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Photography: A Swebeck 2019; Website: Toby Warden

The Blues Point Bookshop’s COVID Journey













Australians have been very quick to respond to a comment made by Ita Buttrose regarding “Hugging” and I was delighted to see a wonderful response from Charles Purcell.


As the owner of the Blues Point Bookshop, I have been asked by almost everyone entering the bookshop, “How is it going?” and on reflection, since reopening the Bookshop, I have found myself on the most extraordinary journey. It was with great surprise and sadness that the abuse I received related to the bookshop’s Covid-19 safety measures in the bookshop were constant, in a demographic of primarily older residents. The younger customers are totally understanding and delighted to be able to go into a bookshop and turn over a book to read the storyline and decide on a purchase. On the downside has been the restrictions I have had to place on young children. No longer can Peter Rabbit or the Hungry Caterpillar be taken out of the bookshop to be photographed with a newborn or a youngster who loves the related books. No longer can I witness a young child sitting on the couch in the children’s section reading Thomas The Tank Engine or Bluey. Gift wrapping, helping to choose a sympathy card, isolating deliveries for 24 hours, making sure anybody entering the bookshop wears the disposable gloves, wiping down counters after customers, washing vestibules entrances, the list is never-ending. And one thing greatly missed is the moment when sadness or joy results in a hug.


I so remember my maternal Grandmother, white hair, blue-eyed, and nudging 5ft, with our Sunday visits, when on arrival there was always a wonderful hug (and a cherry ripe). I also remember my Dad, a quiet, rather shy gentleman, who was a great observer of life. The goodnight hug so special as part of my day. It was inevitable that I would become a “hugger” and to this very day know that I, like so many are missing this very special human connection.


As anxiety touches all our lives, we all have that moment of doubt of where we are heading, and we all miss that special moment when given or giving a hug. The hug comeback is inevitable, so let us just hope the hug returns sooner rather than later.

So, as Charles Purcell said in his article, Sorry Ita, we all need a good hug, not just Millennials.


Helen Baxter

Charles Purcell, "Sorry Ita, we all need a good hug, not just Millenials", The Sydney Morning Herald, July 23, 2020. 

I was surprised when an email arrived telling me it was Hug Week. Its timing seemed off: hugging friends and colleagues was verboten in this touch-averse, COVID-19 world. And besides, wasn't National Hugging Day officially on January 21 this year, a more innocent time when we greeted people with open arms rather than extended elbows?

Still, the missive from e-card company made me pause. COVID-19 has done more than ravage the world economy and create budgetary deficits. It has also created a more intimate deficit. A deficit of human connection. A deficit of touch. And, yes, a deficit of hugging. 

Sometimes we dismiss the idea of a hug as trivial, a childish gesture that belongs on a greeting card along with a picture of a teddy bear. This week Ita Buttrose told the Australia-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce that it seemed younger workers lacked resilience and "almost need hugging".

Yet we all secretly crave that connection. Hugs have been called the "universal medicine". Studies have shown that hugging can raise one's levels of the feelgood hormone oxytocin, which can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones and make us feel bonded with others. Even a 20-second hug with friends or partners can deliver benefits.t

COVID-19 has deprived us of other, larger-scale forms of "hugging". What is a live music concert if not one giant aural hug we share with others? Sport is a celebration of our closeness and connection, with the odd joyous hug shared for the winning goal or wicket. It just isn't the same when we're not there in person sharing the experience. Nor is "quarantini hour" or a coffee shared over Zoom.

The comedian Jimmy Carr once told me laughter is like "remote tickling, [like] the way the great apes groom each other", which makes a comedy show one giant remote tickling and remote grooming session. Streaming can never match that live experience.

I like to imagine that post-COVID I might have a second career as a clothes-on, G-rated "professional cuddler". For 30 minutes at a time I could spoon or be spooned by clients (once again, fully clothed) as we talk or listen to podcasts or audio-books. Then, afterwards, our stores of oxytocin replete, we could enjoy a full standing body hug before saying goodbye (being bear-like, I pride myself on my bear hugs).

Maybe they should commission a special TAFE course for "professional cuddlers", where they teach everything from long hugs and side hugs to the more exotic London Bridge hugs and the "pickpocket" hugs.


Sadly, we might have to wait until next year to properly celebrate Hug Week. Better still, if we ever conquer COVID-19, we can live every week like it's Hug Week.


The Blues Point Bookshop Will Be Back

5th June 2020


At the end of March, I sadly had to close the Blues Point Bookshop doors due to the escalation of the Covid-19 situation. I am delighted to announce that on Friday 5th June 2020 the Blues Point Bookshop will reopen.


However, for the safety of our customers and staff it is vital that the Bookshop will reopen with Health, hygiene and safety measures in place following the strict NSW Government guidelines based on expert health advice. This will include physical distancing, sanitisers, distance marking, all with the aim of keeping the community safe. There will be changes to our hours of trading [click here] and it is my hope that the Blues Point Bookshop will be able to remain open.


So many businesses have struggled for survival with months of no income and in the case of the bookshop the cancellation of 5 major author events. It is my hope that we may be able to bring back the Blues Point Bookshop author event program and we are working closely with our friends at the Kirribilli Club to achieve the start of the program.


It is my hope, that through Community support in the coming months, the Blues Point Bookshop will be able to remain open and return to being an integral part of the Community.

Your support will keep the Blues Point Bookshop open. 




