Saint Andrews and Quatro Errata

quarto.jpg The Quarto’s upstairs neighbour is getting big ideas. Having stared out of his rear window at the miscellany of other peoples’ back buildings, and noticed a lot of renewal, tarting up and general development, he has come up with a scheme of his own: namely that I should build an extension in my garden, and he will build a two-story extension on top of it. ‘How would we finance it?’ I asked suspiciously, realising that every brick would have to be wheeled by barrow up the pend. ‘Oh, we could think about that when we get planning permission,’ he replied. I told him that I definitely didn’t want to build at this stage in my career, but had no objection to his seeing if we would get planning permission. At the time, the part-owner of the shop, whom I bought out of the business many years ago, was away, but on her return she was emphatic that building would not be a good idea. However, in Planning Law, so our neighbour tells us, anyone can apply to put anything anywhere, provided that he has notified the owners. ‘But I haven’t been notified,’ said my co-owner. She phoned up the Planning Office, and was told that the Quarto Bookshop had been notified. If she wanted to complain that she hadn’t been notified, then it was a private legal matter between her and our neighbour, meanwhile they would move on the assumption that we had been notified. I began to worry that a single casual sentence could lead to concrete all over our back garden. He surely can’t build if we own the land, but his mention of some sort of hanging extension to his property alone had me worried. We shall have to wait and see.

Books on how to build things are sadly lacking in the Quarto at present. Architecture is moderately well stocked, but I had a gloomy week with failure after failure on specialist subjects. Apart from the lack of bricklaying books (at least I didn’t offer the customer Brick Lane like one shop assistant mentioned in the Times) we had nothing on mermaids, no books on collecting half-dolls, or on modern sequence dancing. Then Marion, ever helpful, found an interesting newspaper cutting about Ronald Searle and phoned to tell the customer who collects his works. The widower replied: the customer had been dead for a year. Then our Saturday girl left to read medicine at Cambridge, and I became even gloomier when her replacement answered the phone to me with ‘Quatro Bookshop’ (every year I mourn the departure of a helper whose replacement can never be as good as the predecessor, but usually turns out to be). Then we had the American tourist who walked in off the street to tell me a joke he knew about books: ‘Guess what’s the shortest book in the world?’ ‘I give up, surprise me?’ ‘The Book of Beautiful Scottish Women… I’m allowed to say that, because my wife’s Scotch.’ And he walked out before I could dispute that it was, in fact, The Book of Tactful American Men.

This is a most unfair stereotype: there are some American men who have so fallen in love with St Andrews, that they would swear that everything in it was beautiful, even the second-hand book dealers. One such sent me a book he has written about the town, the distillation of many after-dinner talks at golf clubs across the USA – he wanted comment. A few years ago I would have encouraged any book about St Andrews that filled the gap between pamphlet and coffee table book, but now it is more than filled by Michael Tobert’s Pilgrims in the Rough. He knows his stuff, for all that readers are divided between those who say he has a light touch and those who find it relentlessly jokey, the book fairly rattles along; so to receive the draft of another that covers more or less the same ground, but with leaden reverence was difficult. How could a man, so passionate about his subject have written such a book? All I could do was point out where his and Tobert’s book converged, and where he could hope to expand to fill the gaps, but I felt bad not being able to enthuse about a project that had been on the go one way or another since the late sixties.

Another enthusiastic American was convinced that if only he could find the ‘club rosters’ for the eighteenth century golf clubs, he could explain that the emergence of the Scottish Enlightenment was all down to the Scottish Golf Club. It was due to their evening conversations, of course. I had my doubts about this, as anyone who has listened to golfers reconstructing their rounds over a pint or three would agree. What room for theories of identity or perception when one must discuss theories of slices and hooks? However I racked my brain and my husband later came up with the fact that David Hume had played billiards. Meanwhile my customer is contacting every club historian he can find. David Hamilton, the golf history expert, probably knows, so I shall waylay him next time he comes into the Quarto. He also knows, as does any fool, except the publisher of Golf As It Was In the Beginning, that St Andrews, Musselburgh, Prestwick, Turnberry, Royal Troon, Muirfield and Carnoustie are in Scotland, not in England, as cited by its American author, Michael Fay, who also seems to think that its residents have been disrespectful in referring to Saint Andrews as St. Andrews, since he corrects our terminology. Lesser mistakes include Roger Wuthered for Wethered and the portrait of Harry Vardon captioned J.H. Taylor. These were pointed out to me by an apoplectic customer who obviously thought that stocking such a work was on par with stocking The Anarchist’s Cook Book. The publisher has not answered my letter suggesting errata slips. Graeme Lennie the golf pro at Crail is not surprised at these inaccuracies, and pulled another American volume off the shelf. He was unaware that he was helping someone write a book when chatting to a golfer who patronised Balcomie Links, until he found his own name in the long list of acknowledgements, mis-spelled ‘Graham Lenny’

Future historians, researching Saint Andrew’s Stores of the Twentieth Century may well look at the huge emporium on the Quarto site, complete with rear Hanging Gardens of Babylon and wonder how we fared there. They would probably work out that we sold golf books, and probably dealt in University texts as well. I hope someone is still alive who can still tell them of all the serendipitous finds and out of the way titles we stocked. I only hope they don’t mis-spell our name ‘Quatro’.

Copyright Margaret Squires 2005


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