News, People

The Last Word – Hazel Springall, Village Books

I bought the bookshop (Village Books in Dulwich Village) with Julian Toland, my now retired business partner 20 years ago. After years of working for Waterstone’s I wanted the chance to run my own shop. I knew little about Dulwich at the time but now I live here and I love it – it’s a wonderful place to bring up a child. I enjoy my job every bit as much as when we first bought the shop – to spend your day talking about great books and meeting some wonderful writers is a privilege, although my favourite part of the job is finding the book that’s going to make a child love books.

How long have you lived here?

16 years

What brought you here?

A baby – When our daughter was born I realised that a baby in Wimbledon and a bookshop in Dulwich was going to cause stresses, so like many families we moved here for the schools

What I value most about the street I live in:

I love the sense of community in our street. We know most of our neighbours – we have regular street parties – and if there’s a problem there’s always someone willing to help –it wouldn’t matter if it was to borrow a cup of sugar, or emergency childcare. And it’s pretty – I love our trees.

The most famous person I’ve seen or met?

There are loads of published writers around here and we’re lucky that a lot of them pop into the bookshop – you can often see Jo Brand or Jenny Éclair browsing the new books. I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones so there’s always a frisson when Ian Glen or Owen Teale pop in. I count it a privilege of my job that I’ve been able to meet JK Rowling and Maya Angelou several times – both incredibly impressive human beings.

Do you belong to any groups?

A book group. It started out with a group of mums from my daughter’s prep school, and even though our children have gone different ways, we still meet regularly. I love it – reading books that someone else has chosen opens your mind.

Where are you likely to be found on a Saturday?

As a bookseller I’m often at work on a Saturday, so a day off is a real treat and my favourite way to spend it would be brunch with my husband in The Blue Mountain Café, with lots of coffee, and The Times cryptic crossword. In a perfect world we’d be able to complete it!

What is your favourite place to eat?

Chez Bruce on Bellevue Road by Wandsworth Common would be my first choice for dinner out. The food is terrific and the service impeccable. We used to have a shop very nearby – when we opened at midnight for the last Harry Potter book coming out, they brought chocolate truffles for our booksellers. Bruce Poole’s cookbook is one of my favourites.

Coffee or tea?

Tea at home before 7am then coffee out if I can. Romeo Jones in the village is where I meet friends and if I’m feeling indulgent I’d have their delicious lemon and rosemary cake.

The best meal I’ve ever had:

Was a pain au raisins for breakfast. We’d been staying in a swanky hotel in France where dinner was overly formal. We escaped very early the next morning, drove to the nearby village and bought pastries from the bakery, still warm from the oven. We sat in the square watching the locals arrive while we ate. It’s still the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.

Where’s your favourite place to walk

Ideally a beach but they’re in short supply in Dulwich! I’ve a spaniel who is in spaniel heaven when we walk in Dulwich Woods.

When I want to relax:

It’s a bit predictable but I’d cosy up somewhere with a good book – no matter where – sofa, garden, coffee shop, train (missed my stop loads of times…)

My favourite shop:

Can I have two? – they are the same family. The Cheese Block and SMBS foods on Lordship Lane. I like to cook, and we do loads of demos in the bookshop events programme. Anytime we need to source a slightly unusual ingredient, SMBS comes up trumps. How they fit it all in I don’t know, it’s an Aladdin’s cave. And the Cheese Block is just brilliant – a superb selection of cheese, and they are so good at recommending.

The book I’m reading at the moment:

Is Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner. Her debut novel, Missing Presumed was terrific – a completely gripping psychological thriller. We were recommending it enthusiastically in the bookshop all last year. DS Manon Bradshaw is back, and so far this is well up to the standard of Susie’s first novel.

www.village-books.co.uk