Now, for all of us in the know - and I hope we all are - Richard Adams' 1972 classic is far from a saccharine, Cadbury's Caramel rabbit-populated, Disney-inspired fable. Instead, it's a bloodthirsty, violent account of a band of rabbits fighting for survival in a hostile world where owls, foxes, snares, burrow-ripping bulldozers and bunny-squashing cars lurk around every corner. It will come as no surprise to fans that the incredibly detailed plot was inspired by Adams' real-life experiences as an officer in the army. So his commander became the kindly, benevolent rebel leader Hazel Rah, while the belligerent second-in-command Bigwig was based on his colleague Captain Paddy Kavanagh. And - taking the military allegory to its logical conclusion - critics have compared General Woundwort , the homicidal Efrafan dictator intent on creating a 'perfect' rabbit kingdom as all costs, with Hitler. Or David Cameron. Whatever. It's a fight of good against evil.
Adams himself, remembering how the story terrified his daughters, for whom the story was written, said he felt some elements of the book may have been too dark. It's no secret the film does not shy from depicting some of the most graphic scenes in horrifying detail. So, the viewer sees rabbits cut down on the 'iron road' railway tracks, desperate kittens gassed in burrows and fields brutally ripped up by blackened teeth of diggers. Which brings us to the events of this weekend: wide-eyed traumatised children sent scuttling behind sofas while enraged helicopter parents take to social media to bemoan the 'irresponsible' broadcasting decision of Channel Five to screen this film at Easter.
So did they have a point?
I can see that if you curl up on the sofa for what you think will be a family-friendly, feel-good film about bunnies, you may not expect to be confronted with vivid images of blood-dripping claws and teeth. You may feel aggrieved when presented with hundreds of pounds worth of counselling bills because your child cannot get the aforementioned claws and teeth out of their head. But, hey, that's life. It's not pretty. It's gory. It's violent. It's dog-eat-dog. Or rabbit-eat-rabbit, if you will.
But (whisper it) it's also beautiful.
My first introduction to Watership Down occurred during a tedious car journey on our summer holiday to Great Yarmouth. I was ten; being a rabbit-lover I'd selected the novel from the Puffin Book Club magazine at school, based solely on its cover. I'd saved the book to pass the long hours on the motorway in our battered Ford Marina, which was liable to break down if another car gave it a sidelong glance. I was enthralled. But what hooked me in was not the - admitted brilliant - plot. It was the stunningly evocative images of nature during a long English summer. I can still see in my mind's eye the dying primroses as the rabbits start out on their journey. I hear the rush and splash of the river as they cross the wood at night. I feel the damp fragrant soil of the churchyard as they take shelter in the barn and I smell the rich cloying scent of the beanfield after they escape the crow. I shared in the delight of the fresh breeze and lonely hillside of Watership Down as the rabbits finally find their Valhalla. And Adams' dedication at the beginning ('For Juliet and Rosamond, remembering the road to Stratford on Avon") was even more tantalising. The road to Stratford on Avon was near me! For a girl growing up in Coventry, the nearest I got to nature was a trip to Coombe Abbey after tea. The thought that this wild and windswept landscape could be within a stone's throw of my door was mind-blowing.
So for me that is the great strength of the book and the film. The nature it celebrates is cruel and scary. But it's also wonderful, awe- inspiring, nurturing, delicate and gentle. And maybe we're never too young too learn that.
That's what happens in life, the days roll on regardless. January and February were a mixed bag for the shop. The events have been AMAZING. Nearly all have been sold out or very close. We had to turn people away from our film night, board game night and folk club due to being at capacity! (Sorry for those not able to get in). As it's been dark and cold, the general trade has been middling, paying the bills but not setting things on fire (Don't do that in a bookshop).
Anyway, March is here! It's getting lighter and warmer so hopefully things will pick up a bit. We're open 7 days a week now 10-6 Monday to Saturday and 11-4 Sunday. Let's have a look ahead to what we have on in March...
We have the usual retro games, folk club, poetry,films, board games and book club, but we also have an EXTRA folk club as the superb Boo Hewerdine is here! He's worked with the likes of Mel C, Eddi Reader and even been nominated for an Ivor Novello award! It's next Thursday (March 10th) so grab tickets quick from HERE.
We also host a special poetry event with Antony Owen and guests from Hiroshima on March 17th. Free entry for that. Details HERE.
We've also just announced Keith James is back with a new show The Music of Yusuf - Cat Stevens. Keith has been here twice before with his Nick Drake show and Leonard Cohen show, both brilliant. Tickets are £10 from HERE.
