“Hello and welcome to the Tea and Tattle tearoom and Arthur Probsthain bookseller! Our story starts over 100 years ago when our bookshop was founded. Since then four generations of our family have been helping our customers to find an amazing selection of books, and more recently art and music. In June 2010, we decided that we wanted to offer our lovely customers something more and so, the Tea and Tattle tea room opened its doors.” (T&T website)
This post is not a discussion or review of the book in question: Emily does that so much better than I could.
Rather, I’d like to tell you about how a Walking Book Club works.
Inside Daunt Books South End Road
You may remember that I mentioned Daunt Books‘ Walking Book Group in a previous post. Well, at last I have managed to coincide my visit to London with a Sunday meeting of the group. Only a couple of weeks ago did I discover that the group was back in action after Emily’s baby, Vita, was born just 4 months ago.
A group of about a dozen or so keen walker-readers gathered together at the shop on Sunday 22 February to walk on Hampstead Heath to talk about the chosen book – The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani. As I’d only discovered this about a week before and as it wasn’t available from my library ordered a copy directly from Daunts. I just managed to finish reading it on the train down from Leeds. This was good as it meant that the book was fresh in my mind. Also, the evening before I had just watched the dvd version of the 1970 film.
At 11.30 we left the shop, crossed the road and before setting off Emily introduced herself : some of the group were regular reader-walkers, some occasional and others, like me, were there for the first time. The only man was later joined by a couple more; we were delighted to have two Italian nationals amongst us who had read the book in its original and were able to offer us other insights into Italian life and culture relevant to our discussions.
Book talk with Emily [left]
We set off walking and talking in pairs or small groups and every ten minutes or so Emily would bring us all together to sum up, ask questions, provide answers and suggest further topics for conversation. We would then find we started discussion with someone else. The formula works very well. At the highest point of the walk, with long views over London, Emily shared her home-baked cake with us.
Highgate from The Heath
View from the Heath
Somehow after about an hour we found ourselves back where we started and Emily summed up the discussion, distributed copies of the 2015 2nd Daunt Books Festival programme (there’ll be a walking book group from the Marylebone shop on 20 March) and told the group the next date and book for the regular Sunday Heath walk : 19th April “the Living Mountain” by Nan Shepherd :
“Shepherd wrote a short nonfiction book, The Living Mountain, during the 1940s. The Living Mountain is a reflection her experiences walking in the Cairngorm Mountains. Having completed it, Shepherd chose not to publish the book until 1977.” (Source)
If you’d like to hear a Walking Book Club session in progress you can listen here to Clare Balding who joined Emily on one of her walks in February two years ago.
When I meet with my online book group chums there is not much chance of sightseeing. Rather we seem to stagger from book shop to tea shop with our bags getting heavier and our purses lighter (although every purchase is always a bargain) and tummies fuller.
Saturday was no exception. Back in December Simon, over at Stuck-in-a-book, had invited us to join him for a day in Oxford. Although it is possible to get there and back in a day from Leeds for easier travel I opted to go via two nights in London. This meant a not so early start from Paddington in the company of another group member on Saturday morning.
St John’s College, Oxford, on St Giles
The Jam Factory is just across the road (more or less) from Oxford Railway Station. (I should just add that from the station there is no indication that one is in the city of dreaming spires and all that; but we did eventually pass hurriedly by one or two colleges and churches so the joys of Oxford await me on a future visit.) The JF is a lovely light and airy venue and the food looked excellent although I only shared a pot of Oxford Blend Tea before we set off on our books and teas trail. Whilst we all assembled at this venue Simon told us more about the new project that he’s a founder member of Shiny New Books an online book review magazine. I urge you to pop over now and have a look.
At Albion Beatnik Books
From the Jam Factory we headed to The Albion Beatnik Bookstore at 34 Walton Street. “Opened in 2009, this bookworm’s paradise is the coolest and most maverick of Oxford’s many bookstores. It offers an eclectic selection of new and secondhand books with a particular focus on jazz and blues … , American pulp fiction, graphic novels, beatnik poetry, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group and neglected 20th century novels.” Says my 2011 LV City Guide to Edinburgh, London and Oxford. On the table were flowers made of printed paper and our purchases were wrapped in more printed paper with a quotation sticker to seal.
Our next stop was the Oxfam Bookshop on St Giles but I also spotted the pub The Eagle and Child which has associations with the Inklings writers’ group which included J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.
