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An amble around London – plus, of course, books…! @Foyles @PersephoneBooks @Glagoslav

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I often like to pop up to London near Christmas for a bit of shopping and browsing, so when the lovely Ali from HeavenAli suggested a meet up and a trip to the Persephone Shop, how could I resist? We settled on 1st December as that avoided hideous engineering work issues on the train for me (I’m still recovering from September’s issues) and another lovely friend, Claire from the LibraryThing Virago group, joined us too.

I do enjoy a train journey with a coffee and a book!

I got up to London ridiculously early thanks to having to get a train at silly o’clock to get a cheap fare. So it would have been rude not to pop over to the kikki.k shop in Covent Garden and indulge in a little sale stationery – I do love stationery, and their ridiculously cheap traveller’s notebook refills will fit beautifully in my Webster’s Pages organiser! 😁

Before meeting the others I popped into Any Amount of Books and Henry Pordes on the Charing Cross Road (they seem to be the last bastions of second-hand bookselling there) and might have come away with these…

The Flora Tristan Virago was essential as I have her London Journals but not this one; and the Leopardi intrigued me, although I know little about him.

And then it was onwards to Foyles and meeting up with the lovely ladies! There was a lot of browsing and temptation, but in the end I came away with only three slim volumes (one of which I cannot show here as it’s a Christmas gift!) The Lem was irresistible as was the small poetry collection – I have no willpower…

We lunched in a nearby Nero (which catered for all our dietary needs including my vegan requirements!) and here I developed a bag crisis, when the zip on my new backpack completely died. Memo to self – never trust a Primark backpack… 😡 Fortunately, I had the trusty KBR tote with me, but it’s not so huge, and although I had a paper kikki.k bag I didn’t trust it to last the day out. So it was back to Foyles to follow Ali’s example and purchase one of their lovely and very sturdy tote bags – as you can see it’s substantial and attractive so was the perfect solution!

After the bag drama, we headed off to the Persephone shop (with a dangerous detour to the Bloomsbury Oxfam – I escaped unscathed, although Ali and Claire didn’t!) The Persephone Shop is, of course, always a delight and Lambs Conduit Street looked lovely and festive as we arrived. Ali and Claire had both come with lists; I was being restrained however as I’d put the Persephones I want on Christmas lists, so I didn’t dare buy any books there (which was very difficult!) So I restricted myself to an art card and some endpapers from the books to use in crafty ways!

After shopping, we repaired to a local cafe for coffees and cakes (vegan) and a good old book gossip, which was just lovely, before wending our various ways home.

Very weird-looking vegan pastry that actually tasted yummy!

So a lovely day out in the Big Smoke, with a little shopping, bookishness and good company – the perfect start to December, and thanks for your company, ladies! 😁

*****

Inevitably, however, there have been other bookish arrivals this week….

First up, a couple of images I shared on social media of some absolutely lovely volumes received from Glagoslav, an independent publisher specialising in Russian and Eastern European translated literature – so kind of the perfect publisher for me! I was so happy they reached out to me, and I can’t wait to get reading some of these books!

Additionally, I bagged this one from an online auction site because it sounded absolutely fascinating. I read about it on a page of recommendations on an AHRC site, of all places, and as I come from the North-East originally it was very appealing. It’s actually calling to me from the TBR right now.

And finally, this little lovely arrived as an unexpected treat from Annabel (she’s also one of the editors of the wonderful Shiny New Books). I love to share books around myself, and it’s such a nice treat to also be on the receiving end!

