"By setting up on a canal boat, we hope to promote a less hurried and harried lifestyle of idle pleasures, cups of tea, conversation, culture..."
July 18, 2011 4:35 AM   Subscribe

In the U.K., sometimes the bookstore comes to you— on a barge. The Book Barge: a floating bookshop on a canal boat (57' Cruiser Stern) in Lichfield, Staffordshire. [The Guardian]
posted by Fizz (23 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Forgot to link to the Book Barge itself. Also: Photos.
posted by Fizz at 4:39 AM on July 18, 2011

Apparently moored up on the canal by the Guardian offices right now.
posted by Hogshead at 4:59 AM on July 18, 2011

This was mentioned last week in this thread.

Still very cool, though.
posted by Kitteh at 5:23 AM on July 18, 2011

There's an interview with Sarah Henshaw, the proprietor, in the latest Guardian Books Podcast.
posted by Kattullus at 5:26 AM on July 18, 2011

In Soviet Russia, bookstore come to you!

No, wait moment.
posted by dracomarca at 6:08 AM on July 18, 2011

What have Bernard, Manny, and Fran gotten themselves into this time?
posted by Rhomboid at 6:15 AM on July 18, 2011 [4 favorites]

This is my idea of bliss.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 6:25 AM on July 18, 2011

I saw it on the Camden canal last week and thought it looked amazing! Now that it's made it to Metafilter, it's a must visit.
posted by snoogles at 6:34 AM on July 18, 2011

I walked past this yesterday morning on Regents Canal but alas it wasn't open that early. A very alluring concept.
posted by ninebelow at 6:43 AM on July 18, 2011

(eyes nearby Gowanus Canal)

I think I've found my new retirement plan.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:07 AM on July 18, 2011

I would like to see this. I like the fact that they do barter too. But I think it is not a barge but a narrowboat.
posted by paduasoy at 7:13 AM on July 18, 2011

Is this anything like a party barge? Cuz nothing stops a party barge.
posted by orme at 7:38 AM on July 18, 2011

Are the narrowboats and the inland waterways more of a posh thing, an off-the-grid thing, a touristy thing, or something sui generis? Either way, they're one of my fondest memories of Oxford.
posted by whuppy at 7:42 AM on July 18, 2011

I just came here to say that Lichfield is my home town!

whuppy - more of an off the grid thing. Lichfield is somewhat of a canal boat hub in Staffordshire.
posted by arcticseal at 7:45 AM on July 18, 2011

My town has a trade barge too! But it's an ice cream va... uh barge.
posted by ACair at 7:52 AM on July 18, 2011

Thanks, articseal!

/me rethinks the cabin-in-the-woods plan.
posted by whuppy at 7:58 AM on July 18, 2011

Thanks for the tip; I went to visit this in my lunch hour today. Shades of Penelope Fitzgerald (Offshore crossed with The Bookshop); it's a lovely concept, though I think they need to build up a more eclectic stock, more quirky stuff from small independent publishers, to differentiate themselves from the average high-street bookshop. They already have a nice selection of Peirene Press titles, which is a step in the right direction.
posted by verstegan at 8:17 AM on July 18, 2011

It would be awesome to visit/work the reference desk on a library barge.
posted by John Farrier at 8:55 AM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I believe that this strange barge sails on canals of ink, and books grow and rot fungus-like from her very beams. Thus the stock of so-called literature accretes from the watery muck of England's river-roads. The musty pong thereof alerts the verbophagous to the barge's swan-gliding presence; and hungrily they funnel aboard at each dock to chew on words. Would that the Admiralty canon-blast the sides of this barge of dank vice and force the rat-like infestation of booklovers to squeal with unholy panic and drown unto their very death - that'll teach them for not stocking my self-published autobiography, the quidnunc kid: love and laughter at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants 1973-1982, in sixteen volumes. PHILISTINES.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:17 AM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sounds pretty cool.
posted by Loki's Thunder at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2011

Are the narrowboats and the inland waterways more of a posh thing, an off-the-grid thing, a touristy thing, or something sui generis? Either way, they're one of my fondest memories of Oxford.

It's a mixture. I have a handful of friends who live on boats in London and was seriously planning to move into one at the end of this year, before being offered a job a long way from the canals.

The people I know are mostly there (i.e. in marinas in or near London) because mortgaging a boat plus associated fees (British Waterways license, mooring fees, electricity and gas) doesn't cost all that much more than renting a decent flat in London. And at the end of a few years, you own a boat! Paying for a "residential mooring" puts you firmly on-grid, getting you a postal address, making you eligable for council tax, etc. You're supposed to do this if you keep your boat at the same mooring for more than a few weeks at a time and spend more than 4 nights a week living there.

A fair proportion (I'd guess upwards of half) of the boats in the marina that I'm familiar with are treated like holiday cottages: some are lived in a few days a week, or a few weeks a year. Or they're rented out as static or mobile holiday destinations. Because they're not someone's primary residence, these get a different classification of license (Ironically, called pied a terre morring) which keeps you more off-grid: no postal address, no council tax, etc.

This weekend I met someone who was there more for the "off-grid" aspect. She wanted the option of a quiet life, so she chose "continuous cruising": constantly roaming around the waterways, stopping off here and there for up to a couple of weeks before moving on somewhere else. This way you avoid paying mooring fees and get to explore whenever your feet start itching, but certain logistical issues (postal address being a big one) become challenging and some people need more stability in their lives than that provides.

Then there are families and communities who've been on boats for many years or possibly generations. I'm not sure whether they're travellers, gypsies or another group and I don't know much about them, but there is definitely a well-established subculture living long-term on the waterways. I've no idea whether they're a continuation of the families that ran working boats up and down the canals when they were the main arteries of industry, or if those have been supplanted by much more recent groups. I'd love to know, if anyone can tell me.
posted by metaBugs at 10:35 AM on July 18, 2011 [6 favorites]

Really, anything that keeps bookselling alive is a good thing. Every bookstore that closes is a minor tragedy.
posted by theora55 at 11:36 AM on July 18, 2011

with the state of the book selling industry, i wouldn't be surprised to hear their finances are underwater.
posted by mulligan at 2:35 PM on July 18, 2011

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