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“I have seen the charity shops of Leicester….”

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… and survived to tell the tale!! Well – my feet might be complaining a little… 🙂

Yes, I have been a little quiet here over the last few days as I started off half-term with a flying visit to Northants to visit the Ageing Parents and then on to Leicester to stay with Youngest Child. All three offspring are now based in the city so at least I only have to travel to one place to see them all!

I had something of a book crisis before setting off, starting several books and then abandoning them, before settling on taking “The North” by Paul Morley with me. I’ve had this for ages and I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet, so it seemed ideal train reading.

One of the nicest things about travelling by train is the time for reading, and there was an added bonus on this journey as I was going via London St. Pancras station which has a lovely and recently opened branch of Hatchards. It looked so appealing as I passed by that I felt I must pop in. Although it’s small it’s very perfectly formed with lots of judiciously chosen books on little tables just right for enticing the unwary traveller to part with money – which I did, I confess!

These are the two books in question – the Lem in particular I have heard much about and been keen on tracking down for ages, but haven’t ever come across. I’ve decided I need to actually read a few pages of a book before jumping in and deciding I want to read it – this may help me become more selective! The quick look at the pages of “The Cyberiad” convinced me I should try it, and my eye was also caught by “Flatland” that was sitting next to me. The helpful bookseller assured me her colleague thought it was wonderful and was completely obsessed by it, so I figured I would give it a try!

As for the charity shops of Leicester – well, I’ve banged on about them before, and there are quite a few of them! My favourite is the Loros Charity Bookshop, and over the road from it an Age Concern Bookshop. I found a few treasures at each:

These three were from the Loros: the Fred Vargas because I liked the first of her stories; the Sagan because it’s a lovely old Penguin I don’t have, and the Berlin Alexanderplatz because it will be ideal for German Literature Month! I *could* have picked up many more titles, but I was good!

This lovely came from the Age Concern shop, and I was *so* please to come across it (especially for only £2.50!) I’ve been looking at so many Trollopes in charity shops (that really sounds *wrong*!) and they’re most often old and tatty and nasty. This wasn’t and it’s one I want, so yay! If I’m honest, the rest of the charity shops really didn’t have much to interest me, but that’s probably something of a relief to the bookshelves (though not to my feet, because they’re fairly spread out and take a lot of walking around Leicester to get to…)

Youngest Child and I did pop into the Leicester Waterstones too – and their selection of books didn’t seem quite so adventurous as my local branch, despite it being larger, which was a surprise. However, while we were queueing for YC to buy a book, I noticed that they had both types of Books Are My Bag totes hanging on the counter, so I suggested YC ask for one of the Tracey Emin ones. Bizarrely, the lady behind the counter began to look for a price, and so we had to explain to her what they were… She commented that she had been away, but this set me thinking about how BAMB really needs to work together with the bookshops they’re supporting to try to get the promotion to be much more high-profile. Not only do they not publicise the event enough, the bookshops don’t seem to be wanting to push it. Most odd…

However, very sweetly YC gifted me the Emin bag as I didn’t have it – bless her! I had a lovely time visiting the offspring and APs, found some nice bookish treasures and got plenty of reading done on the train – so a nice start to half term! 🙂

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I haven’t forgotten about the giveaway for “On Roads” – in fact, I might well have picked up an extra copy in Leicester so I can give away more than one! – and I’ll be announcing the winners tomorrow – watch this space!

In which “Books are my Bag” reaches Suffolk….

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and a day that starts badly ends up well!

Yes, I have been a tad grumpy lately – mainly because of bad quality second-hand books – and additional grief was caused by the fact that a planned visit to London yesterday to hang around Foyles with J. during Books are my Bag events had to be cancelled owing to OH being a bit poorly.

So I was pleased to find that BAMB was actually going to be celebrated by the local Waterstones branch (although I only heard the night before thanks to an email from Caboodle – nothing was showing up on the BAMB website). I intended to make an early visit in case events started promptly and all the bags went, but things went pear-shaped as we had to make an unintended visit to the local hospital with 92-year old mother-in-law….. Turned out that there was nothing wrong with her and the visit was a false alarm, but I hit town at midday convinced there would be nothing left in Waterstones.

Frankly, if I’m honest, you wouldn’t even know BAMB existed if you looked at the front of the shop. No displays or bags in the window or events or anything. I wandered upstairs to the fiction section and enquired rather feebly about the bags and the guy said “Oh yes!” and opened a plastic bag containing them – apparently I was the *first* person to ask!!

I had a little chat with him and pointed out that a little publicity might help; they didn’t show up as doing anything on the BAMB website and I’d only found out the night before, and that a window display might help (maybe I should be running the branch…) Anyway, what was nice was that, having been given a free bag, I felt inclined to explore the fiction shelves a bit and having dissed the store a few weeks ago, I have to withdraw my comments a little. Despite having moved their fiction into a smaller area, there was actually quite a good selection – particularly of smaller presses which I hadn’t expected. So well done Waterstones, Ipswich for being a little more adventurous with what you stock!

