As I mentioned, I spent a couple of days gallivanting around London – and I thought I’d share my experiences with you, since most of them were of a bookish nature.
It all started on Wednesday morning when I took the Oxford Tube bus into London for the first time in quite a while, which was rather more miserable than I remembered – no leg-room, lots of delays etc. – but did manage to read quantities of Simon Stephenson’s excellent book Let Not The Waves of the Sea on the way (a sort of memoir/travel-log/philosophy about his brother who died in the 2004 tsunami, which I mentioned a while ago) – I’ve finished it now, and will report back on it soon.
My first stop was the Notting Hill Book & Comic Exchange, since the bus happens to stop mere metres away from it. This time I didn’t bother with the everything-50p-each basement, since I was short on time, and there were plenty of wonderful things upstairs. I came away with:
The Wedding Group by Elizabeth Taylor
The Solitary Summer by Elizabeth von Arnim – two reliable authors
The Friendly Young Ladies by Mary Renault – I know nothing about this, but it’s not historical – the reason I’ve previously stayed away from Mary Renault. About a 17 yr old girl who runs away from Cornwall to bohemian London, which apparently turns disturbing – love this premise!
It Falls Into Place: the stories of Phyllis Shand Allfrey – Allfrey wrote The Orchid House, one of the first Viragos I bought, and one I still haven’t read.
Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski – I already have the Persephone Original, but not the Classic!
A Letter to Madan Blanchard by E.M. Forster – The Hogarth Letters No.1, which was rather a lovely find. There’s a tiny pencilled ‘2’ on the first page, which I like (fancifully) to imagine was inscribed by Virginia Woolf herself…
I also bought Lolly Willowes as a gift for the next person I saw…
…a lady called Marie, who had contacted me after seeing Richmal Crompton’s novels mentioned here on my blog, or on LibraryThing, or somewhere. One email led to another, and we exchanged rare RCs via post (I read the wonderfully histrionic The House). I arranged to give them back in person, so I trotted off to her beautiful house. We had a lovely chat, and she took down lots of my recommendations (hurrah!) and I went away with another four books borrowed! Two rare Richmals, and two by EM Delafield (in her email she wrote “Have you heard of an author called E.M. Delafield?” Er – yes!!) The internet is wonderful for encountering bookish types, isn’t it? Thank you, Marie, for your delightful generosity. The books are The Thorn Bush and Portrait of a Family by RC; Three Marriages and Zella Sees Herself by EMD.
My next stop was delicious Thai dinner with a couple of bloggers – Claire from Paperback Reader and Rachel from Book Snob – before we went to a screening of Descendants at Twentieth Century Fox, courtesy of Vintage press. More on that soon – as a spoiler, it was very good! Rachel very sweetly offered me a place to stay for the night (and gave me Mr. Skeffington by Elizabeth von Arnim, which was so nice of her!) I gave her a Rachel Ferguson book called Passionate Kensington – about a year in Kensington, but with all sorts of detours and tangents. I’ll quote a bit of that soon, too (this post is turning into dozens of others!) I totally threatened Rachel with a no-holds-barred expose on what she’s really like, but… I’ll save that for another day ;) (Rachel: is that why you bribed me with a book?)
My token I-came-to-London-for-study moment happened at the British Library, and you’ve already seen some of the fruits of that. It was very productive, turning up reviews for Miss Hargreaves, Provincial Lady in Wartime, and more. And it made me a bit late for meeting up with the lovely ladies of dovegreybooks, an online book discussion group of which I’ve been a member for nearly eight years. Nine of us met up at the Geffrye museum, including Elaine and Barbara, both of whom have written their own reports on the day. We had our Christmas lunch and, as always, chatted away nineteen-to-the-dozen. Despite my plans to make my book bag lighter, I ended the trip as heavy-laden as I started – thanks to the dovegreybooks Secret Santa, and a general book swap. So that added these four titles to my winnings:
Trains and Buttered Toast by John Betjeman
Elizabeth Jenkins’ biog of Caroline Lamb
A London Girl of the 1880s by M.V. Hughes
Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (super-excited about this!)
Not to mention a lovely literary calendar (from Barbara) and some beautiful bookmarks (from Sherry, who wasn’t there and lives in America – I still haven’t worked out how these arrived!)
So, all in all, a productive London trip! Quite tiring, what with all that dashing about, but great fun – and all of it the result of online literary friends! Lovely.