Very sad news. Richard Webster has died, aged only 60. People who have come to the shop since we started three years ago will remember him well - he worked here for a year or so. I met him soon after I opened because he came in and introduced himself and said that he had thought of opening a bookshop in Woodstock after he stopped running the Southwold Bookshop and moved to Oxford. He hadn't quite got round to it and was rather relieved that I had done it instead, so he could continue to write while coming in to the Woodstock Bookshop and enjoying a stint as a bookseller whenever I went away. He used to call it living vicariously.
He was hugely supportive and I will miss him enormously. Not that he was uncritical. 'Rachel,' he said, shortly after we first met. 'Coming into your bookshop is like trying to read the front page of The Times without any headlines. Have you thought about putting up some labels?' It was great to have someone who believed in me but would also challenge me. 'I see you've been busy again,' he would note, as he came in to the shop after a week or two's absence. Which meant too much stock. 'A bookshop is like a river,' he would explain. 'You need the banks to hold it steady, the occasional big boulder to keep things together (such as the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations or the complete works of Shakespeare) - but the centre should flow freely.' I look around now and see too many books face out hiding other books (Richard would go round whenever he was here making little piles of authors with only the top book face out) and vow to do a clear-out in his memory.
He did his best to promote the shop and to keep me on the right path. He was the one who helped me put together this website and he read it regularly, always emailing me immediately he spotted a spelling mistake or error. He would bring friends in on quiet Sunday afternoons. He made sure the shop opened through a winter of snow, driving in from Hayfield Road whenever I got stuck in Dean and ringing me with reports of weather conditions in Woodstock. He made sticky labels for me because he thought the shop needed them. He was always there, on the end of the phone, for IT crises or to share gossip about the book trade. And we sold a lot of his lovely cards, too. He had been writing a book on Disgust - I wonder how much had been completed at his death.