… in which I (mostly) resist the bookshops of Leicester! :D


Those of you who follow me on social media might have picked up that I’ve been off on my annual tour (ahem!) round the East Midlands, visiting the Aged Parent and the Offspring in their various locations. I *do* look forward to this modest journey because:

a. it’s nice to get away

b. I like to travel on trains…

c. you can read a lot on trains!

(It *is* nice to see family, too!) So I left Mr. Kaggsy holding the fort, and scheduled a lot of posts and set off. I had a bit of a quandary about what chunkster to take along to read en route, and in fact I ended up taking this:

Victor Serge is an author I’ve covered many times on the Ramblings; I love his writing, and his life is as fascinating as his books. His Notebooks have been released by New York Review Books, and the book was the perfect companion to my travels. As you can see, there is a positive *forest* of post-its – sign of a book which is going to make you think and stay with you, which this one definitely is. I am still reading and will share some thoughts eventually…

So, normally on my visits I end up buying *lots* of new books, but I was amazed to return from my travels with only *two* new volumes!! These are they:

Chagall and Berger

The  Chagall caught my eye as I whizzed into Hatchards at St. Pancras whilst on my way to a rail connection; it was about his life in exile and I kind of felt it chimed in with the Serge. Plus it’s a pretty new Penguin Modern Classic – I do like their current colour scheme! The only other book I picked up was from the one second hand shop in the centre of Leicester (nothing from the charity shops!!) It’s an old Pelican edition of some selected essays and articles by John Berger which I’d never come across before, and it was Not Cheap. However, a glance at the contents was enough to persuade me:

Berger contents

I don’t know if you can make it out from my rubbish photo, but there is an essay about Victor Serge! Berger on Serge – oh my! Not to be resisted! I still can’t believe that I only came home with these two new books; as Youngest Child reminded us, Middle Child had to lend me a suitcase on one visit as I had so many finds to transport home. Maybe I’m just becoming more selective…

Whilst in Leicester, we paid a little visit to the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery. I always like to pop in when I’m in the city, as it has a nice collection of German Expressionists as well as some dinosaurs and Egyptians. The current exhibition turned out to be an unexpected pleasure, as when we arrived we discovered there was a show dedicated to the artists who were behind the wonderful images in Ladybird Books!

The exhibition was a real treat. There were sections dedicated to the main artists involved, with original artwork, Ladybird books and covers, as well as examples of other uses of each artist’s artwork. I grew up reading these books, as did the Offspring (we may still have some in the house…); so it was absolutely fascinating to see the stories of the art behind them. I’m particularly fond of the 1950s and 1960s artwork (I love that mid-century modern feel); and it was wonderful to see some large and lovely artworks from that era.

I took a few snaps of images that particularly caught my eye:

Harlech Castle – we used to holiday in North Wales and have visited the castle!

John Bull magazine from 1951 featuring the Festival of Britain – with which I have a bit of an obsession…

An extra fun element was the fact that as well as a wall display made up of a positive mosaic of Ladybird books, there was a pile in the middle of the exhibition that you could pick up and browse through. In fact, the exhibition was very child-friendly, with places where you could draw as well as reading nooks designed for children (and into which 24-year-old Youngest Child had to crawl… you can’t take them anywhere…)

A beautiful old typewriter on display – I learned to touch-type on one of these!! 😮

It was a really fascinating exhibition, and in fact the whole gallery/museum was a lovely place to wander through. On my way out, I spotted another resonance with my current reading:

John Berger quote

The gallery has a quote from John Berger on one of the walls – so they get a thumbs up from me!

As well as visiting the New Walk Museum, we also popped to the National Space Centre (there’s a family connection – don’t ask….) I’d never actually been inside before, but Eldest Child had visited with my late dad back in the day. It was actually a really interesting place to go, as I do like hearing about space travel, and there was an interesting show in the Planetarium. I also got very silly-excited about seeing this:

Need I say more? No.

Apart from all this gadding about, there was of course the chance to explore new to me purveyors of vegan food, and a favourite was the Prana cafe where we had yummy vegan scones:

Middle Child also played host and made me a lovely vegan Sunday breakfast, so I was very spoiled!

