely radio rental if he finds out I’ve written about him), Ron had all sorts of ideas for making money out of the place, but they all fell on stony ground and invariably culminated in a visit from the bailiffs. Several times Ron saw his worldly goods being carried out of the church by hard-faced men wearing long dark overcoats. But he noticed that whatever else they took, the bailiffs always left his books. It wasn’t that they had anything against reading, they said, it was simply that, as far as they were concerned, books just weren’t worth the trouble. Too much fetching and carrying for too little return, they said.
So Ron turned his church into a second-hand bookstore. A cabinet maker by trade, he constructed hundreds of yards of tall, beautifully dovetailed bookshelves and filled them with books which he bought by the pound from local auction rooms and elsewhere. When word got about that Ron was on the look-out for books, his neighbours left boxes and bin liners full of them outside the church. Ron has been making a sort of living from them ever since. He is still troubled with bailiffs from time to time, but they don’t even glance at his books. They would sooner dismantle the shelves and take them away, Ron says, than stagger up and down the church steps with boxes full of old books.
For years I walked past Ron’s place without really noticing it, resigned to the belief that there was no second-hand bookshop in town. So when I finally noticed the sign and wandered in, I felt as if I were walking into an Aladdin’s cave. There must be well over 50,000 books in there today, and I can find almost any book I am looking for (and at a ridicu…