A Day in the Life: David Brennan

Features

READ ALL ABOUT IT! David Brennan pictured at the family business, Castle Book Shop on Castle Street in Castlebar.

FACTFILE

Name: David Brennan
Age: 38
Lives: Castlebar
Occupation: Bookseller

I’m not voluntarily an early riser … when our daughter Willow is up, I’m up. Usually that’s around 8am so hopefully she’ll be like myself.
Myself, my wife Maura and Willow have breakfast together, usually porridge, fruit and maybe a cup of tea.
Myself and Willow then will go out the door sometime between 9am and 10am and we will meet the postman and collect stuff for our business, Castle Book Shop, and I’ll drop it to the shop and then bring Willow to the childminder.
Then the odd time we might get waylaid and Willow will get me to go somewhere in Castlebar for a bun. We might meet my mother or my sister for a coffee so that will delay the working day. I’ve made the conscious decision to be mindful of Willow’s age and to enjoy this phase. Willow is three in September and there’s such a natural affection, it is totally unconditional. You’re a legend no matter what you do!
We’re open from 9.30am to 6pm for six days, closed on Sundays. Some mornings I will be there from 9.30am but I am lucky to have good staff and they can open up too.
Lunchtime is probably the busiest time, people running out to get a book on their break but the flow of customers is quite constant.
We closed in March 2020 for nine weeks with the first lockdown. Our website Mayobooks.ie kept us alive then. Being closed gave me the perspective and time to work hard at the website and promote it. We’re busier than ever online.
We had the website up and running for about ten years, well ahead of Covid so we had a head start.
I set it up after I had returned home from France. I was there for a year cycling competitively and had spent nearly three months in the USA before that.
It was heavy going but a great experience. I struggled in some races and did well in others.
We have a lot of regulars. Castlebar is not a massive tourist town so we don’t have that kind of trade but the regular trade we have it a good trade because it is consistent.
We’d have the school trade then as well and we were able to stay open in the mini lockdown in November because of that. Indeed, we could have stayed open in January and February on the basis of having office supplies but we made the call it wasn’t the right thing to do, so we reopened again in early March.
While we were closed, I set up my own publishing company, Mayo Books Press. It is a real example of a Covid business. We are reissuing Keith Duggan’s ‘House of Pain’ and bringing out Andy Moran’s autobiography which is due out in October.
Over the past year or so we’ve noticed a lot of people asking for Irish made cards and people definitely seem more engaged with buying local and buying Irish.
Local books always go quite well for us. At the risk of naming only one, Seán Lysaght’s ‘Wild Nephin’ went very well. It came out in October 2020 and it really captured the imagination of people in lockdown, it was the perfect book for escapism.
The gift of reading
Because I might be late starting some mornings, I tend to work through lunch, I might just take ten minutes. We close at 6pm and I’ll be here until 6.30pm, maybe 7pm to make sure everything is ready to go with a clean slate the next day.
We will have a family dinner at home six days out of seven and I bring Willow to bed and read her a bedtime story. It’s dictated by her, she’s a big fan of Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol. I’ve tried The Borrowers with her but she’s probably too young. I’ve a lot of things on a reading list for her as she gets older though!
I’ve always felt reading was really important but seeing the development of the imagination of your own child, her being able to read a few words, I can say with more authority how vital it is.
After Willow goes to bed, I’ll have a chat with Maura. She is due in August, we’re delighted and it is important to hang out and relax.
Any training I do will tend to be late, so I might go out around 9pm/9.30pm and do some work on a stationary bike. I might go for a cycle or a race on a Sunday but as I work six days a week, we try to have as much family time on Sundays as possible.

In conversation with Edwin McGreal

Quickfire questions

If money was no object what would you do?
Train and travel. I’d love to be a full-time athlete. Not necessarily cycling, I enjoy surfing, hill climbing, golf.

Something we don’t know about you?
I’m a big Beatles fan and I’m rediscovering it with our daughter Willow now. She loves Yesterday!

Most unusual thing you’ve ever tasted?
Dolphin I’m afraid to say. We were eating in a Spanish speaking restaurant in Florida and they actually did not have English so I wasn’t sure what I had ordered. We worked it out afterwards that it was a poor dolphin.

Favourite place?
Mayo, no question. I absolutely love home.

What makes you angry?
People being unreasonably rude.

Three things always in your fridge?
Yogurt, milk and butter.

What makes you nervous?
If anyone belonging to me is a little bit unwell.

Last book you read?
‘Scots and Catalans – Union and Disunion’ and the latest Ross O’Carroll Kelly book. I usually keep two books on the go, one non-fiction and one fiction and read a chapter or two of each every second night.

Favourite TV show?
The Office (UK). It never gets old.

Most famous person you ever met?
We have hosted quite a few high profile sports people and Irish authors between book launches and events at the Wild Atlantic Words.
Mary Robinson would stand out, she was a very inspiring speaker, she discussed climate change and she made a huge impression on everyone present.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
That idle time to do whatever you want.
Life gets very busy.

Most prized possession?
I’m not into possessions but a few family photo albums would be important.

Best advice you were ever given?
Step away from the day to day in your life as much as you can and use that time to think of new ideas. Give yourself time to look at the big picture.

Three words to describe you?
Will I get away with saying tall, dark and handsome?!

First thing post-Covid…
Have a dinner party in our new home for friends and family. We moved last November but haven’t really had anyone round for a proper visit and certainly no groups. It would be great not to have to be counting households and wearing masks and just have an evening with no restrictions.