Blues Point Bookshop


“When this is over, may we never again take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbours
A crowded theatre
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine check up
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend
The stadium roaring
Each deep breath
A boring Tuesday
Life itself
When this ends
May we find
That we have become
More like the people
We wanted to be
We were called to be
We hoped to be
And may we stay
That way – better
For each other
Because of the worst”
(sent to the Blues Point Bookshop by a very special customer)

"THE BLUESPOINT BOOKSHOP WILL BE BACK" was the sign I placed on the front door of the Blues Point Bookshop Wednesday 25th March 2020 advising that the Bookshop would be closing and very sad that the doors would be closed when the Bookshop turned 25 on April 1st 2020.

I felt the tears in the corner of my eyes as I left, not being able to tell my customers when I would be back and open the doors of the teeny tiny Bookshop in McMahons Point.

In my message last week, I spoke of weathering storms on so many fronts but never could I, could all of us, ever have for seen that such a horror on a worldwide scale would impact on every facet of our lives.

The Bookshop became its own story and on many occasions the suggestion has been made that, that story be written! For me as the owner I am so lucky because I have shared so many of your stories and it has been an honour to have been invited into your lives. An absolute delight for me has been when a young adult walks into the bookshop and with a sigh and a huge smile tells me they grew up in the children’s section, they were part of every one of the Harry Potter bookshop events, they still have their copies of Alex Rider and Cherub series, their first Wimpy Kid and Treehouse series. They delight in seeing the Thomas Tank Engine and Mr Men/Little Miss stands are still in store and of course their favourite reading couch with the “Noddy pillow". And then they introduce me to their new baby and so another generation continues their Blues Point Bookshop journey [and the grandparents have kept for the new parents copies of the Hungry Caterpillar and The Green sheep].

Almost every day the comment is passed that the Blues Point Bookshop is just like “Notting Hill” or “You’ve Got Mail” the two very loved bookshop movies. And my response is, well Tom Hanks and Hugh Grant are always welcome.

I could never have imagined that when I opened the doors of the bookshop that I would travel this extraordinary journey and have so many people be part of the journey.

The publishers have been so supportive of the Blues Point Bookshop and I am so grateful to the 250 fabulous Authors who have been such an important and exciting delight to work with and share their stories and time with my customers.

So many in the industry and so many of my customers from all over the globe have been sending wonderful messages of hope and support with the news of the bookshop closing and whilst we had celebrations planned they are all postponed but The Blues Point Bookshop will be back and we will celebrate and hope that you will join in the 25th Year of Blues Point Bookshop.

The Blues Point Bookshop will be back.
Stay in touch through our Instagram and website.
Stay safe stay well,
Helen Baxter


A Message from the Blues Point Bookshop
McMahons Point

I am sending this message to all my many loyal Bluespoint Bookshop customers, recognising that some of you will, as small business owners be in a similar situation to the Bluespoint Bookshop.

At the time of writing this email the bookshop is OPEN and I would like to assure you that the wellbeing and health of our customers is always a priority. Given the Government directive related to gatherings of more than 100 / 500 I have had to suspend The Bluespoint Bookshop Book 2020 event program until such time as restrictions are removed. However through our digital bookshop platforms we will highlight new releases and great read recommendations.

In the Bluespoint Bookshop Instagram on Saturday 14th March we advised, for those people who are self-isolated, we are offering to post or deliver free of charge (depending on location). You can email orders to or call the bookshop on (02) 9956 7056. If you would like to “walk around the bookshop” visit our website

On a personal note : many will be aware that I started my very small Independent bookshop 24 years ago and at midday on the 1st April 2020 the bookshop will commence its 25th year. The bookshop has weathered many a “storm” from weakened economies, the constant digital age threat, the multi-national online operators, rising rents and landlord pressures. Pride often gets in our way of saying how hard it is running a small business because we thrive on offering a personalised customer service, we read ours books and our recommendations are made with our customers in mind…

The Bluespoint Bookshop, as many know, has become an icon and the heart of the McMahons Point Community. Children have grown up in the bookshop, a baby born, a wedding proposal made, children story telling on the couch, major book event launches, Governor Generals, Prime Ministers, wonderful authors and celebrities from music, arts, stage and movie organisations have been part of the bookshop helping to create its character since the doors were opened. We have laughed and cried with our customers own stories. An Independent Bookshop in a community has always been a place of inspiration and even more so in the uncertain environment we are in right now… great books and stories of adversity overcome to help with anxiety and isolation, children’s books, classics that bring back memories and nail biting thrillers. We thrive on being word smiths and indeed would prefer to see physical distancing rather than social distancing because social connection at this time is so important.

McMahons Point is a village and a great community and we are now under threat… the book shop ,the gift shop, the florist, the grocer, the Post Office, the Chemist, Piatos (a favourite local meeting place) and the Bluespoint Pub… We do not know from day to day if we will be able to keep our doors open and we all want this community to survive, most of us are tenants and sole traders and if directed to close we will not be able to continue to pay rent without income.

There is a solution to save the community and it is to ask the Government to speak with the Insurance Companies and look at extensions of Landlord tax exemption related to nil income… We all want to stay in McMahons Point and see the village come back to life and not become an empty row of shops…

If directed by government under the stimulus banner the nation would see a glimmer of hope for their local communities, an essential ingredient to improving the frenzied anxiety of the nation…

Help us to save our village by speaking out on the importance of McMahons Point.

And remember Shop Local!

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you in the Bluespoint Bookshop.

Helen Baxter
Owner Bluespoint Bookshop

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