The Bookstore Tour of London & Mrs. Miniver’s Green Lizard-Skin Appointment Book

stack_of_booksToday I thought of something that made me laugh while I was walking down the street.

On the Bookstore Tour of London, as I now call it, why not arrange to work for a day or two in a used bookstore?

I can’t look at culture all the time.

I would happily shelve books, catalogue books, do anything but handle money, which I probably won’t master in the UK.  And I would bet I could sell some hard-to-move book in return for a book. Or I would bet to sell a regional novel from the Midwest, something by Bess Streeter Aldrich, Wright Morris, or Ruth Suckow. And I have worked for books before.

When I first moved to this city, I worked at a used bookstore in return for books.  As I wrote here on January 25:

One window was boarded up, and the other impossibly dusty.  A few books had been dumped  in the window, apparently by someone who had forgotten to shelve them.  If you wanted a coverless copy of The Oxford Book of English Poetry, out-of-print science fiction by David Lindsay, or a wacky 1950s Big Book of Games, which emphasizes  games that require passing an apple from under your chin to another’s, this was the place for you.

There was no order.  I put books into the right sections, then alphabetized them.

But then the store shut down.  The owner, a cattleman who came in to the city occasionally, was sick.  His siblings decided to pulp all the books.

Yes, I am not joking.

Now I’m sure in London there is less book pulping.

Well, I may write to a bookstore and see if anyone will let me volunteer for a day.

Here is the list of bookstores I got from your comments on my “My Mother’s London” blog.

Persephone bookshop
Skoob Book
Any Amount of Books
Henry Pordes
Foyle Charing Cross
used bookstores Charing Cross
Daunt Books

Do any of these look like American-for-a-Day bookstores?

Ho hum.  I do like to entertain myself.

THE GREEN LIZARD-SKIN APPOINTMENT BOOK.  Jan Struther’s Mrs. Miniver, a collection of short columns about a housewife in The Times in 1937, is charming and entertaining, if much less witty than E. M. Delafiled’s comparable Provincial Lady books, written as columns for Time and Tide.

I particularly enjoy the  scene where  Mrs. Miniver  goes to a stationer in London, compares three appointment books, and buys a brown calf, “a pleasant little volume,” instead of the very expensive, gorgeous green lizard appointment book she wants.

Then on the bus:

Halfway down the Pimlico Road she suddenly pressed the button and jumped off the bus….

At this very moment, perhaps, the green lizard-skin diary was being bought by somebody else–some wholly unsuitable who merely wanted to get one in a hurry; a rich, earnest woman who would fill it with committee meetings, or a business man who would not even glance at the binding when he opened it to jot down the words “Dine George.”  While she herself with all her dearest activities soberly confined in brown calf would be thinking about it in an agony of regret.

She loves the lizard-skin diary.  And  she needs it.

What I was wondering is:  What is your green lizard-skin diary?  ANd have you ever had such an experience?

5 thoughts on “The Bookstore Tour of London & Mrs. Miniver’s Green Lizard-Skin Appointment Book

  1. Oooh yes – definitely go to Oxford for the day! As for the green lizard skin appointment book – it’s usually actual books that do that for me and I have been known to reject many and then rush back and get them….. to the detriment of space in the house!


  2. I had the green-lizardskin-diaray feeling about a Jeep Cherokee in 1995, she is dark green and I still share my life with her. I test drove her through mud puddles, got her terribly dirty and we bonded. Halfway home (having decided to be sensible and not go there), I turned around to find a pay phone and call the dealer to put her on hold. There was a certain doctor coming in from Birmingham that very day to look at her and I was terrified he would take her far away. He ended up buying the grey one with the seats that looked like pans of biscuits and I got my Dark Green Beauty. Some feelings you just cant argue with!


  3. Karen, I know the “book” feeling. So disappointed if it’s not there when I go back.

    Gina, the green Jeep Cherokee! So glad the doctor wanted the gray. Not everyone loves the Dark Green Beauty, though I would.

    I’m trying to think of my own green lizard-skin diary story but… ?


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