So – more books trickling into the house, but I *have* been getting rid of some! I sent four off to Liz this week, took two up to Ali and will be posting one off to Claire. Plus there’s a big box of donations building up in the hall. Is the ratio going in the right direction? Maybe….  But I still have an awful lot of books that are unread! 😀

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A close-up and personal encounter #FridaKahlo #V&A

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I can’t believe we’re into September already; as usual the summer has flown by and I’m facing the looming spectre of going back to work and wondering what I did with my time! (Well – I read a lot and amassed more books, amongst other things, so not much changes…) Anyway, I *did* manage to have a lovely day out on Saturday when I popped up to London to meet up with my BFF J. to take in a very special exhibition. Mind you, ‘popped’ is the wrong word – as there were hideous rail replacements, which meant I had to do a train-coach-train kind of journey and what normally takes an hour and a quarter took two… It was also fairly unsettling as not only can I not read on a coach, but I managed to forget my phone! I didn’t mind not having social media and the like, but I felt a bit insecure not being able to call anyone in case of problems; and I was also very cross at not being able to take photographs. Oh well…

c. V&A Museum

Anyway, this is the rather wonderful exhibition that J. and I were off to see. It’s a show that’s garnered a lot of media attention, and basically the story is that when Frida died in 1954, Diego Rivera (her husband) ordered all her things locked away. In 2004, 50 years later, they were opened up and clothing, cosmetics, corsets and all sorts of personal effects were found. The exhibition is drawn from these, with the clothes taking centre position, and this is apparently the first time these objects, intimately connected to Frida, have been seen outside of Mexico. Of course, as Frida-lovers, both J. and I were desperate to see the show, but it was impossible to get tickets for 21st July (when we had our early summer meet up) so I suggested 1st September as a treat before I went back to work. I just wish I’d checked the trains beforehand…

Anyway, J. booked us entry at 10 a.m. and so we rocked up at the V&A promptly. It was busy – a lot of people were queuing for the limited tickets left for the day, so I was very glad J. had booked. And the exhibition was worth any amount of (minor) hassle getting there – it was absolutely stunning! The initial sections of the show had photographs, images and videos which gave an outline of Frida’s life, including some marvellous footage which I’ve seen online of Trotsky with Frida and Diego, as well as some family background. We were gently led through to the first of the costumes, in a display case set up to resemble her painting “The Two Fridas” as well as some of her collection of shawls; and then into the first of the main parts of the exhibition, that of her personal effects.

The display cases were constructed in the shape of four-poster bed frames (modelled on Frida’s own, I believe, a bed that was a central part of much of her life). Spread through these were a most touching and moving collection of items: her comb, her sunglasses, her nail varnish, a variety of plaster and leather corsets and casts which helped to support her during her life; and heartbreakingly, the prosthetic she wore after the amputation of part of her polio-damaged leg towards the end of her life. Seeing these small, personal objects – often decorated by Frida herself – really brings you close to the woman herself, and of course with Frida (who constructed her own self image daily) the person and the art are inseparable.

The final room of the exhibition contained the centrepiece – a huge display case full of Frida-type mannequins wearing her outfits. They were, of course, stunning as she had such a personal sense of style. Both J. and I had our own favourites, and again it was moving to consider how she chose her clothes for the practical reason of covering her corsets, supports and wounded leg, and yet insisted on creating such a beautiful personal style for herself. The room (and indeed the whole exhibition) was enhanced by the wonderful photographs on the surrounding wall which showed Frida wearing the outfits and jewellery on display, and the colour ones were particularly striking – have a look at the postcards I bought (above) for example.

Obviously, I can’t recommend this show highly enough; definitely one of the best put together I’ve seen and I came out of it stunned and a bit emotionally drained. In fact, I  have to say that the culture shock of stepping out of what was a  profound and moving experience into the gift shop was quite alarming; the latter was stuffed to the gills with souvenirs that frankly at best were tangential and superficial, and at worst could be seen as exploitative – a paper dressing doll book with a Barbie-shaped Frida with ‘perfect’ limbs actually struck me as a bit offensive. I suppose organisations have to make money to be able to put on exhibitions, but the commodification of tacky fake flower headdresses sat a bit uncomfortably with me. And if I ever decide to channel my inner Frida I hope I would do it by constructing my own personal items and spin on her style. Hey – that’s a cool idea for a back-to-work look….. ;D

