It was about time to get out there and make sure that All Good Bookshops were properly stocked with The Bristol Downs - A Natural History Year. So I got on my bike.
First stop was a Small Independent Bookshop. They'd got in touch with Geraldine last week saying that they urgently needed six more copies of the book, so her husband Keith had dropped some in from their collection. So all I needed to do was drop in an invoice and pick up the cheque for the previous invoice which... hadn't yet been paid...
The proprietor was there chatting with the person on the counter, as I arrived on my bike. But by the time I'd locked the bike and gone in, she was no longer there.
"I'm just dropping off this invoice for the books that you received," I said; "and there is still this outstanding invoice from the previous books..."
"I'll just go and see..." says the nice young man.
"She's just about to go out for lunch with her daughter," he said; "It's A Level results day..."
I agree to come back on Monday.
On Monday she is about to go out to lunch with her mother.
I leave my mobile number.
It doesn't get used.
Catherine had said good things about a local card shop which had taken some copies of the book last year. So I went there too. It is in a pretty affluent suburb, where the 4x4s and people-carriers roam free, and it sells expensive trinkets and posh chocolate to the sort of people who like to give expensive trinkets and posh chocolate to other people to mark important waypoints through life. It is the sort of shop I have walked or cycled past for years, without really noticing it or wanting to go in.
I explain my mission to a rather worn-looking woman on the counter. She presses a bell on the wall, and a large woman appears, advancing in a little cloud of huffiness and puffiness.
"Do you have a seller's appointment?" she asks.
I admit that I do not.
I am far too busy to see you today," she says. "You may leave samples if you wish."
She huffs and puffs back through her door.
I decide that I do not wish.