Unexpected Adventures with a Book

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.

The Joy of Serendipity

On Monday I was hurrying along the street towards the railway station when I came upon an Oxfam bookshop. I didn’t really have time to stop but I could see a very attractive classics section just inside the door and decided I could spare a couple of minutes to browse that at least.

There were some good books there but nothing I wanted to buy and I was just turning away when my eye fell on the poetry section – specifically a book of medieval Latin lyrics.

In a few weeks I will be going to the Cheltenham Literary Festival and I am especially excited about a talk on how to read a Latin poem. This focuses specifically on two poems – one (part of Ovid’s Amores) I have already and the other the Confession of the Archpoet which I have been struggling a bit to find. The problem is that I want an edition with both the Latin and the English translation – although I have done some Latin I am not yet good enough to read a whole poem easily but I didn’t want to just have the translation which would kind of defeat the point!

Anyway, there I was in the bookshop with the Latin lyrics in my hand and thinking that the Confession is a medieval poem – and a pretty famous one at that. Surely it might well be in this very book? A quick flick through located it and even better it was there in both Latin and English. I snatched it up. Thankfully I also managed to catch my train home.

It just goes to show – it is always a good idea to visit any bookshop you may come across!