And fortunately, because of my good behaviour, I didn’t have a ton of extra luggage to haul back with me on the train, so I was able to relax on the return journey and enjoy the Serge Notebooks – perfect! 😀


I did, however, return home to some lovely bookish post:

The Hugo Charteris is from Mike Walmer, and I’m looking forward to catching up with Charteris, as I did enjoy the first of his I read. The Hess book is part of a new imprint from HarperCollins called HarperVia, and is set in Germany in the early 1960s. It sounds absolutely fascinating, and will be ideal for Women in Translation month if I get to it in time… But first I need to finish Victor’s Notebooks! 😀

Weekend Fun …. plus the odd new book or three….


This most recent weekend was a lovely one for lots of different reasons! Firstly, I went down to London to visit family as my Little Bro got me tickets to see the Manic Street Preachers (one of my fave bands) for my last birthday. Turns out they were supported by Scritti Politti, another favourite, so it was a two-for-one treat! I could rant on for hours about how wonderful the gig was (I hadn’t been to a Manics show since I saw them at the same venue – Brixton Academy – in 2001) – suffice to say they were mega, and I can’t wait for the new album!

Scritti were a joy, too – I loved them back in the day (late 70s/early 80s) and they’ve returned recently so I was able to see them for the first time. A wonderful long support set with all my faves and also some new songs! It was a grand night, as Wallace might say!

(This was last year, but much the same as Saturday night)

The second lovely thing of the weekend was of course seeing family. My Bro and his wife have three young’uns – a nephew and 2 nieces for me – and were very accommodating putting me up for the night despite being afflicted with various lurgies (including Man Flu for Bro who was not well and still came to the gig with me!) Plus the Aged Parents were down visiting also so it was quite a family reunion – and it’s always nice to see that the APs, despite being a little frail, are still enjoying life.

The RFH in 1951 during the Festival

The RFH in 1951 during the Festival

Further fun was spending a lot of Saturday (and some of Sunday) on the South Bank. I’m inordinately fond of the Royal Festival Hall – perhaps because it’s the only thing surviving from the Festival of Britain, with which I have quite an obsession. I could hang around the RFH for hours (and have done over the years) admiring the lovely 1950s architecture, gazing at the wooden panelling and noting the fact that features like the original engraved glass door handles are still in place.

And finally, of course, there was the odd book or two or three or….. Well, I was quite restrained I thought but still brought home a small pile:

stackI was quite pleased at the smallness of the heap. The two Viragos came from the second-hand book market under Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank and were volumes I haven’t come across before.


The Fantomas book was also from the market – I’d love to see the films of this classic crime story as they starred one of my favourite French actors, Jean Marais.


The gorgeous looking NYRB is from Foyles and I confess I was attracted to it by the fact it has Italo Calvino’s name on the front. This is one of the many reasons bookshops are best – browsing in a store will find you treasures like this that you can pick up and discover in a way online shopping will never replicate.


And finally, an oddity. Opposite the Bloomsbury Oxfam is a little bookshop called Bookmarks that I ventured into for the first time on Saturday. It’s mainly left-wing stuff (and I was very tempted by some little pamphlets on Lenin and Trotsky, but reminded myself I have so many books on them already…) However, tucked into their bargain boxes at the front for £1 was this little Penguin book of Imagist Poetry. The book itself was worth picking up, but tucked inside were some sheets of poems by Gerald Manley Hopkins that someone had once typed out and put in the book for safekeeping. I love finding little hints about previous owners of books – another reason I like to give old books a new home!

So – a lovely weekend, all in all. I revisited the RFH on the way home on Sunday to soak up the South Bank ambience and sample the lovely food stalls at the back of the Hall. My feet were very pleased to get home, though….

BUT (and it is a big but!) – today the results of a bit of online madness a week ago arrived…..


Since discovering the ridiculous “is-Roth-or-Zweig-the-best-writer” controversy online, I’ve been keen to read more Zweig and this collection of his essays, translated by Will Stone and published by Hesperus Press, sounds ideal.


And these two lovelies were the result of browsing the Pushkin Press website (Wolf) and giving in to the urge to buy the Transylvanian Trilogy which I’ve been fighting off for ages…

Oh well – for the record, I’m currently reading “Transit” by Anna Seghers and trying to catch up with reviews – I’d better get my skates on really!!

%d bloggers like this: