Tuesday 15 April 2014

..."One of the finest pen & ink drawings in the world"...

... to - undeservedly - paraphrase Alexander McCall Smith in his famous reference to the one and only 'Topping & Company Booksellers of Ely'...

When I decided to make the 2015 calendar - or for that matter that there might be a 2015 calendar - a Downham Market and Ely calendar, apart from the obvious wealth of material from Ely Cathedral (which could arguably fill a calendar at the rate of at least a picture a week...), my first thoughts were of drawing the irrepressible Topping & Company Booksellers in Ely. 

Coincidentally, it was June 21st, the Summer Solstice of 2003 when we brought Cara, Laz and Emily in full Harry Potter attire to a wonderful Toppings book launch at midnight, for the release of the fifth J K Rowling novel - 'Harry Potter and the The Order of the Phoenix'. While children up and down the queue could be seen and heard waving wands and invoking one Potteresque spell after another, we 'adults' were offered that most marvelous of elixirs - wine by the glass! Oh happy night and day!

When we finally crossed from the pavement over the threshold into the bookshop proper, we may as well have have been stepping into Dumbledore's sanctum sanctorum itself, steeped as it were in subdued lighting and appropriately dressed shop staff. I'm sure I could hear the classical strains of 'Hedwig's Theme' seeping through bookcase upon bookcase.

Is there any doubt that Toppings & Company Booksellers of Ely could be anything other - day or night, book launch or no book launch, glass of wine or no glass of wine - could be anything other than a truly magical destination?

Pen & Ink illustration of Topping & Company Booksellers of Ely.

Up from Bath University for a reading week last year, Cara and I attended the Toppings evening at Ely Cathedral featuring comic writer and novelist Neil Gaiman. In the incomparable - and Hogwarts like - setting of Ely Cathedral, Neil regaled us with stories and anecdotes and read from 'Fortunately the Milk and 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane', before heading into the night signing myriad copies of his latest novel.

Despite a brief and amusing question and answer session, Neil never did tell us what Watchmen's Alan Moore hides in his beard...


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