I am crouching down, rummaging through Seamus Heaney. I am in Waterstones, in the sanctuary of the poetry section: a tiny corral of bookshelves behind the till. I am aware of a puffing shuffle moving from the doorway. It stops with a gasp and a moan and gathers to a voice far too loud for the hallowed shadows of Waterstones.
– Hello duck, I’m looking for the book on witchery.
I grab Seamus’ Rattle Bag and stand to look over the bookshelf. A short broad woman is clinging to the pay-counter by her armpits. Her great fleshy arms splay out, bending in at the elbows to meet at plump sweaty fingers. A face round and flushed as an eclipsed moon comes to rest on the interlinking fingers, and are surrounded by breasts spread on the counter like two flat mounds of ballast. Her smile is as wide and as charming as the Cheshire Cat’s.
The polite little girl behind the till seems unphased.
– Witchcraft would be in the lifestyle section, up on the second floor.
– Go and get it for me, there’s a dear.
– We have a lift just over there if you’d like to go and choose one yourself?
– Go on duck, I’m whacked out.
– We’ll have a selection. Do you know the name of the one you want?
– The one on head-witchery, she nods.
I finally decide on Crow by Ted Hughes.