Saturday, June 21, 2008

Glee in Glebe on a Saturday

Today had such a nice, relaxed, nostalgic feel to it, and the only annoyance was the crazy bumper-to-bumper traffic that seemed to be everywhere - all afternoon! so much for the petrol prices everyone complains about.

It's been a while since I've been to inner-city Glebe - but I wanted to gather up some reasonably priced Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children's books for school/work, and past experience had told me that Gleebooks is usually the best port of call for these items. The staff were so helpful - at one point I had three staff members scurrying around at my whim - and any chance to wander through their children's and second hand collections is a pleasure. ("You can smell the shop before you get there", to quote - loosely - the line from "84 Charing Cross Road".) Because that store is at the opposite end of Glebe Point Road to their other bookstore, it meant that Jack and I had a great stroll past all the amazingly eclectic curio shops and cafes in between. And - more colourful than ever: Glebe Saturday markets in the grounds of the primary school. Jack found lots of happy, friendly, Glebe doggies to touch noses with.

Gleebooks also had three of the CBCA (Children's Book Council of Australia) shortlisted books I've been after. Thanks to the shop's trusty computer cataloguing, they identified that three of my elusive (ie. "awaiting reprint") needs were sitting, forgotten, on shelves somewhere in the well-stocked shelves! Every year it's like a crazy little hide 'n' seek game I love to play: how quickly can I round up all of the shortlisted titles for the school library. Thanks to Gleebooks today, my search is almost over for 2008. (Of course, but the time Book Week comes along, all of the books will be freely available in most bookshops - but I want to use them in my teaching in the lead up to Book Week in Term Three, not after the event.)

It's a shame so many of the Glebe stores are vacant now, victims of the nearby Broadway Centre shopping mall that has evolved from the old Grace Bros buildings. Where Grace Bros and Glebe shops had survived, almost side-by-side for decades, so harmoniously, it now seems like the might of the all-inclusive air-conditioned mall has done its job and killed off a lot of the life from the street shopping strip.
i recall in the 70s and 80s, people waited for restaurateurs to die before they could rent an empty shop in Glebe!

For three years (1977-1979), I spent many an afternoon or lunch break strolling through Grace Bros at Broadway, eventually venturing further afield into Glebe and its amazing shops, during my years at the Guild Teachers College. Then, for a while in the late 80s and early 90s, it was worth going back to Glebe Point Road every so often just to see what was for sale in weird shops like Half a Cow (now long gone) and second hand bookshops such as Cornstalk Books.

I've also been squealing with delight over some recent Amazon online purchases. The official soundtrack album of "Ironman", a few tricky-to-find old science fiction paperbacks (postage will be more than the $1 or so for the book, but who cares - I found them at last!), and some television rarities on DVD. Yes - I'm a happy shopper in both real and virtual bookshops.

For all the criticism that goes on about Amazon, such as odd quirks in their product descriptions, I still think they do an amazing job. It has become such a comprehensive website - with all their links to the international second hand and remaindered markets - that it's a rare thing to seek out a book (from any era) and not be able to get any leads. I can forgive their sometimes-bizarre semi-automated computer listings any errors that inevitably creep in. My days of haunting bricks 'n' mortar bookshops, week after week, on fruitless searches for impossible-to-find-stuff are mostly gone. Now when I go into such a store I can browse at leisure, not search frantically.

There is also a recent exciting eBay purchase, but I'll save that story for when it arrives from Melbourne - hopefully Monday - by registered post.

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