The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford, now closed (as usual) for business: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: was randomly decrepit and proven to be more than neo-bankrupt: it was so analogue it was anal and now deceased.
It took an act of generosity from a Portuguese friend to deliver the rooster, an ornament as fine as a Botticelli angel. But it took my brilliance with a drill to fix it to the door. Trouble is it would never ring (I blamed naff Euro technology, everyone knows we do it better here). Then I had the notion to turn it upside down: technically it had the freedom for it to ring (it shaped itself as proud as a down dog yogi), but of course it didn’t ring. A lady from the Czech Republic pointed out that my geography was wrong, that it should have been pinned above the door and not upon it, and the right way up and not upside down, silly me. Now my rooster rings each time someone enters the shop: at long last it lays its golden egg of sound (several months into its life in the Beatnik) and it will perform wonders for my commercial migraine.
Apologies to English folk, my dull-wittedness has let down my nation. The two vital components in this story were Europeans, my Anglo-plonkerdom to the fore, life in cosmopolitan Oxford still a learning curve. Reminds me of gangster Harold Shand (played by Bob Hoskins) and his Dunkirk-like speech at the end of The Long Good Friday to the American mafia business wannabes who had no puff when it came to dealing with the I.R.A. “What I’m looking for,” said Shand, “is someone who can contribute to what England has given the world: culture, sophistication, genius, a little bit more than an hot dog, know what I mean? We’re in the Common Market now…”
So thanks to all my European friends, none of whom are bemused that this place is a cafe and a bookstore (English folk sometimes can’t work out that it’s both), none of whom ask if I’m open when I’m closed or closed when I’m open, none of whom meander through the shop like a bolster wood plane with no remote control. And 18 months in to the shop’s life, when it was at death’s door with no rooster to lay a golden egg, it was two Italian post-grads who spent an entire year of their lives fashioning the shop and making sense of it – a task beyond me. I am sure that if they were put in charge of the railways then no train would run on time, but the wonderful and generous Emanuele and Agostino saved my bacon (vegetarians can read parmesan). For a while there was a glut of tomato in my fridge and the bookstore was Little Italy, grazie.
Here is Manu talking about the all-night parties we had here throughout 2010 and 2011, bibulous but with music and poetry non-stop: all very European.