When I arrived at the place I remembered the shop being located, I found this instead…
The chain stores had moved in! And Skoob had been driven out.
Assuming that that was it for Skoob, yet another victim of the relentless spread of High Street Anywhere, I wandered off.
Further on I discovered – thanks to a sign tied to a lamppost – that Skoob was actually still in business and had found a place to trade in a basement underneath a new Waitrose Supermarket.
The entrance is somewhat hidden, right until you are almost at the door. But it’s well worth the trouble to find.
It’s not just the fact that it’s an independently run shop, doing what it can to survive in an era that has seen chain stores running out of viable places to either buy out and take over.
It’s also partly to do with the idea of books, especially older, tattier, rarer and out of print books, being a sort of forbidden commodity you have to seek out; grubby and somehow not fit to be perused by this frappe-slurping, Top-Shopping generation.
The shop may be underground but doesn’t feel like a cellar. It’s more like an Aladdin’s cave. It’s a warm, airy room you enter, crammed with as many books as it’s scientifically possible accommodate in the space. And everything is in a logical order.
I was amused to see that, for no real reason, there’s an upright piano against one wall.
Perhaps it’s for people who want to try the sheet music before they buy. I’m sure Skoob are happy to let patrons play – so long as they can actually play.
Staff were keen to help and happy to take the time to track things down on a given subject.