World’s End – well – not quite the end of the world, but at least as far as James II was prepared to ride out on his constitutionals down the King’s Road. A district of London at the western end of Chelsea which gives its name to the World’s End Bookshop – a shop I’ve known under various owners over the years. The last incumbent, Steve Dickson, actually used to work for me in the long ago when the world was young, but for the last few years it has belonged to Giles Lyon, an active and energetic bookseller always out and about buying books.
I was deeply flattered when he called me a while back to ask if he could send his new assistant over to me one morning a week to be given some tuition in cataloguing. I was happy to oblige and Kaitlyn Mellini from Portland, Oregon, proved an apt, affable and willing pupil – a quick study as we used to say. Having discovered for herself my weakness for certain types of recondite and largely unsaleable fiction, she offered me a book the other day – and I have to say that she had researched it and catalogued it so nicely that I couldn’t say no. Not only that, but she made me want to read it too – which is the ultimate accolade in cataloguing. I went over to the shop to pick it up and to see how she was getting on. Giles was out (probably buying yet more books) and Kaitlyn was presiding over the shop – all neat and tidy, customers popping in and out, the books carefully arranged, pride of place given to a handsome newly acquired book-case for the more expensive material.
It’s the sort of shop that every neighbourhood should have and probably once did – catering for book-buyers of all kinds. Genuinely serving the local community. Quite a large stock crammed into a smallish space, but everything accessible. Books at all prices. Books of all kinds from the genuinely antiquarian to the cheap and cheerful second-hand. A customer wanted a copy of “Brave New World” and was given a choice of anything from a paperback to a first edition. Whatever the question was, there was something to fit the bill, and Kaitlyn knew where to find it. I paid for my book and bought a couple of others as well – one to read, one to sell. A thoroughly pleasant and somewhat nostalgic afternoon, because I can remember a time when such shops as this were reasonably plentiful. They are no longer – use them or lose them.