I like book shops. I particularly like independent book shops, who compensate for the absence of three-for-two offers by providing expert knowledge, little-known titles and interesting book signings. We have one such shop close to my house and I like to skulk around inside at weekends, imagining my own book on display.
I had my children with me on Saturday, so my hardback fuelled reverie was interspersed with damage limitation tactics. You wouldn’t think there were so many breakables in a book shop, would you? It’s not as though it’s a china shop, right? Well trust me, it’s surprising just what my children can find to destroy when I can’t offer man to man marking.
Just as we were about to leave, my two year old daughter E stopped dead in her tracks and gasped.
“A monster, Mummy!” Despite my prods, she refused to move, staring in awe at something just out of my sight behind a free standing display of local history books. She raised a hand slowly in front of her, pointing a brave but terrified finger at this unseen being, shaking with fear. The book shop occasionally exhibits full sized cardboard cut outs – they had one of Harry Potter in the summer – and I wondered which one had so scared little E. I moved forward to see.
“Is it the Gruffalo, Mummy?” E asked, with a quiver in her voice. She stepped back and buried her head in my legs. Standing in front of us was an enormously tall man wearing a long black coat and a balaclava. It wasn’t a good look. Okay, so it was minus 4 outside, but are balaclavas really ever appropriate outside of a bank job? I tried to propel E forward with my knees but she shook uncontrollably and began to scream.
“The monster will eat me! Don’t let him eat me, Mummy!”
People were starting to look at us and the only way out was past the monster. I mean, the only way out was past the large gentleman in the practical woollen headgear. We would just have to brazen it out. I picked up my terrified child and nudged past the object of fear, who turned to look at us. He smiled at E and said hello. She stared mutely at him.
“I’m so sorry.” I told him. “It’s awfully funny really – she thinks you’re um… a sort of… well, a monster.” I laughed slightly hysterically and the man smiled politely.
E looked incredulously at me. She pointed to beyond the balaclavared man where a cardboard cutout of the Gruffalo teetered against a stack of books.
“There’s the monster, Mummy! The other one’s just a man in a hat.”