The combination of a dying parent and a heavy workload was a recipe for disaster and when, in the middle of it all, my wife discovered she was pregnant and started to feel really ill, I could have felt overwhelmed by events. However, it was work that saved me. By keeping busy and focusing on opening my new bookshop, I managed to stay sane.
It might seem counter-intuitive to repress grief, but it worked for me. In the short-term, at least.
There was something special about the shop in Worthing. There was an incredibly good morale and even though the age gap between the oldest and youngest member of staff was 48 years, it didn't stop us all having a good time at the pub.
When we opened, we had less than a month to prepare for the launch of the sixth Harry Potter novel. We were busy enough just trying to get the shop running smoothly, but a new Harry Potter book was too good an opportunity to miss, as a successful launch would really put our shop on the map.
I say 'our shop' because I think everyone felt a sense of ownership. I certainly did everything I could to encourage that view and it paid dividends. In the four weeks between opening the shop and the publication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, everyone worked at a feverish pace to prepare for the launch. As a result, the evening was a triumph.
If you wonder why I'm writing about something that happened four years ago, it's because I've just discovered how to convert the video I made of the launch into a format that can be uploaded to YouTube.
I hope this film captures something of the fun we had at Ottakar's. One of the booksellers used to be a drama teacher and was in his element as the master of ceremonies. I'm not a Harry Potter fan, but it would take a heart of stone not to enjoy an evening like this.
If you can't face the full five minutes, jump to 2'30". I came up with a fairly novel solution to the problem of suddenly producing the books at midnight: