I met up with an, no, pause for a moment, let me think this through. I was going to say "an old school friend" but that's not quite coming out right.
Anyway, we met up at a coffee shop opposite "Persephone Books" in Lambs Conduit Street, London. We had planned to meet at the bookshop at 11:30, but it has the most uusual opening hours..
Opening hours 10-6 Monday to Friday, 12-5 Saturday
No matter. We kept an eye on the front door while we had coffee and managed to avoid the croissants, cakes, pastries on offer.
Timing was perfect - we had just finished when someone appeared and unlocked the door. We gave maybe 30 seconds to get settled and went in.
Inside, it is curiously monochrome, apart from a few splashes of colour. There are a quantity of scrubbed wooden tables crammed into the room, and shelving round the sides. Every surface is covered with stacks of books and as the books all have identical pale silver-grey covers, the effect is curiously monochrome. Not at all what I was expecting after the bright displays in Waterstones, Foyles, and so on.
I would buy Persephone books just for the quality of the paper, the silken sheen of the covers, the colourful inside covers taken from vintage fabric prints of the same period as the book. However, the list of books itself is fascinating... mostly dating from the 1920s onwards, mostly written by women, mostly fiction, all "wantable", with the exceptions also being intruiging and unexpected.
How to choose? You certainly can't judge the books by their covers here. I decided to pick from the thinnest books as I would be carrying it around all day. But my friend pursued me round the shop holding out one of the thickets volumes "you HAVE to buy this one! Please buy this one! I want you to read this!" I was torn - but as it happened the one she had fixed on was on my list of Must-Reads, so I gave way. It was a good excuse for buying a Persephone Books bag to carry it in.
Oh, the book... it is called "Miss Buncle's Book" by D E Stevenson and is utterly hilarious in a long tradition of subversive English Writers Style - think Barbara Pym, E F Benson, Jan Austen...
Here is a blog report on it.
|from Susan Daly’s website|
I've taken this picture from the link, as I want to visit Susan Daly's website next (www.destevenson.org) so this is a way of hanging onto the information
No time to read the book there and then - lunchtime was overdue. We went to the cafe at The Foundling Museum close by, and had an excellent lunch (squished avocado on sour dough bread - delicious) for minimal cost. We talked and talked and talked, until she had to leave. "But you must go round the museum" so I did.
That could be another blog post - it is absolutely fascinating, and heart-rending by turns. Did you know there is a Handel Room, because he was a great supporter of the original hospital? As was William Hogarth? No? Check it out for yourself:
After that it was time for me to make my way home. I walked all the way to the Charing Cross Road, past the Britsh Museum, to Foyles, where I had a pot of tea (and a packet of crisps). Then is was the good old number 24 bus, and back home. I managed to exceed my steps target for once!