Anyway, after a couple of emotional hours in the company of Frida, we felt in need of sustenance and decided to head off in the direction of the British Library. On our previous visit to the area, when we discovered the lovely Judd Books (more of which later), J. remembered seeing several eateries. Unfortunately, we incorrectly remembered Judd Books as being in Judd Street and ended up at the Brunswick Centre… Fortunately, there was an Itsu which came to our rescue with several vegan options (and I was getting a bit desperate as breakfast had been early because of train-coach-train meaning a very prompt start today). And it would have been rude not to visit Skoob as we were in the area (and we eventually rediscovered Judd Books in the parallel Marchmont Street where there are indeed plenty of eateries!) I was priding myself on having a very restrained day, despite the infinite temptations of both bookshops:

The small book is from Skoob and is another Penguin Modern Poets I didn’t have – two in a week must be good! The Anna Akhmatova book was from Judd and was a no-brainer – it’s by Elaine Feinstein, who translates Tsvetaeva so beautifully, and so I really had to pick it up. And restraining yourself in Judd Books is difficult – they have a *lot* of second-hand stock, but also what I imagine is remaindered stock of US books and there were some wonderful temptations. However, I was priding myself on doing so well and turning to leave when I spotted something that I really could *not* leave behind:

This behemoth of a box of books came out in the USA: a beautiful, three hardback set of Primo Levi’s complete works. I coveted it like mad when it was first issued, but couldn’t justify the £100 upward cost plus postage, especially as I have a lot of  his works already (albeit in different translations). But it’s too long since I read him, and I *did* really covet this set. Well – it was in Judd and I had to stare in disbelief, because it was £17.95. Yes really – £17.95!!! J. looked a little disbelieving when she realised the weight, but as I told her this was not negotiable – I wasn’t going home without it. I had come armed with rucksack this time as we were exchanging books (and I ended up carrying more than J. did!) but this wasn’t going to sit comfortably in there, so the trusty and very sturdy KBR tote bag sprang into action and did the job!

*Definitely* the most useful present Middle Child ever gave me, and I certainly don’t think I could have lugged that set of books round London in any other bag!!!

By this time, our endurance was rather coming to an end so we bused back to Foyles via Tiger in Tottenham Court Road for a welcome browse amongst the poetry and tea in the cafe (whilst taking it in turns to hold/guard Primo) – the Foyles cafe is *such* a lovely place. After that we went out separate ways to negotiate the complexities of the journey home (train-coach-train was *not* fun when loaded with books and surrounded by football fans manspreading everywhere). I’m pleased to report that Primo and I arrived home safely (if exhausted and footsore) and OH seemed surprisingly understanding about the reasons why I had to have this particular box of books (although he did express vague concerns about shelves of books falling on us while we sleep….)

I haven’t been able to put many photos in this post because, dammit, I couldn’t take any and I don’t want to pinch anyone else’s. However, if you have a quick search online you’ll find plenty up there which will give you an idea of what’s in this exhibition. It really is stunning, a kind of once in a lifetime chance to see these items, and it’s running until November. If you get a chance to go I urge you to do so – J. and I certainly had a wonderful day out encountering the presence of Frida Kahlo!

So much for good intentions…

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There is a reason I don’t sign up for TBR-only reads or book-buying bans – and that’s amply illustrated by the results of a post-Christmas hop up to London to meet up with my dear friend J… We weren’t able to get together in December owing to a variety of circumstances, and so a plan to hit London in January, taking in bookshops and sales, was hatched. I was vaguely worried that the weather would stymie things, but it behaved for the day and we had a lovely time!

At a pit-stop in Foyles, J presented me with my birthday and Christmas gifts which she’d been reluctant to trust to the postal service, and I can understand why…

beverly-bks-17

What a beautiful selection of Beverley and Beverley-related books she gifted me! “Women…” does have a dustjacket but apparently this has been temporarily mislaid… “Cry Havoc” is very special as you can see:

cry-havoc-sig

As well as being a first edition, it’s also signed, so I am now the proud possessor of three signed Beverleys, thanks to the great kindness of others! A perfect accompaniment to the Foyles Cafe lovely tea. I was quite restrained in the shop itself, only purchasing a birthday present for somebody else – J was not so restrained, but I think she outdid me on the purchasing stakes all day!

crossed-destinies

J also presented me with this copy of Calvino’s “Castle of Crossed Destinies” so I can check if it’s the same as the one I have, and if it is I can pass it on to someone who might be keen to start exploring his work!

The next bookish stop was Any Amount of Books on the Charing Cross Road, one of the last of the old guard. I already had a heavy rucksack so was trying to be a little careful, but I couldn’t resist these:

any-amount-of-bksThe William Maxwell was from the £1 bins outside, and the other two from the paperback shelves. I’ve wanted the Kis title for a long time and I love the cover. The Delafield is a beautiful Virago I don’t have so couldn’t be resisted of course. And I think the nice man at the counter gave me a bit of a discount!

Henry Pordes next door have a lot less paperbacks and Viragos than they used to, though there were a number of tempting titles. However, I resisted more here, and just came out with something I need for a project:

pordes-pmp23I don’t come across the Penguin Modern Poets books that often in second-hand stores, so I do tend to grab them when I see them. I daresay I could chase them down online, but it’s nice to support the actual bookshops.

The Bloomsbury Oxfam was busier than I’d seen it for a long time when we arrived there, and here I had one of the most pleasing finds of the day:

astley-oxam-blms

Having been gifted a beautiful chunky biography of Thea Astley by Trish, my lovely Virago Secret Santa, I’ve been keen to track down some of her fiction. Surprisingly, none of the new bookshops had anything (and we tried Waterstones too). However, this title (one I’d heard of) was nestling on the shelves in the Oxfam just waiting for me!

Final bookish stop of the day was the lovely LRB bookshop, a place I rarely get out of without something and today was no exception:

lrb-berger-debray

The Debray is a title I’ve often mused about and as it was in the 50% off sale I pounced! And the Berger title is one I hadn’t come across before but it sounded fabulous and looks beautiful inside with all sorts of words and illustrations, so I finished the day as I started it – with books!

We *did* do other things apart from bookmania, including taking in the kikki.k shop and Paperchase at Covent Garden, the Cass art shop (where J got quite carried away) plus lunch at Gaby’s deli (yum!) and two visits to the Foyles cafe (the LRB teashop was full and J had developed a passion for the Foyles crushed ginger and lemon tea).

So a perfect day out, and evidence that I can’t stop buying books when the moment is right, and that there’s absolutely no point in trying…

Fun and books in London!

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When Liz (who I also know through LibraryThing) pointed out that although we’d known each other for ages we hadn’t actually met and wasn’t it about time that we did – well, what better excuse did we need to arrange a lovely meet-up in London? Fortunately, some other friends from the LibraryThing Virago group were able to come along too, so in the end there was Liz, Ali, Claire, Luci and I (plus a flying visit from Middle Child who was in London to see a show and was able to catch up with us for a while – which was lovely!)

The day started with a couple of detours: after a hideous wait to top up my Oyster Card at the mainline station (thanks Network Rail for having no ticket offices any more and inadequate machines), I popped through Covent Garden to pay a flying visit to the kikki.k stationery shop – which was very, very beautiful and resulted in a small amount of spending:

kikki-k

Well, I *did* have a 25% off voucher!

Then another flying visit, as I met up briefly with Simon from Stuck-in-a-Book to take a quick look at a very lovely Dufy exhibition in a private gallery – and on the way back to Charing Cross Road to meet the ladies, I may well have stumbled into Waterstones Piccadilly, and this may have happened:

jacobI feel no guilt about this one, as my original copy of “Jacob’s Room” from 35 years ago had such brown, crumbly pages when I took it out the other day that it would have fallen to bits had I attempted to actually read it. And I *do* want to re-read it, so there you are!

We lunched at Gaby’s, a rather wonderful deli at the bottom of Charing Cross Road, and then headed for the bookshops, but only after Liz and Luci had managed to increase my book stash a little:

from-liz

These two were from Liz – “Belinda”, because I’d expressed a keeness to read it and she had finished it; and the Laxness because she thinks it’s a little odd and that somehow I am an expert on odd European books! We shall see! 🙂

from-luci

Lovely Luci always comes to gatherings laden with books to give away or donate. It’s hard to restrain yourself in the face of such generosity, but I was very pleased to have a Nemirovsky I didn’t have, and also a novel by Mavis Gallant, about whom I’ve heard very good things.

