“Objects may shift in overhead compartments,” the airline’s recorded voice says neutrally.
I don’t worry about objects shifting. I checked my bag at Heathrow because it was so heavy. I’d managed to squash in 15 paperbacks by dint of leaving behind a guidebook, a cat sweatshirt, and an umbrella.
I spent a LOT of money on books. I spent a LOT of money in London, period.
I have studied the receipts from my vacation and my reaction is:
I broke all the rules of The Plan.
- Coffee and a croissant for breakfast, then a sandwich for dinner.
- None of the for-pay exhibitions at museums.
- Buy only a few books at Oxfam.
- And attend free Barbara Pymish concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields church across the street from the National Portrait Gallery. (I made it to one.)
But, to quote the hilarious cartoonist Cathy Guisewite on the subjects of hectic overspending and ruining diets,
“I can accomplish more in one lunch hour than most people can in a single month.”
Unlike Cathy, the heroine of such cartoon masterpieces as It Isn’t Smog. It’s Eyeshadow!!, I did not squander money after a fight at lunch with a boyfriend. No, I simply added lunch to my budget. Before sunning myself outside the British Library, I stopped at Starbucks for a venti coffee drink and a snack. At Marks and Spencer, I bought a tiny package of crystallized fondant. (Fascinated, I watched the clerk tie it up with a bow, knowing I would tear into it minutes later). I ate takeaway sushi. And every time you go to Tesco Express, you spend £10.
I also broke my rule and attended two ticketed exhibitions at museums, one brilliant, the other less so. The Ai Weiwei exhibition (£17.60) at the Royal Academy of Arts was extraordinary, a retrospective of 20 years of beautiful, weird sculptures and installations, all of which make political statements about Chinese history, culture, and repression. On the other hand, “Celts: Art and Identity” (£16.50) at the British Museum perplexed me. The background provided by the curators seemed inadequate. Write better placards, please!
But, honestly, I would have been happy simply to go to bookstores in London.
As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, I stocked up on old orange Penguins. I found them at Oxfam, a charity shop, and Skoob, a used bookstore. I have already read and enjoyed Philip Oake’s comic novel about a journalist, Exactly What We Want; and look forward to Boris Pasternak’s The Last Summer, an autobiographical novella; and Angus Wilson’s Hemlock and After. I also picked up old Penguins of Lynne Reid Banks’s The L-Shaped Room (which I read long ago and loved) and Margaret Drabble’s The Realms of Gold, because I feel like rereading it.
I bought mainly used books, but I also bought new. Here are the contents of the suitcase!
The Stevie Smith and H.E. Bates are (I think) from Skoob (or Oxfam?), and the Dickens is from the Dickens Museum.
I picked up these two Perspehonbes at the lovely, if minuscule, Persephone store. (I also bought a novel by Jane Hervey, which is in the box I mailed to myself.) I intended to buy Elizabeth Berridge’s short stories, but must have absent-mindedly reached for Every Eye instead. Well, it’s quite good anyway, and I will write about it soon.
I picked up this nice copy of Virgil’s Aeneid, Book IV, at Foyles. It’s very soothing to read Virgil in a hotel room. Aeschylus’ The Oresteia, translated by Ted Hughes, came from the London Review Bookshop. I meant to see Robert Ickes’ Oresteia in London, but missed it, due to exhasution and confusion about the time.
I bought a Virago, Julia O’Faolain’s The Wall, at Judd Books in Bloomsbury, and at Skoob found a Penguin book of French short stories for my husband (with interfacing pages of French and English). And there may be another one or two still in the suitcase. I AM SO JET-LAGGED. I have spent the day in pajama.
There’s a box of books on the way! I will write about them, too.
So Happy Reading for a few months, wouldn’t you say? I plan to go on a Zero Spending kick now, like those earnest post-hippie types who dislike capitalist society.