One final thing I'm asking, as it's the 1st March, I thought I'd ask for a big favour. We do really well on social media, but there's always room for more likes and follows. Could you like the bookshop over on facebook and share the post that's on there? Being independent is brilliant but marketing is hard and expensive and rely a lot on word of mouth. A follow on Twitter and Instagram all helps too!
First off thanks so much for a brilliant Harry Potter Book Night! We had over 200 (TWO HUNDRED!) people through the door. We cast spells, got sorted into houses, made a huge mess and had a great time.
We also saw Mark Harrison, Adrian Roye and Hannah Woof play our Folk Club on Friday, with a near capacity (4 tickets left!) room. Thanks to Hannah for stepping in at last minute due to Charlie Leavy breaking her arm! Ouch. (Charlie has been rebooked later in the year). Beforehand we filmed our 50th Big Comfy Session with Adrian. You can see the previous 49 (and subscribe) at www.bigcomfysessions.com.
So onto this week. This week is 'Gaming' week as we host our Retro Game Night and Board Game Night on Thursday 11th Feb and Friday 12th. On Thursday Dan from Entertainment Bros fills the shop with Nintendo and Sega classics for you to play for free. There will be an exclusive sale on at Entertainment Bros on the night too. Come on down from 6pm. The bar is open!
On Friday we host our 2nd Board Game Night. The first last month was a huge success. We ended up bringing more tables and chairs in throughout the evening! There are 100 or so games on offer from the basic to the completely insane. If you're not too sure how to play or what to play then there is expert advice on offer from Rob who runs Tea and Tabletop. Again, bar open!
No other food or drink can be brought in I'm afraid as then I wouldn't be open! Ha!
Just a smidgen of games on offer.
You can see our future events on the event tab at the top. A quick heads up that we have Dennis Carey here on Feb 20th launching his new book An Untilled Field! This will be a really packed event so turn up early. Her's here from 2pm.
We're very happy to say we'll be once more hosting the Harry Potter Book Night! Last year Bloomsbury asked bookshops, libraries and schools to celebrate the books by holding their own event, so we took the plunge and put one on. Nearly 100 people attended! We were told by Bloomsbury that the second is on it's way so we've got our thinking caps on and have already got lots lined up. Please put February 4th in your diary. We'll be opening our doors at 5pm for 3 hours of magical spells and potions. Although aimed at children, the event will be open to all with adults able to get in on the action too.
It'd be lovely if you could dress up. We'll have crafts and colouring, quizzes and games plus more to be announced. At the bar we'll be serving home made (by The Weasleys) Butterbeer and Hagrid's rock cakes, with more coming.
The event is completely free but according to the Facebook group we already have over 500 interested so come early.
Please add yourself to our Facebook event as we'll post updates, plus fun things on there. Go over HERE.
I'm back in the shop. I've just spent a few hours with a broom not knowing how it works but the shop looks neater. Ali took the decorations down on Tuesday so I didn't have to walk into that mess. I hope you had a great festive time. I 'turned off' for the entire period and am only now looking at emails. There are lots. Lots and lots and lots. So obviously, I'm carrying on tidying and then writing blogs and stuff. So what's in store for the shop this year?
Firstly our events are being even more streamlined. We'll only be holding them on Thursday and Fridays. Here's how it looks...
1st Thursday of the month Fire and Dust Poetry
1st Friday of the month Big Comfy Folk Club
2nd Thursday otm Retro Game Night
2nd Friday otm Board Game Night (excited about this!)
3rd Thursday otm Comfy Film Night
3rd Friday otm Big Comfy Folk Club
4th Thursday otm New Book club
4th Friday otm open for Fago Roller Disco.
These are all in the diary for the year. Some are new, some are re-jigged, some are the same. I'm really excited about the Board Game Night. When setting up the shop I always wanted one but had no one to run it unless we played Cluedo every month. Tea and Tabletop are a new Coventry company who show and sell some amazing boar games both classic and unknown. I started to love board games after watching Tabletop with Wil Wheaton and am sucked into it so I'm excited to play some new ones!
The film club is back too. Although we scheduled 4 films to show last Autumn, we didnt show any due to both personal reasons and just lack of drive. Well I'm jumping on board once more and will screen at least 3 (once a month) then see how it is. The 1st is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty on Jan 21st. I'd love for someone to design a poster if you can!
Our Retro Game Night and Folk Club are in the mix too with not much change. I'm always looking for other one off things though if you fancy running something. Also, the room is now for hire, so if you'd like it for your own party or conference or medieval jousting contest then we can talk.
We're also starting a book club in the shop. Lots have asked so I'm delivering, like a belated literary Santa.
I'm going to attempt to add all the events onto the event page now. Attempt.
Once more, may your year be filled with love and literature.