A Bertram In The Hand Is Worth A Brown Parrot In Providencia…

*Cough* years ago I worked at Bertrams The Book wholesalers.

For those of you not aware, the UK’s bookshops are/were (it may have changed) supplied by two Wholesalers—Bertrams (eg the best one) and Gardners. I started in the orders department after finishing university. It was that or a job delivering fish to London restaurants. I took the one that was near books (and because I’m an awful driver) because y’know, what else are you going to do with an English Lit degree.

It felt like I was making the most of it taking orders for 50 copies of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, or explaining to the UK bookshops that there was no difference between Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone or HP & The Philosopher’s Stone…only that it was called the former in the US.

Poetry connection, orders for poetry were quite rare, but I remember being told one Saturday shift that Birthday Letters was going to be announced and to expect lots of orders. Exciting times. Christ, all of this is dating things…

After a while, I moved to the Special Orders team, aka BABS (Bertrams Any Book Service). That was fun, trying to track down obscure books for folks. I used to love finding books when a customer had gone to their local bookshop and asked for a book they remembered that had a “blue cover”, but they couldn’t remember anything else other than the subject matter…

We used to order loads of copies of Julian Cope’s Head On – a book I absolutely revere…it was always proud moment when we’d order them by post, filling out order forms and sending off specially raised cheques. One day, I’ll remember to write down my intro to Julian Cope story. It involves a man called Alan, milk and acid…

This was all very. such in the early stages on the internet. We’d send orders to the US via dial-up modems…Archaic, man…

Anyhoo, while this was all lovely, the main joy was the staff bookshop. Its was run by a quite fearsome Scottish lady – her name escapes me now, but she ran that place with a military precision. The shop allowed you to come in and either order new books at a lovely discount – circa 50% – or you could buy damaged books from the warehouse at 90% discount. This could mean it had a dint in the cover, a small tear, a missing back cover, etc, but anything that meant it couldn’t be sold went to the shop. I used to love popping down every few days (when I wasn’t popping to the Jubilee pub) to see what was on the shelves, you never knew what would be there – it was all over the shop (so to speak), no genres, etc…

I have so many books still on my shelf from that time… but three of them sprang to mind earlier this week.

Ah yes, a point – I do have one…

Earlier in the week I happened to see a tweet conversation between Jane Commane, Rishi Dastidar and Will Eaves.

Jane was explaining a lovely way to start the day…I plan to steal this idea.

Will replied and mentioned Fergus Allen

This is where I come in…

It led me back to the books you see above. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never really read them. I tried back in the day, but didn’t feel clever enough, or know enough to “get it”. I’ve carried them round in every house move I’ve made since I left Norwich and they’ve not come down from any of the shelves they’ve found a home on. Until this week. I flicked back through them and found these two poems.

Fergus Allen, from Mrs Power Looks Over The Bay
Fergus Allen, also From Mrs Power…

Both of these poems seem like things I will love forever and also quite apt for the world around us at present.

Arsene Wenger used to say a player returning from long term injury was like “a new signing. I thought of that as I took these down from the shelf. These three books feel like “new purchases”, despite being second hand *cough years ago*. That feels like a small moment of joy in a week of utter weirdness…

Dreich Your Eyes, Mate

I suppose I could wang on about working from this week, and how that’s gone. How Rachael and I have managed to get a rhythm going in terms of making cups of tea while she’s in her office and I’ve colonised the kitchen table, but that seems really dull. Duller than my Bertrams origin story, even…

However, what has been nice is being at home when the post arrives and finding lovely things addressed to me.

The nicest of which was the arrival of Dreich #2 – containing 3 poems by me and also 3 poems by Matthew Stewart. It’s always lovely to share a magazine with a good friend, and this is the first time Matthew and I have shared ink together. Pints, yes, but never ink until now. We had a near miss in the Glasgow Review of Books last year, but now we’ve slipped between the covers of a lovely looking magazine. We almost shared a page, but Marilyn Longstaff came between us. GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE GUTTER!!

My enormous thanks to Jack Caradoc for accepting the poems – Human Torch, Waking Up and Flint.

The front of Dreich
The back – it’s a lovely line up

I should also really talk about ALCS, but let’s save that for next week.


51k running – It’s very much a case of getting out while I still can. I feel bad, I probably shouldn’t be going out, but I’m staying away from people. The Ultra-Marathon has yet to be postponed or cancelled, so I feel like I have to keep training until the inevitable happens.

1 Poem worked on. – Cod Psychology. All this time at home hasn’t been as productive as I expected, but I’m hoping to get a routine in place ASAP. It will make cock all difference, but at least I’ll have the time in place.

1 2.5 hour trip to Tescos Very much not panic buying, but Christ that was hard work.

2 days without cigarettes. Fits and starts, yeah!!

1 review sent and ready to go

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green



  1. Jumping The Gin


Basically bugger all, but glanced at Simon Armitage’s new poem and his Sandettie book

True Detective S3, E1-3
Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway

Listened to: 

It’s been a good week for going back through old albums…via iTunes to avoid killing the wifi while streaming.

Four Tet, Sixteen Oceans
Booker T & The Mgs – The Booker T Set & Soul Limbo
Peter, Bjorn & John – Endless Dream
Therapy? – Greatest Hits 2020
Bridget St. John – Jumblequeen, Ask Me No Questions and BBC Sessions
Sundrugs – Perfect Cure for Hallucinations
Minnie Ripperton – Stay In Love
Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Dancer With Bruised Knees
Greg Dulli – Random Desires
Lanterns On The Lake – Spook The Herd
John Cale – Cuts
Candi Staton – Chance
Pete Molinari – Just Like Achilles
Caitlin Rose – Dead Flowers
Lou Reed – The Bells
Marina & The Diamonds – The Family Jewels
Martha Wainwright – S/T
Natacha Atlas – Myriad Road
The National – High Violet
Nice As Fuck – S/T
Nick Heyward – Woodland Echoes
Sugarplum Fairies – Chinese Leftovers & Country International Records
Swami John Reiss & The Blind Shake – Modern Surf Classics
Tapes N’ Tapes – The Loon
Tarantel – Ephemera
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Apart
They Came From The Stars I Saw Them – We Are All In The Gutter
Yorkston, Thorne, Khan – Navasara

and of course, The Archers…(It’s very good at the moment)

3 thoughts on “A Bertram In The Hand Is Worth A Brown Parrot In Providencia…

  1. Pingback: We plough, we feel, we scatter – Wear The Fox Hat

  2. Pingback: Theme From Magnetto – Wear The Fox Hat

  3. Pingback: Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 46 – Via Negativa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s