The rest of the day was spent happily mooching in bookshops – Any Amount of Books, Henry Pordes (who have dramatically cut down their stock of paperbacks, alas), Bloomsbury Oxfam, LRB Bookshop and then finally onto the Persephone shop as the light was fading – and here we are!

dav

Needless to say, we didn’t get out of the shop without some serious spending – and I would guess it’s a toss-up between Liz and Ali as to who was the winner in the book-buying stakes! Apart from Jacob’s Room I only actually *bought* these:

bought-booksThe Persephone is “The Sack of Bath” by Adam Fergusson; the Duras and the book about Angela Carter were from Any Amount of Books; and the Sitwell from the Bloomsbury Oxfam.

After repairing to a nearby pub for a sit down, a drink and the use of the facilities, it was time to head home. It was a lovely day and a real pleasure to spend it with some wonderful friends – let’s hope it won’t be too long before we can have another bookish day-trip to the capital! 🙂

Let There Be Books!!!!

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So there I was, talking about avoiding amassing more titles and scratching the book itch – and of course, it’s all gone pear-shaped and out of the window! I have to say that I won’t entirely take the blame and here is a little run-down of what’s been arriving recently…

First up, a number of new items which have crept onto the shelves by various means (sandwiched between my two editions of Priestley’s “English Journey”):

shelf
Two of these were unexpected review books from the lovely MacLehose/Quercus Press (“News from Berlin” and “Island Where I Flee”). Both sound intriguing and so I’m looking forward to them, particularly as I don’t read that many new books.

Two of the Canongate titles were a moment of weakness when I saw their wonderful offer on Twitter – 60% off plus a free book. Let’s face it, that’s just too good to resist…. So I chose the Willa Muir and received the very interesting-looking Kate Riophe book – I like bookish surprises!

odile snow

And there were a couple of small volumes I *may* have just ordered a while ago – the last C.P. Snow I need to complete the set of “Strangers and Brothers” (I may even read these next year…); plus a slightly uncharacteristic Raymond Queneau book, “Odile”, which is apparently based on his time with the surrealists.

Then there was London… At the weekend, I had a lovely day out in the Big Smoke, meeting up with my old friend J. for some pre-Christmas shopping and mooching about. We met at Foyles (always a good place to rendezvous, I find!) and I was persuaded to pick up the Modiano and the Machado de Assis. I’d wanted to read Modiano since hearing about him when he won the Nobel, and his works were initially difficult to track down – so I feel no guilt about buying this! Machado de Assis is my current read and this story is highly recommended! The Lermontov came from the Bloomsbury Oxfam and is translated by the Nabokovs, father and son, so I couldn’t resist.

Allan Ramsay Self Portrait : NPG

Allan Ramsay Self Portrait : NPG

After a little visit to the NPG for the Grayson Perry exhibition (and to see my current favourite portrait, Allan Ramsay’s self-portrait, which wasn’t out when I last visited), we took a scenic bus ride in the sun to Chelsea, to have a look at the Anthropologie shop and a little exhibition there. The shop is *gorgeous* and *not cheap* but we enjoyed window shopping! And just off the King’s Road there was another Oxfam wherein lurked “Twilight of the Eastern Gods” – which has been on my wish list for a while, so it would have been rude not to take it home!

ju

Whew! To add to the book count, J. had very kindly brought me birthday gifts, and a Beverley Nichols! In fact, it ended up being two Beverleys, as one was a lovely hardback of “A Case of Human Bondage”, and the birthday Beverley turned out to be a beautiful old hardback of “A Thatched Roof – which J. made me open in the Foyles cafe as she wanted to see my reaction when I saw that it was signed! (Reaction = very, very happy!). The other gift, which I opened yesterday, was a lovely Persephone I don’t have (but am very keen to read) – “The Children Who Lived in a Barn” by Eleanor Graham, complete with bookmark! The contents are a lovely facsimile of the original Puffin edition. So thanks go to J. for the lovely gifts (and we had a fun day out, too!)

sig

The final incoming heap were as a result of my birthday – my friends and family know me well and so there are always bookish gifts!

