Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A Voice Out of History - "Keep Calm and Carry On"

Ever wondered about the origin of this phrase?

Well today I found out and a lot more besides.

This morning I visited Alnwick a little market town up in the North East of England. It's only about fifty miles from home & my husband was going up there for a work trip so I thought I'd go with him. I had visions of browsing around the lovely little place with it's shops which are very different to the usual high street chains while I was waiting for my husband & then sitting in a nice little cafe for lunch. 

The best laid plans as they say, gang aft aglee! The shop my husband was visiting was out of the town so I had to sit in the car & wait for him. On the way back I suggested we stop for coffee somewhere in the town but as usual my husband drove straight on & out of the town. Nowhere to park! However just before we left I suggested we stop when I saw a sign for a bookshop called Barter Books. I thought coffee is usually available in big bookshops & this was a big bookshop!

It was a lovely Victorian railway station & one of the many closed due to the horrendous Beeching railway cuts of 1968. It had been converted into a great bookshop.  Apparently this station was a very grand one for such a little market town because Alnwick was the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland. Posh or what!

I couldn't take photos of the outside because of all the cars parked there but you can see it in the video below. Also I didn't have my camera, just used the camera on my phone which I have very little idea about.

Inside the shop was amazing! Blazing coal fires, masses & masses of bookcases, murals, coffee (30p) & delicious freshly made biscuits (55p), play area with toys, a model railway running around above the bookcases, murals & lots more. My kind of place. I hate those soulless minimalist shops all glass & steel. YUK!

I particularly loved the murals & quotations all over the shop, especially this one about books. Very forward thinking for 1957!

Well back to the Keep Calm & Carry on motto. Apparently an original poster designed during World War 2 & never issued was found here in Barter Books. Take a look at the fantastic shop & the story of the poster here.

Well I never would have found that wonderful shop if we had stopped for coffee in the town. Sadly I was almost dragged out of the shop as soon as I finished my coffee so no time to browse.

However just as we were leaving I got my eye on the most tremendous bargains. Packs of secondhand paperbacks, 6 for £1.20. The one I picked was thrillers;it included books by Val MacDermid, Michael Dibden (fantastic), Ian Rankin, Kathy Reichs, Sue Grafton & Michael Connolly. Crumbs how cheap is that! I can give them to a charity shop too once I've read them.

I have to go back but this time by myself so I can take as long as I like to soak up that place. Just gorgeous!!!!!!

So if you love books & ever find you're in Northumberland, why not take a look! You won't be disappointed.


  1. Thanks for the little history lesson. I knew the phrase originated during the 2nd world war but wasn't aware that the posters never really were distributed. It is all over facebook now with so many variations. Love it.

  2. Sorry you weren't able to stay longer. I have the same problem, once husband does what ever it was he started out to do, forget any thing else. LOL I guess that's one reason I don't care to shop with him. So my one daughter and I go shopping together, we both like to look and etc. Husband likes to pick up item he went for then he's ready to leave. I think most men are all alike. Plan a day trip, leave early and enjoy yourself, shame you don't have a friend to go along that also likes to take the time to look around and shop.

  3. I would have loved going there with you. I read a lot of English authors from the past.
    With my dear husband some times I have to "Keep calm and carry on" LOL

  4. I had to go to eBay and see if these posters were available. Reproductions are sold there for between 5 & 10 dollars. I believe this is something I should own to hang in my home office as a message to my children and grandchildren.

    That has to be a joy to sit in the bookstore even for a short while. It would have been difficult for me to leave as well.

  5. Thanks for your comments. Yes it would have been great to meet up with you all there for a browse & a natter! It would have been hard to leave!

  6. What a wonderful looking place, full of character. Good find Winifred.

    Happy Christmas to you and yours!

  7. Sounds and looks like you've had a great time xx Happy Christmas xx

  8. I enjoyed reading your blog and now I understand the phrase! Happy New Year Winifred!

  9. wow, love this post and the photos - looks like a beautiful place to hang out!! I use to love finding bookstores - and realize with the internet I rarely go to a bookstore anymore.

  10. Right, that's Northumberland on my must-visit list! What a fabulous bookshop.
    And that is an amazingly forward thinking quotation.

  11. What a great book shop to find Winifred. You will definitely have to go back. Interesting video. Had to smile at the ' nowhere to park' comment. That's standard for us when Alan does not want to stop!

  12. I loved that video, I just recently bought a bookmark with "KEEP CALM and CARRY ON" with the crown on the top of it. It is red with white lettering. I was browsing through Barnes and Noble bookstore and noticed it. Since I collect bookmarks I bought it. It is nice to know the history behind it. Thanks for the visit today on my reading blog. I look forward to reading your reviews of the six books you bought at the bookstore.

  13. I especially wonder about the phrases I hear over here in the U.S. and when ever I use a phrase my husband looks at me quizzically and wonders where my phrases come from...one i can think of is "And Bobs your Uncle!" LOL


I'd love to hear from you:

A Sewing Machine Update

A little while ago I posted  Here  that I had bought a little vintage sewing machine on eBay from a hospice.  It was sewing a straight...