In the end I bought one *brand new* book in honour of the day – to add to the few second-hand volumes I’d found – and this is what came home with me:

The infamous bag – not a Tracy Emin one, but I don’t mind that at all! Plus the new book I bought which is this:

My first Pereine Press book – yes, Waterstones really *do* stock some of the good smaller presses! “Chasing the King of Hearts” chimes in with the kind of stuff I’m reading at the moment, so it was the obvious choice.

As for some of the second-hand bargains, these first two came from the local library old stock shelves, for 40p each:

I’ve picked up a number of decent books this way, and often in better condition than some of the second-hand books I buy online. And for 40p each! I’m determined to read Trollope soon and have heard good things about this. As for Francis Wyndham, I know I’ve read about him on a blog but I can’t remember where. But I will give his short stories a go!

And finally some charity shop finds:

This was from the Oxfam – again I’ve read about Claudel online (I think on Beauty is a Sleeping Cat) and it sounded intriguing. And last but not least from the Crack On charity shop:

I’d never heard of it but the blurb says it’s a mix of travelogue and family history and I’m intrigued enough to risk 75p on it!

So not a bad day in the end – not the one I had planned, but nevertheless with some lovely bookishness. How did you celebrate Books are my Bag? 🙂

Books are my Bag – An impromtu trip to London!

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As any reader of book blogs has probably picked up, Saturday was designated as “Books are my Bag” day, to promote the buying of real books in real bookshops. Alas, it appeared that nowhere in my locality was celebrating this fact, so I wasn’t too sad when I found out I had to pay a flying visit to London that day!

Unfortunately, I was on quite a tight schedule which meant I ended up with two hours to get round any shops I wanted to visit before ending up dealing with the errand I went on. So I had to plan carefully, and in the end plumped for Foyles, and a few locations round Charing Cross Road.

So I hit Foyles first thing, and was pleased to see balloons and displays celebrating the event. The new modernised shop is a lovely thing to behold, and I could have spent a lot longer browsing than I actually did. In the end, I decided to treat myself to a couple of *brand new* books – not something I often do as I tend to go for second-hand owing to cost and availability. But after a lot of brain bashing and changing my mind, I eventually chose these two books:

foyles“Hotel Savoy” by Joseph Roth is a lovely Hesperus volume I’ve been eyeing up for a while and I finally succumbed. Since I love European literature so much, this should be right up my street. “After Midnight” is written by Irmgard Keun, who was Roth’s lover, and the book is set during the rise of Hitler. This is a lovely Neversink book from Melville Press about whom I know absolutely nothing – but it was translated by Anthea Bell who’s done such lovely work on Stefan Zweig, so that bodes well!

My next port of call was at the bottom of Charing Cross Road – first to Any Amount of Books where the amount I found was none! This is most odd, but I did better at Henry Pordes where I discovered these three treasures:

PordesThe Meredith is an early Virago and one I’ve been after for some time; the Turgenev is from NYRB and it’s always nice to find them second-hand; and the Nabokov is a lovely Penguin short story collection with a Tamara de Lempicka on the cover – ’nuff said! Lovely finds all, and I’m particularly pleased with the Turgenev, as this is a Constance Garnett translation. She’s very much maligned by later translators, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever read one of her versions, so I’m interested to see how it compares.

Finally, I trotted off to the Oxfam bookshop near the British Museum and scored a couple of lovely Viragos:

oxfamI’ve been on a little bit of a Rebecca West kick recently, so “Harriet Hume” was a delightful find as it seems to be hard to track down online in the green version (I’ve seen several black cover American ones). And the Ivy Compton-Burnett cover alone makes it worth buying (I indulged in a Virginia Woolf bookmark too).

So all in all, it was a lovely book buying interlude. I always love to visit Charing Cross Road, though nowadays this does bring a certain melancholy. Currently the top end is being torn apart for the Tottenham Court Road tube upgrade, and so many of the little old buildings and shops that gave the place character have disappeared. In the 1980s I would meet friends for book shopping trips and we’d pop into strange little cafes in side streets for lunch, explore the many bookshops the street had to offer and have a wonderful time. Alas, now there are a handful of shops and I found it depressing to see that Borders has now become a TK Maxx and that the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street is now a Primark. At least there are still some bookshops to fight the cause and I’m glad I supported them at the weekend.

Another potential point of melancholy is the Underground itself. I’ve always loved travelling by Tube and feel it’s kind of a link with the past. So many of the stations are old, with tiling going back decades, mid-century design and the feeling that you are walking where Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot did! Tottenham Court Road station itself is a mess, and I imagine the old, quirky charming parts will be thoroughly modernised soon. I snapped a lovely mosaic halfway up the Oxford Street exit:

Who knows how long it will stay there? But the Tube still holds delights  – while travelling through West Acton overground section, I spotted this lovely 1930s style curvy waiting room – gorgeous!

west acton tubeLet’s hope lots of the older style bits of the Tube are allowed to survive!

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