“A fascinating past :
The Eagle and Child lays claim to a number of interesting literary connections. J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and fellow writers met here and dubbed themselves ‘The Inklings’. They nicknamed the pub ‘The Bird and Baby’. A public house since 1650, our hostelry takes its name from the crest of the Earls of Derby. During the Civil War, our building was used as the playhouse for Royalist soldiers.” [From the pub website]
St Michael’s Street
Time for lunch and the recommended venue was The Nosebag on St Michael’s St. I immediately recognised the address and building of The Oxford Union for it is the location of a Landmark Trust apartment : The Steward’s House. Even though it was after 2pm The Nosebag was packed so rather than miss out we had to split into two groups of 3 and 4. After the meal we dragged together enough chairs round one table in order to discuss the next steps in the campaign.
The Steward’s House and Oxfrod Union (red brick building) from the Nosebag
Pretty Arcadia is next door. It’s doesn’t just sell books but has a few displays and boxes outside and lots of vintage cards and accessories inside.
Before the end of our day we reached The Last Bookshop. This is also known as the £2 bookshop. It’s a great source of, presumably remaindered, new paper and hard back books. All priced (as it says on the tin) at £2. If I wasn’t such a devoted library user I would have bought loads here.
Actually, not The Last Book Shop for us
Our final two shops were – sellers of brushes not books – Objects of Use on Market Street – and a further Oxfam Bookshop on Turl Street. At least I thought OoU was more or less a kitchen wares shop as my companion and I only hovered near the entrance at a table full of brushes for different uses but I see from the website that it sells so much more. Apart from at The Home at Salts Mill this is the only other place that I have seen my Book Brush!
The very handy Book Brush
Instructions for Use
With trains and buses to catch around 5.30 time was pressing so we had a final tea and cake at ‘news’ and discussed plans for a Tenth Birthday Celebration in the autumn. All too soon it was time to hurry to station and rest our weary legs and heavy bags on the journey back to London.
At the London Review Bookshop, we have some upcoming events that are too good to keep to ourselves. Tickets are limited, so book early to avoid disappointment :
April Customer Evening
Wednesday 2 April, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Browse our shelves with a glass of wine and an Eccles cake from the London Review Cake Shop, and get 10% off any books, DVDs, cards and stationery purchased on the evening. We are also offering a FREE gift wrapping service on the night.
Tonight’s menu: According to The Bloomsbury Cookbook, Virginia and Leonard Woolf considered Eccles cakes suitable sustenance for type-setting and printing at the Hogarth Press. We think they make suitable sustenance for book browsing too! We’re pairing them with nutty Lancashire cheese and plenty of Russian tea.
Eccles Cake pieces, Lancashire cheese crumbs and slurps of Russian Caravan Tea
As well as the usual treats – wine and nibbles and 10% off books – you’ll have the chance to win a copy of the beautiful Bloomsbury Cookbook, courtesy of Thames & Hudson. Just print a copy of your confirmation email and hand it in to one of our booksellers at the Customer Evening for the chance to win.
The Bloomsbury Cookbook Window Display
This message arrived in my email Inbox a few weeks ago and I worked out that my next visit to London would coincide with this customer evening. The London Review Bookshop is another of my favourite London shops. On many occasions I have visited the Cake Shop with friends, family and to meet members of the online book group. It’s one of our favourite venues.
Shopping Evening at London Review Bookshop
However, on many visits, time in the Cake Shop takes priority and I find I have little time to browse the bookshelves. So I was looking forward to spending time in the actual bookshop for a change.
The Bloomsbury Cookbook looked very tempting … but I was expecting to win a copy! I haven’t received the ‘winners email’ yet though 😦 . I think I will reserve a copy from the Library as it may be useful to contribute to creating the atmosphere when I visit Sussex and the Bloomsbury connections later next month.
Breakfast at Charleston
I spotted some other books to add to my list for the future :
A History of Armchair Travel : I do a bit of this. What’s not to like?
Quiet New York : I have no plans to visit but I do have companion Quiet volumes – London and Paris
(I could be tempted to buy this just to read, anyway)
I’m a big fan of the late W.G.Sebald – new books keep being published!
I found the staff were very patient and helpful. They found each of the titles I wanted to buy, recommended a further title and hunted high and low for a book which should have been in stock but being a very slim volume had probably been mis-shelved.
The four books I bought last evening
The Cake Shop Window Display – I’m Looking Forward to My Next Visit!
When the quarterly reader’s magazine Slightly Foxed: the real reader’s quarterly started ten years ago I took out a subscription but this year now that I can borrow issues from The Leeds Library I have cancelled my subscription. The result is that I actually read the magazine instead of flicking through it and putting it in a pile “to read later”. However, I am still a great fan of all things ‘Slightly Foxed’ which includes the lovely bookshop on Gloucester Road, Kensington.
Due to predictions of inclement weather yesterday I left home in Leeds extra early to drive down to London. The journey presented no problems and I arrived in good time; leaving the afternoon free.
