This week was supposed to see my very first visit to the London Book Fair. I was incredibly excited and so, although it was absolutely the correct decision, I was very disappointed when it was cancelled. I decided that I would use the free time for my own literary adventures instead.
I started off with a visit to Westward Ho! – named after Charles Kingsley’s novel but also known for its connection to Kipling. I read Stalky & Co – which was based on his time at the United Services College near Westward Ho! – a couple of years ago and I loved it. The first stanza of If is set into the seafront and I had a lovely time walking along reading it.
It was a very blustery day and the wind was icy cold but that just made it more exciting. Plus, it meant we were thoroughly justified in warming up in the cafe!
I also went to visit Malmsmead and the church of St Mary the Virgin at Oare – both places featured in Lorna Doone. The church is particularly significant as it is where Lorna and John Ridd were married – the shot is said to have been fired through the window on my right.
The mist had really come down over Exmoor which gave gave a perfect eerie feeling to the day. However, for me no literary pilgrimage to the moor is complete without a picnic so – despite the non-existent view – we parked up and settled down for several hours of reading and eating. Inside the car of course – it was still far too windy and cold (not to mention the rain) to eat outside! It was a perfect afternoon.
Last Friday I went on a little excursion to Bath. Ostensibly this was to do a bit of Christmas shopping and look at pretty lights, with a quick stop off for a shoppers’ carol service in the Abbey. In reality I was mostly going so that I could visit Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights.
Mr B’s has been one of my favourite bookshops for years. It is always a joy to browse the shelves, hidden a little away from the hustle and bustle of the streets. When they were crowdfunding to expand into next door I knew that I had to contribute something. Apart from anything else, it meant that I got a tote bag, a bookmark (always things I want) and best of all my name actually on the ceiling in the shop! Of course I had to make a trip to see that.
The ceiling isn’t quite finished yet but I could still see my name under the film – and in a lovely font too. This room is the Imaginarium where you can go to be a writer in residence for the day. It looks like such a fun thing to do – I would be sorely tempted, although I’m not sure blog writing counts!
Of course, I had to also have a proper nosy around the shop and I spent a good deal of time there dithering over my purchases. In the end I bought a copy of Maddy Alone by Pamela Brown which looks right up my street. It had the added bonus of being in the new, wonderful children’s room which I loved. It even has flaps to lift on the wall!
As usual, I had a great time and I can’t wair to visit again and see the finished ceiling.
At first glance this does not seem to be a bookish post but it is about a beautiful building and we did buy books!
While I was in Dartmouth I went on a tour of the Britannia Royal Naval College and it was a wonderful experience. The historic part of the building is stunning – both inside and out – and the history behind it is fascinating.
Our tour covered the historic building and lasted two hours but I could easily have spent at least the whole day there exploring. There were lots of tempting little staircases which I wanted to run up – obviously, it is a working Naval college and that just isn’t possible!
The longest uninterrupted corridor in Europe!
I had such a good time and I would thoroughly recommend the tour to anyone in the Dartmouth area. Of course – as I promised – we couldn’t escape without books!
I have never been on an actual reading retreat but the idea sounds absolutely wonderful. Going away to spend time reading is like a dream.
However, last week I went away for the week and, although I did have some things I wanted to see while I was there, I planned to read as much as possible. We had a stunning view from our window so I spent a lot of time there with a book and I think I read in most of the coffee shops in the town!
All of that industry was very productive too – I managed to read seven books in six days. They were all children’s books but that’s still quite impressive for me. Even better, for the first time in my life I finished every single book I took with me – so I was more than justified in taking so many (and indeed in buying more!).
I had the best time and I didn’t really want to leave – now I’m back at work I have been reading the same book since Sunday and it’s just not the same!
Like most of you (I imagine!) I am constantly on the look out for book shops. The lure of a book shop is almost irresistible and I love to find new ones to explore.
Some of my favourite finds though have been the mini book exchanges and charity book shops which seem to have been popping up in more and more places recently. Not only are they unexpected, they are often very beautiful as well.
How lovely is this?!
I have seen several in old phone boxes too which I love. The only trouble is that unless I know when I leave the house that I will find one I very rarely have a book with me which I can swap – only the one I am actually reading. Still, that just means another trip to find some books and that’s not really a hardship!
As I mentioned in my last post, last week was the Appledore Book Festival. Not only was I at the book fair, I was also working at the festival itself which meant that I got to spend an entire week by the sea talking to people about books. It was wonderful.
Added to that, I also got to meet many authors which is always fun. It was particularly lovely to meet Tim Waterstone – who was one of only a very small handful of authors to come across and introduce himself to me. I was utterly charmed and of course I bought his book.
Another highlight was the event for Hazel Prior and her book Ellie and the Harp Maker. It was held in a little café and as well as talking about harps and writing she read some passages from the book interspersed with harp music. It was a delightful event – not least because she got the entire audience singing a song about how books are cool.
Books, books, books
Books are cool!
I also ate a lot of cake. This was peanut butter and jelly cake and it was amazing!
