The recent arrival of an old box of books and ephemera has brought some interesting oddities into the shop: i-spy books, old tins of stamps, including a lovely small set celebrating the explorer Mary Kingsley drawn by David Gentleman (of Charing Cross tube station fame), some literary based First Day Covers, such as a 1997 set showing Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five up to their jolly japes, which might be of interest to my customers as a stocking filler.

There is also an old oak tray, now in my kitchen, with a rather pretty patterned saucer, a list rather like the conveyor belt of the Generation Game. However, getting to the point, there is also a pile of ‘Home Notes’ and ‘Modern Woman’ magazines, from 1942-52, collected by the owner I think, for the ‘Just William’ stories serialised there. Aside from chuckling with William (how can you not?), the adverts encourage readers to keep their bowels open, a wartime and probably very healthy occupation, in addition to selling them rubs for pain and tinctures to increase vitality and combat ‘low spirits'. The editorial expounds women to keep up appearances, particularly sartorial ones, even if this meant reappropriating the curtains and the sewing patterns are there to help. They are quite engrossing reading.

The most niche facts are in pamphlet or magazine form. A quick check along the shelves for this blog throws up a rather unstimulating pamphlet entitled ‘Punctuation and Essays for the Police’, from 1902 and another outlining Yachting rules for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, whilst a 4th edition of the magazine ‘The Norfolk Sailor’ published in 1961, fills the void in knowledge around ‘the little beach punts and crab boats that fish close to the coast and the men who seek the succulent herrings and tend the mussel beds’.

As a result of my reccy, I have been side-tracked into enjoying an undated Moss Bros pamphlet written by the cunningly disguised ‘Hugo Backgammon’ entitled ‘Some Sartorial Consequences of the Second World War’ and in an uplifting paragraph in these difficult times, here are sage words for us all;

‘It is a crazy world where one shortage follows madly on the heels of another, and if it were not that the human being is fortunately made up of the toughest possible elastic, we could not be as hopeful as we are’.

Each person may take what they can from the quirky opinion of the pamphlet and here is my sound bite for the day: In a crisis, dress nicely.