Imaginary Bookshops (10 & 11)


The Bookcoat Man is not invited into offices, he finds his way in. He takes up position in a corner of the staffroom, no matter how small, and shifts wordlessly out of the way of the microwave or fridge as the admin staff or accountants reheat the remains of last night’s pasta or last week’s curry. He slips a book from one of the many pockets in his brown wool coat and places it in front of a buyer, on the table next to their plastic salad bowl and spork, or beside the jar of instant coffee as they wait for the kettle to boil. And they always pick it up. The title or image on the cover recalls a conversation they had that morning, or a dream they woke from in the night. The price they pay is the one printed on the back cover, even when a book is worn with being read many times. The customer never asks for change.


There is no need for a book at the top of a hill. The owners of Hilltop Books know that. On fine days they leave out a cairn of books for those who might find them. Browsing is not encouraged. The books are to be shoved into rucksacks, blurbs unread, pages unturned. Payment is left underneath a stone.

When a walker gets home they unpack their rucksack, rinse their flask, rest their legs. When they open the book they find sharp air between the pages and a glimpse of the view. Wherever they are, the story is read from the hilltop.