Letters and messages to the Sly Fox
So I took the Underground Train to Gloucester Road Tube Station and revisited this lovely bookshop. Stocks include new books as well as secondhand, plus cards and bags and mugs. The friendly bookseller [Tony] found me the titles I was interested in from the Winter Catalogue.
Preparations for stocktaking at Slightly Foxed Bookshop
Browsing wasn’t easy in the downstairs secondhand department as staff are preparing to stock-take on the 2nd January. The shop was about to close for the Christmas and New Year holiday at 5pm today and is due to re-open on 3rd January 2014.
If you are wondering where the name/term ‘slightly foxed‘ comes from here is one definition:
“Foxing: In a nutshell, a foxed book’s pages have some spotting, ranging from sort of a beige color to a rusty brown (like a fox’s footprints, or maybe its reddish coat). Sometime foxed spots are referred to as “age spots.” The causes of foxing include temperature & humidity changes (don’t store your books in damp or unheated places!), and impurities within the paper (high acidity – most common in modern books with cheap paper, or iron or copper, commonly found in 19th century & older books). There may be other causes as well, such as fungus or other microorganisms. The reason for foxing in a particular book is often difficult to discern.
Foxing is very common in antique books (due to the paper used) and can certainly be found in contemporary books as well.
A book conservator / archivist can sometimes remove foxing, but it’s a very difficult & expensive process.
As far as how it effects value, well, it just depends on how easy it is to find an unfoxed copy. Some very old books may be difficult to find in unfoxed condition; in that case value will not be greatly affected. Modern books are devalued by foxing to a greater degree, because they are more readily available in fine condition.”
Of course, there’s another meaning to fox – sly, clever, crafty. So the sly fox can cleverly suggest all sorts of books for all sorts of reading problems.
Last Saturday I arranged to meet up with a couple of members of my online book discussion group for our annual ‘Summer Meeting’ away from London (last year we were at Chatsworth). This year’s venue was Great Malvern in Worcestershire. I had never been there before, nor I believe had Carol, but Simon (Stuck-in-a-Book) used to live not so far away in Eckington so he was pretty familiar with the town and its book shops, of course.
These meetings generally follow a similar pattern. Meet for tea and cake, head off to a book shop or two, decide to have a light lunch, followed by more book shopping and ending with more tea (and often, cake). Anyway the theme is always of tea, cake and books in some kind of order.
As I was dropping off another friend at Great Malvern Station I arranged to meet Simon there. The station is probably one of the prettiest I have ever been to – there is a tea shop (Lady Foley’s Tea Shop) with tables and chairs outside on Platform One and as it is a listed building you can imagine it still has the signs and furniture of a bygone age. The station is slightly out of the town centre though so we drove, uphill, to a more convenient car park.
Great Malvern Priory Church
There are two very prominent features that dominate the town: the Malvern Hills that rise straight up vertically behind the town to the west and Great Malvern Priory right in the town centre and which is also the parish church.
After our first tea and cake at Mac and Jac’s near the Priory and a visit to the friendly, helpful and well-stocked Malvern Bookshop :
The Malvern Bookshop
7 Abbey Road
MALVERN Worcestershire WR14 3ES
tel: 01684 575915 fax: 01684 575915
Open: Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 5.00, closed Thursday and best to ring first in the winter.
Several rooms carrying large diverse stock. Quality books bought and sold. Music a speciality. By the Priory steps near the Post Office.
we decided to head up, straight up, vertically up to St Ann’s Well for lunch.
For me it was well worth the climb to see the original well/spring and enjoy lunch on the terrace. The trees are very tall and block the view from the cafe itself but we had fantastic views each time we stopped for breath and looked back across what must be The Vale of Evesham.
The View as begin our ascent to St Ann’s Well
View as we return down to Malvern
“In bygone days Malvern water was remarkable for its healing virtue, an efficacy that was held to be supernatural. How early the waters gained local repute it is impossible to say; but the fact that the old spring at Great Malvern is dedicated to St Ann, and that the well at Malvern Wells is the Holy Well, carries their reputation far back into the Middle Ages at least; while documentary evidence exists that they were in exceptional request early in the seventeenth century, especially for skin diseases, as public open baths.” So says my rather old copy of Ward Lock & Co’s “Malvern” illustrated guide book.
Surely everyone has heard of Malvern Natural Spring Water – the only bottled water used by our Queen Elizabeth II, which she takes on her travels around the world. Or does she still? There are still many natural springs around the town – some with warning signs.
‘Safe’ Malvern Spring in the Town
Natural Spring Water – but beware!
