Huntingdon – The Booklovers’ Capital of the UK!

Sorry to break into the bookshop blogs, but sometimes breaking news just has to take precedence!
It’s not often I’m shocked by anything in the Hunts Post. This isn’t a derogatory comment – as I discussed in a blog post many moons ago, it’s rather nice to now live in an area where, some weeks, there just aren’t any knife fights or drug raids to report. But it’s taken some getting used to; I still chuckle at front page stories like ‘new owl chicks at zoo given names’ and page 2 shouting ‘local teen pushed off bicycle!’. My best friend also ’emigrated’ to a rural location at the same time, and has equally dramatic stuff in her local paper – cue much headline swapping hilarity in our letters and phone calls!

But yesterday, when the Hunts Post crashed on to my doormat, I picked it straight up (my day off!) and…
I had to sit down with a frothy coffee to take it in.
Could Huntingdon – my nearest town – really be ‘the book-buying capital of the UK?’ Even though its only book outlets are standard charity shops, a small WHSmith (which now incorporates the post office) and – as of June – an Oxfam bookshop?? I turned in fevered haste (if you’ll forgive the cliche) to page 4…
Well apparently, yes. Or perhaps…not.

The Hunts Post was merely joining the many other newspapers and booktrade websites who had already made much of the fact that, according to Amazon, Huntingdon residents buy more books than any other town.
From them, anyway.

Amazon recently released a top 20 book buyers list of towns and cities (20,000+ residents only). It takes account of traditional publications and Kindle format.

1. Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
2. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
3. Sevenoaks, Kent
4. Rochester, Kent
5. Salisbury, Wiltshire
6. Chichester, West Sussex
7. Canterbury, Kent
8. Truro, Cornwall
9. Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
10. Doncaster, South Yorkshire
11. Winchester, Hampshire
12. Godalming, Surrey
13. Spalding, Lincolnshire
14. Warwick, Warwickshire
15. Newton Abbot, Devon
16. Durham, County Durham
17. Whitney, Oxfordshire
18. Oxford, Oxfordshire
19. Tonbridge, Kent
20. York, North Yorkshire

The Hunts Post had dug further down in the data and discovered that Huntingdon is at no.1 in the food & drink category and children’s books, and no.2 in non-fiction and science fiction.
What does that say about my local folk? We predominantly have large well-fed families who dress like Klingons at the weekend?

Huntingdon High Street

Perhaps it just mean that, in an area that’s traditionally tech-savvy and at the forefront of scientific advances, the people I now live amongst do more of their shopping online. Living as they do in the liberal sprinkling of often tiny hamlets and villages that fill the triangle formed by Bedford, Peterborough and Cambridge, perhaps it’s an easier option than having to go to one of those ‘big 3’ to find a decently-sized bookshop (I’m sorry, St.Neots, but your minuscule Waterstones-within-Barratts t’aint a lot of good to man or beast).

I certainly don’t think it means that people in Huntingdon buy more books than people in all the other towns and cities in the UK. Particularly when you consider that Huntingdon only just scraped over the 20,000 residents mark this year. Quite hilariously, the Hunts Post nabbed 8 people in the High Street and asked them about their bookish habits. Only 2 said they bought books from Amazon. 3 said they got their books from the library, 1 said charity shops, 1 said Waterstone’s or Oxfam, and the other just commented that they had bought their last book on a ferry from Denmark!

Huntingdon Library

The Guardian pointed out:
Amazon “has no evidence its purchasers actually read the books they buy, however, and maybe, just maybe, inhabitants of those towns which fail to appear on the list have been avoiding Amazon to buy their books elsewhere – let’s hope from their local independents, which have been having a rough time of it lately.” Indeed! Which is a good reason to big up some more bookshops tomorrow!

It would be interesting to see if other online retailers have similar figures. I might ask Techie Husband, who works for The Other Big One, if his company collate area data too. Watch this space…

A (Very) Tardy T to Z

Yes I know it’s late. But I hate to leave a thing unfinished, so…

T ‘is the most commonly used consonant and the second most common letter in the English language’ Wikipedia.  And of course, according to the rest of the world it’s what us Mad Dogs and Englishmen drink all the time! Seriously though, tea has a fascinating history and you could do worse than watch the Victoria Wood documentary Victoria’s Empire to appreciate the impact that humble beverage has had on the world. Truly amazing.

U – the first word that occurred to me was underdog. An internet search bought up multiple companies offering to fight for your accident and injury compensation, and a film starring James Belushi (and a dog). I think this says a lot about today’s world…

V – varnish. Apparently this is not just a wood-preserving finish but also the name of an HTTP accelerator. This word also makes me think of the cliche ‘unvarnished truth’, which for some reason I love – but, being a writer, I am therefore forbidden to use it Except Occasionally In Dialogue.

W – woad. Because I love the word and blue is my favourite colour. Woad is a blue dye made from the flowering plant Isatis tinctoria, and has a history stretching back millenia.

X – a silly non-letter that’s normally said as Z. I refuse to discuss it 😉

Y – yak. Sorry, but once it had pinged into my brain, that was it. I had to go and see which area they’re indigenous too, as I wasn’t sure. Himalayan plateau, apparently. What was rather more disturbing was this:



If this sounds like your bag, man (or woman), then I suggest you visit this webiste and sign yourself up immediately…

Z is for zombies. Can’t get away from the bloomin things these days, they’re everywhere – and you could be forgiven for being sick of the sight of them (yes, cliche alert, but this is a blog, not a novel. I must admit to enjoying the zombie mini-series Dead Set, which was set in the Big Brother house. Davina McCall was worryingly authentic. Charlie Higson’s The Enemy  is also brill, and I’m waiting to read the next one; it’s been a long wait for me, as I was lucky enough to read the first one a lot earlier than most mere mortals.

So here we are. We got to Z in the end. And as I have a glut of unused cliches, what can I say but Better Late Than Never, Good Things Come To Those Who Wait, Nothing Ventured – Nothing Gained, Better late than Late, and, of course:

All Good Things Must Come To An End.

Adieu, A to Z Challenge. Or is it only Au Revoir…

The London MCM Expo

So here’s a post that’s sat in my drafts for nearly a month, waiting for me to fiddle with photos etc.
But there was too much for one post anyway, so here is the first instalment of my witterings about the London MCM Expo (MCM = Movie Comic Media).

Those of you who used to grace my Writeous Indignation blog may recall I went to the May Expo, and missed seeing the cast of Stargate Universe due to a late train and no timetable for the shows (gnashes teeth at memory). Techie Husband and I go for the sci-fi and movies, Arty Daughter goes there for the – er, art. And Constructo Boy goes along for anything related to Dr.Who and Star Wars.

Arty Daughter brought along her best friend this time (we’ll call her K the Cat – you’ll see why in a mo), because she has infected her with the Manga Madness too. Poor girl. They had a fantastic time and dressed up, because this is The Thing To Do. K was…a cat, kind of, and Arty Daughter went along dressed as Misa from Deathnote.

For comparison, I give you: Misa

Below: Arty Daughter and K the Cat – a but fuzzy I’m afraid (blame TH, he took the photo!), and Arty Daughter isn’t smiling – not because she is going for the moody look, but because this is just before we left, and her black lipstick had wandered on to her teeth by that time…

Arty Daughter (right) and K the Cat.
Arty Daughter (right) as Misa, and K the Cat.
And yes, K the Cat did have a tail, which attracted strange looks at Stevenage train station 🙂
This time we made sure we were there early, so TH and I caught the interviews we wanted to. Haven, Eureka, Warehouse 13…more on them soon.