Location scouting 1: Meeting Bernard Black

And so begins our photographic research/location scout for the film…

To our surprise, no sooner had we arrived at the first destination of the day than we instantly recognised it as the shop from the TV series Black Books.

In some ways, this proved to be an appropriate start to the day. You see, the hostile and rude bookshop owner cliche embodied by Bernard Black has always struck me as an odd stereotype because, basically, I’ve never encountered it in real life

Until today that is.

My previous experience of second-hand bookshops has always gone something like this: you enter a quirky little old building (usually in a rural setting) and reply to the owner’s greeting of hello. You then while away a happy half-hour or so sifting through shelves and boxes, marvelling at the sense of history and imagining the previous owners. You chuckle at unintentionally politically-incorrect old covers and titles; you notice rarities and intriguing volumes; there might be touching inscriptions or saucy old postcards. In the end, your browsing will throw up something unexpected or amazing or simply worth owning. You then take it to the counter (pausing en route to peruse some Victorian adverts or maps or sepia photographs you’ve just noticed framed on the wall) and then have a pleasant chat with the aforementioned owner, before going on your way, happy with your purchase. You invariably return at a later date for more of the same. This is the kind of experience which I have come to fondly associate with second-hand bookshops.

Today however I encountered the Bernard Blacks of the business. Some shops felt distinctly unwelcoming, even hostile. A couple of owners seemed merely grumpy or in a bad mood, but one owner in particular was rude, patronising and aggressive. I came out of his shop feeling utterly wound up by his attitude, and wondering why anyone would ever return to his shop. I certainly never shall.

I love bookshops. That’s why I’m making this film. So it felt odd to be treated so badly by these shopkeepers. Fortunately, things soon got much better…

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