St Ann’s Well
Simon suggested a slightly less steep descent into town and a visit to Books for Amnesty :
Books For Amnesty
3 Edith Walk
MALVERN Worcestershire WR14 4QH
tel: 01684 563507
Open: Monday – Saturday 10.00 – 5.00.
Large general stock of donated books in all categories and at reasonable prices. Malvern has two other secondhand bookshops.
As we arrived he pointed out to me the world’s smallest theatre building in a converted Gents public convenience. I was intrigued and left the hard core book buyers in order to investigate. I bought a ticket for the five minute show and was entertained by The Deep Sea Diva and Stradi and his Various Voyages amongst others. After the show there is a photo opportunity which I couldn’t resist! [Pictures below]
Eventually we bought ices from the shop next door and headed to a park to eat them in the sunshine and for a final ‘show-and-tell’ of the books we’d bought before going our separate ways at around 5.30pm. We all agreed that it had been a most perfect day. We’ll soon be planning the next one …
The Theatre of small Convenience
About the Theatre
On Monday I arrived in Wales for a few days’ visit with a friend and former colleague who returned to her home country after spending most of her adult life in Leeds. I’m having a very relaxing few days interspersed with an expedition each day. Tuesday was most glorious. The sun came out and the temperatures rose and spring seemed definitely in the air. We managed a couple of short walks in “Waterfall Country”.
Sgwd Gwladus near Pontneddfechan, Neath Valley
St Mary’s Church, Ystradfellte
Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, near Ystradfellte
By yesterday spring was over and it was winter again – misty, wet and cold. No problem, we thought, for today we have the pleasures of Hay-on-Wye, Wales’s own Book Town, in store.
On our journey to Hay we took two very short detours. The first was to visit the Maesyronnen Chapel. Fortuitously, the adjoining former minister’s house is now a Landmark Trust property.
Here is an extract from the History page from the LT’s webpage for Maesyronnen Chapel:
“A Chapel Founded just after The Act of Toleration
Here we have taken on the neat and tiny cottage, built before 1750 onto the end of one of Wales’s shrines of Nonconformity, the Maesyronnen chapel. This chapel, converted from a barn in 1696, dates from Nonconformity’s earliest days, when any suitable building was made use of for enthusiastic worship. It was probably used for secret meetings even before the Act of Toleration legalised such gatherings in 1689, which explains its isolated position. Services are still held in the chapel, which is cared for by Trustees, who asked for our help. By taking a lease on the cottage we hope we have helped give both buildings a future.”
Francis Kilvert Memorial in Clyro Parish Church
St Michael’s Church, Clyro
From Maesyronnen it was a short drive to Clyro and the former home of the Reverend Francis Kilvert famous for diaries recording his daily life and walks in the area. Kilvert was curate at Clyro when he began writing his diaries but he only lived there between 1865 and 1872. He lived at Ashbrook House which, until recently, had been an art gallery but currently the garden looks rather overgrown and unloved. Two plaques on the wall of the house record the fact that Kilvert lived here.
Ashbrook House, Clyro
Read an interesting article here about Kilvert, the man, and his diaries.
It ends : “Sadly, it’s difficult to find copies of Kilvert in bookshops today. The one-volume abridgement, published by Penguin, and subsequently by Pimlico, has fallen out of print, while Plomer’s three-volume edition has long been unavailable. To celebrate the 70th anniversary, Cape should consider authorising a critical edition of the diary, drawing on the surviving manuscripts, as well as on the background information amassed by the Kilvert Society in the years since its foundation in 1948. That way we might have the opportunity to gaze afresh on the radiant, picturesque world of the Rev Kilvert.”
Well, all that has changed and we saw several versions of the diaries in Hay book shops in the full 3 volume format (for around £130+) as well as reissues of the abridged version, above.
Clyro is also the location of the Jacobean-style mansion built by Sir Thomas Mynors Baskerville a friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who borrowed his friend’s name when writing The Hound of the Baskervilles. The house is now a hotel and needless to say there is also a pub of the same name.
And so on to Hay itself. Despite planning in advance which shops to visit and preparing lists and so on I found that I was rather overwhelmed with choice. I realised that I am so dedicated a library user these days that I have less and less need to actually own books. It also seemed to me that in each shop we visited the value of each book was known and there was very little chance of a real bargain. However, that said, it’s an extremely pleasant way of spending a cold, damp Wednesday afternoon in March.
Richard Booth’s Books
Inside Addyman’s Books at Hay on Wye
The Honesty Bookshop, Hay
I bought only one title and that was from the Honesty Book Shop in the Castle precincts – all hardbacks £1 and all paperbacks 50p. It is a hardback copy of The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp. It’s in pretty good condition and I’m pleased with it.