I had a wonderful week. It was hard work – almost twice as many hours as normal – and I am now exhausted but Appledore is always one of my favourite weeks of the year and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
We broke our journey home from Scotland at Berwick-Upon-Tweed. It is one of those places through which we have passed many times on the train and we thought it was about time we actually had a look around.
We stayed at the King’s Arms which for me was primarily notable for the fact that Charles Dickens had stayed there and had even given a reading in the ballroom. I was delighted by the Dickens coffee lounge but sadly disapppointed to find that it was not open when we wanted it. That didn’t stop me having a quick read though!
We spent pretty much the entire day walking around the old town walls which were so interesting. I love exploring historical sites and there is so much history there. I was just a bit sad that we could not get to more of the castle.
The museum at the barracks was also very good. I particularly liked the rooms set aside for the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regimental Museum. I found it incredibly moving and actually ended up feeling rather overwhelmed – which wasn’t helped by the fact that I am scared of mannequins. It was a fantastic museum though and I would highly recommend a visit.
I had a great time discovering the history of Berwick and I could easily have spent more time there. We did however manage to squeeze in a short boat trip which rounded the day off nicely.
I couldn’t leave Pitlochry without visiting the bookshops there. In fact, I doubt if I’ve ever been on holiday without buying a book!
My first stop was the Station Bookshop – opening off the main platform at the railway station. This was a lovely little warren of a shop with a huge mixture of titles. It is a charity bookshop so the books are donated but it had a great range and I found several books I wanted to buy – including a box set of PG Wodehouse which I would have loved but getting it home would have been tricky.
In the end, I picked two lovely, old editions of Walter Scott – The Abbot and Kenilworth. They were both inscribed to the same person, although they were given by different people. I thought them a perfect souvenir of my trip.
I also visited Priory Books. I had been hoping to find an easy history of the Jacobite rebellions but everything was either very detailed or too simple. In the end I spied something entirely different – Fiesta for Wild One, a book in the Kit Hunter series by Peter Grey which I love.
The tourist information office supplied me with a basic children’s history of Scotland which I found to have the perfect level of information for me. Then a few days later we made a brief stop in Aviemore and the Waterstones there had Jacobite Stories by Dane Love which was even better. I read it all the way home!
I have carried Waverley around Scotland with me on two previous occassions without reading a word of it. I had the best of intentions but somehow I always wanted to read a different book which would be easier – who wants to work on holiday?
This time though, I was determined. Scotland was clearly the place to read it so read it I would. I made sure I wasn’t partway through any other books and started Waverley on the very first train. Within a few pages I knew that it was not going to be hard work after all.
Of course, I had to read it by the Scott Monument!
The only other Scott book I had read was Ivanhoe many years ago. I remember enjoying it but not much else and I had got it into my head that he would be difficult and rather slow reading. Instead, I was swept along by the story and I absolutely loved it.
I also found that it was genuinely funny. Who can resist a line like this in the last chapter?
This should have been a prefatory chapter, but for two reasons: First, that most novel-readers, as my own conscience reminds me, are apt to be guilty of the sin of omission respecting that same matter of prefaces.
I so rarely read prefaces!
I am sorry I never read the book before but very glad I finally took the time to do so. Reading it in Perthshire was especially wonderful – a good deal of the book is set there so I could really picture it coming to life. It was perfect!
Last night I went to an outdoor theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Immersion Theatre. I love the atmosphere of open air theatre so I was looking forward to it but was also very concerned that it would have to be moved indoors. It had rained for most of the morning and although it brightened up in the afternoon it was raining again when I left work. Luckily it had stopped by the time I got to the venue and they had decided to go ahead outside. They had set up inside as well though – just in case!
Outdoor theatre is not complete without a picnic!
We arrived nice and early which meant that we had excellent seats right at the front. The cast roamed through the audience chatting with us before the play started which was a lovely way to make us feel involved. Of course, me being me, I was worried about being called on for audience participation but it wasn’t a problem and I could relax and enjoy the show.
I was right in the middle of the action – this was the sleeping Hermia at the end of the interval.
Enjoy it I did too. It was an hilarious production and I haven’t laughed so much for quite some time. The actors in small travelling companies never cease to amaze me with their ability to play several parts at once – and be convincingly different characters. There were several impressively quick changes too!
By far the most dramatic moment though had nothing to do with the acting. Thisbe was in the middle of her death scene when, with absolutely no warning, the heavens opened and the rain just poured down. It was so loud! The poor actors were immediately drenched and we weren’t much better but dramatically speaking the timing just couldn’t have been better.
Sadly it wasn’t really possible to continue so we missed out on Puck’s epilogue but it was actually quite fitting to end with Theseus’ words, ‘No epilogue, I pray you; your play needs no excuse.’
This was us by the end – soaking wet but still reluctant to leave!
After that there was nothing to be done but go home, dry off and read the ending for myself.
I had the most fantastic evening. The play is almost at the end of its tour now but if Immersion Theatre are playing near you I would highly recommend going to see them. I will certainly be doing so if they are in this area again.