First up, Eldest Child chose two titles from my wish list:

tea aerodrome

The don’t have much in common except that they piqued my interest!

spectres

“Red Spectres” came from mother-in-law via the wish list – yet another title I’ve been after for a while!

bulg

The Bulgakov title likewise – from my brother, who is happy to simply buy me whatever I ask for! 🙂

tea architecture

Tea and Architecture – not obvious bedfellows, but both interests of mine, so OH (who knows me well) did good here by choosing these two lovelies!

vintage

I have a weakness for vintage crafty stuff too, so this book was an ideal choice by a work colleague:

chox

And last, but definitely not least, OH got his priorities right with a non-bookish gift!

So I have been very blessed and spoiled with books lately – and with Christmas coming too, I think I really will have to have a bit of a January cull…… :s

A Very Virago Day Out!

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There was much bookish excitement at the Ramblings over the weekend, as Saturday saw a lovely trip to London to meet up with some fellow book-lovers! One of the ladies from the Virago Modern Classics LibraryThing group, Laura, was over from America visiting family – so what better excuse for a LT get-together? I must confess this was my first – and I really hope it won’t be my last, as it was such fun!

Of course, apart from the book buying, the nicest part was meeting people in real life that I only knew as names and blogs – including Laura, of course, who was one of my first blog contacts, plus Heavenali and Simon Stuck-in-a-Book. It was great to know we could all chunter on about books in person just as easily as we could online!

As well as a delicious lunch in a wonderful restaurant called The Old Dutch Pancake (yum!), there was of course a little book buying in the various shops we visited – and here are my finds in order of emporium:

Firstly Foyles (I *love* that shop!) – some volumes I’ve been after for a while, including a complete collection of Borges’ fictions – only available complete in an American Penguin edition for some reason? Plus another in the Neversink Llibrary series, this time a Mary McCarthy.

Next, Any Amount of Books, and some bargains! The Aldiss was only £1 from the bargain bin, and the Richardson is an early Virago I’ve never actually got round to acquiring.

After that, Henry Pordes, where Simon kindly (!) pointed me at some Barbara Comyns books. I didn’t have Skin Chairs, but when I got home realised I *did* have  A Touch of Mistletoe – however, the new volume is in much better condition so I don’t really mind!

We all needed lunch and a sit-down after that (well, I know I did!) and luckily The Old Dutch Pancake was on the way to our next port of call – the Bloomsbury Oxfam bookshop:

A couple of small and reasonably priced finds here – including a Kay Boyle Virago I’ve wanted for a while, and a lovely old hardback version of One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes (thanks again Simon, for pointing it out – you are a *bad* influence!)

Once we escaped from the Oxfam (with the staff calling after us to “Come again, ladies!”), it was a short hop to the London Review of Books shop. I get emails from them all the time with news of lovely events, but had never visited the shop. And it was *very* hard to resist all the wonderful new books there, but I contented myself in adding a lot of titles to the wish list…

And finally, to the Persephone Shop:

Here, I was remarkably restrained as I have quite a number of Persephones on Mount TBR – so I contented myself with picking up some missing bookmarks for my second-hand volumes. It’s very hard not to get carried away in the Persephone  Shop…

However, these were not all as one of our number, the lovely Luci, had brought along bags and bags of spare books to offer around – so generous:

Both of the Thirkells come from her – thank you *so* much Luci! And the Muriel Spark was a spare from Simon, for which many thanks Simon! I *did* take a couple of spares to give away myself, so at least the shelves may not groan *too* much!

I had an amazing day out on Saturday and met some fabulous people – truly, I think the people on the LibraryThing Virago group are the loveliest! Here’s to next time!

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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