Monday, 2 January 2012

“ A 'classic' is a book which people praise but don't read.
~Mark Twain

I told myself I would buy no more books for a while.  Books are to me what shoes are to the average female.  I’m a book lover.  I don’t think I’ve reached the dizzying heights of bibliomaniac yet, but I’m slowly heading that way.  I bought my mum a pencil for Christmas, and for my dad I picked up a couple of cheap boxes of chocolate from Superdrug.  For my present to myself I put in a little more consideration, and treated myself to Fitzgerald’s ‘Tender is the Night’.  Then I decided to go all out and surprise myself with Penguin’s ‘Great Loves’ collection as well, a beautifully presented twenty title box set.  I squeezed my new copy of 'Tender is the Night' between 'The Great Gatsby' and Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' (all books arranged alphabetically by author, and chronologically within that).  As I looked at the shelves of books, I realised how few I had actually managed to read.  I have gradually acquired a collection of all those 'classics': Dickens and the Bronte sisters and Hardy and Lawrence and Eliot.  I buy them so that I know that at any given moment, when the desire to bury myself in some 'Wuthering Heights' overcomes me, dear old Emily is going to be there ready and waiting for me.  Of course, that sudden urge has yet to hit me, so I have shelves of unread novels.  My problem is I buy books faster than I can read them, and of course the overly verbose Hardy and the predictable Austen never stood a chance.  And that is when I told myself I would buy no more books for a while, or at least until I’d given Dickens a shot.

Today I went to the London Review bookshop, passing a scattering of cheese balls on the way.  Situated half a minute away from the British Museum, this attractive little book store boasts 20,000 titles in all subject areas across two floors, as well as a little cake shop.  I genuinely intended to browse without buying any books, but I ended up leaving with a few new purchases in my hand.  

The cake shop is a great place to sit and relax with a book for a light bite or a hot drink, although it is very small and can be quite busy at times.  They offer a good range of specialist teas, brewed using gongfu-style serving equipment with a pot, pouring pitcher and cup on a wooden slatted tray.  There is also a selection of sandwiches, salads, quiches and – best of all – cakes. 
Mandi instantly hovered around the cake counter, trying to decide which one to order. She settled on the gluten free chocolate and almond cake, while I ordered a macchiato.  The cake was deliciously moist, bordering on gooey, with a subtle marzipan flavour running through the rich chocolate.  Heaven.  Unfortunately, our visit was somewhat marred by the trio sitting at the table beside us.  I’m not sure what the relationship between the girl and two boys were, as their conversation seemed too wooden for them to be friends, but they had too many shared anecdotes to be acquaintances.  I think perhaps the girl was introducing her new boyfriend to an friend of hers, or maybe they were old friends who had nothing really left to say to each other.  Whatever the situation, they had all the awkwardness of a bad first date. I’m a bit of an eaves-dropper, which is part of the reason why I like to sit in cafés pretending to read or write like I’m doing now.  I have to admit it’s a bit of a let-down when I find myself in such close proximity to three recent graduates – young people who could be so full of original ideas and funny stories and optimistic plans for their future – and  all I hear is a girl listing to two very bored guys the amount of booze she consumed at that house party back in second year: “I had a gin and tonic, like two glasses of rosé, some Malibu, loads of cava and some of that… what do you call the orange one? Ah, yes, Cointreau! No wonder I was fu… – ”

And a big thank you to June, the wonderful woman we are staying with, for feeding us  this delicious kedgeree!

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