Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dear Diary...

Yes, I write a diary. I have done for as long as I can remember. Like most long relationships there have been ups and downs: months spent apart as well as times of great passion. Oh for those evenings spent me and my diary, as I nearly set the pages alight scratching vigorous accounts of that girl whose shoes I really, really wanted, or that boy who I really, really fancied.

I think it is a tragedy that so few people keep a diary. In my diary, if nowhere else, I am the movie star in my own film.

In my diary I can write whatever I like; it is like talking to an elderly relative who loves you very much but is very hard of hearing. They will sit and nod and it really doesn't matter what you say. I can fill the pages with mundane details about the food I ate that day, I can safeguard my most thrilling gossip (sadly never particularly thrilling) or I can write four pages about bookshops...

9th June 2012

I am sat in bed with a happy pile of books next to me. Today I spent several hours in two beautiful independent bookshops in Bath. I could have spent all day there. I could have spent my life there.

Bookshops are unlike any other place. They are ripe with opportunity - all the possibilities of the juicy words I could pluck from bookshelves that are like branches. Not just the opportunity of all the books I could read, but also the opportunity of all the different types of person I could be. The books you have on your shelf and the books you read on the tube say a lot about the kind of person you are, or at least the kind of person you want other people to think you are. It is inadvisable, for example, to read self-help books on the underground. I once sat next to a woman on the Victoria Line who had her head bent over 'How to Find a Husband'.

Back in the bookshop. If the books are fruit and the shelves are branches, then I want to sit quietly in the shade of the trees and wonderfully waste away an afternoon.

The first bookshop we went to was called Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights and had wooden floorboards and a clawfoot bath in the window full to the brim with children's books. The shop twisted around corners where unusual titles were hidden amongst wrapping paper and birthday cards and above a small bench seat scattered with gingham cushions. 

Upstairs was a small coffee shop, although we didn't go up to have a look. But I imagined it: wooden tables, one with a wobble. Chairs with homemade cushions. And cake. Of course. 

After book shop number one (and three purchases), we walked down the street in the sunshine. At the end we bought ice cream from a little stall. It was lovely and locally made, but in those crunchy wafer cones that taste like stale seaside holidays. 

I like watching how different people eat ice creams.

We walked up the other side of the street and then went into bookshop number two, Topping's. This one was bigger, which meant more books and more difficult decisions. 

Here they love books so much that they wrap the covers of their favourite ones in cellophane. I like the idea of wrapping all my favourite things in clear plastic; the kind of plastic you get around sweets and flowers (that says a lot). 

In the shop there were tables and chairs placed like commas through the room, offering pauses to the people sat at them drinking coffee and reading books. The sound of running water behind the till comes as a surprise; they have a kettle and a cafetiere and a teapot in this bookshop. 

A man was in there with his dog, a big brown spaniel who huffed and puffed as they walked up the short flight of stairs to the 'Arts Room' - the section of the shop dedicated to art and design books.

I pulled out the spines that smiled their sideways smiles at me and left the shop with an even larger pile of books.

Now to decide which one to read first...


P.S And yes, I do realise that I cannot draw. And my handwriting would make primary school teacher put her hands in her head and weep. Miss Jenkins, I apologise for my wayward ways.

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