This’ll be a relatively quick post – partly because I’m all tuckered out after a busy weekend but also because the last episode of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell will be on the telly shortly! Priorities and all that.
So – as the title of this post suggests – I spent yesterday in London with my best friend B. We’d been planning a bookish day in the capital for months but it kept getting put off because of work and weddings and money troubles and other such annoyances. We managed to cram a lot in to our trip, including a quick stop at the British Library where we saw Jane Austen’s writing desk, a Shakespeare First Folio and the original manuscripts of Jane Eyre and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (amongst others). We also went to the Dickens Museum, which is a short walk away. It’s housed in Dickens’ former home on Doughty Street, where he lived for two years early in his career while he was working on Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby. I was particularly interested to see his enormous writing desk and a panel of bars from the Marshalsea Prison, where his father was imprisoned for debt and where he set some of the scenes in Little Dorrit. I don’t remember either of these items from last time I was there (admittedly that was over ten years ago) and I was struck by how much more modern and interactive the museum felt this time. I would have liked to have stayed longer but we had a more important task at hand: book shopping!
Our plan was to head to Leicester Square so we could explore some of the second hand shops that are rather neatly clustered around Charing Cross Road. I’d set myself a decent budget of £40 and made a mental list of books to look for so I was feeling pretty optimistic. We did make it to quite a few of the shops we’d identified, including the teeny tiny Marchpane, which specialises in rare children’s books. It had two whole bays of shelving devoted just to copies of Alice In Wonderland. Sadly the actual purchasing part of the trip wasn’t overly successful, mainly because I’d forgotten how much I hate the West End. I’m rubbish in crowds and not only was it rammed with tourists but it was also on the route of the Pride rally so it was even busier than usual. It was hot and noisy and hectic. Instead of having a relaxed wander round the shops we just got a bit cross and stomped about looking for a pub so we could get a cold drink to cool ourselves down (and failing miserably at that too). In the end I came home with just two new books – both from the great Henry Pordes – having spent just £6 in total. It was a bit disappointing but at least I’ve learned a lesson about book shopping in tourist hotspots on a Saturday in the summer during Pride.
This leaves the new books purchased/received in June looking like this:
The Suspicions Of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (already blogged here)
Coraline & Other Stories by Neil Gaiman
1215: The Year Of Magna Carta by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham
Latin Grammar by E. C. Marchant & G. Watson
Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
This isn’t a bad haul so I shouldn’t really complain too much about my failure to buy heaps of books yesterday. It wasn’t that long ago that I was complaining about not having enough room to store them all!