Yesterday, I decided to walk into town, and then it rained on me.
I was literally at the furthest point in my journey away from home, I had wandered into Harbour Books for a little browsing, and when I came out again the heavens had opened! What can you do but laugh really? I got some pretty funny looks off some of the stuffy folks of Whitstable (yes, I said it, there are stuffy people in this place!), but this just caused me to laugh a bit more as they carried on their ways in their sensible macs or under umbrellas. I didn’t have anywhere important to go, so it didn’t matter that I was going to get soaking wet!
The bookshops of Whitstable have always had a funny place in my mind. It was only relatively recently that I started shopping in either of them – definitely 2010 at the earliest as this is when I really began gathering classics and all sorts!
The first time I went in Harbour Books was in my first year of uni. I’d come back for Easter and had met up with two of my best friends, when one of them insisted that we go in as it was apparently a really good bookshop. I feel like I have been brought up into a weirdly snobbish sort of anti-snobbery – I was convinced that because this shop was on Harbour Street it was going to be ludicrously expensive and posh.
Oh how wrong I was!
This is definitely one of my favourite bookshops of all time! Not only did I find an absolute gem of a book for 50p when I was first in there, entitled ‘Giraffes? Giraffes!’, I have since then found one of my all-time favourite books (I’ve read it once but I know for a fact that it is a favourite), also for 50p. This book is The Raw Shark Texts and it is insanely odd and brilliant. I’ll tell you more about it when I’m back in Cardiff – I think I’m going to re-read it and then lend it to my ex/force him to read it (we have become some sort of odd book club. I currently have his copy of Steve Jobs’ biography). Anyway. The bookshop often has reductions on really good books, and is fitted like a glove to its building – you have to go up a narrow flight of stares to get to the top of the shop – I feel like if it were laid out in any other place it just wouldn’t be the same! It’s just a lovely local bookshop!
The one thing I have found with this shop, as with all bookshops, is that Classics are Classic priced. You know what I mean – they’re always really expensive. One of the books I never bought and instead struggled to find in Cardiff’s library system was A Clockwork Orange because for the size of the book you just don’t want to pay £8! Yesterday was a special day for me – there were actual reductions in the Classics section! Sadly, I couldn’t find Huxley’s A Brave New World, which I’m really excited to read, so I instead chose Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. For some reason I was absolutely convinced that this was on my list. It isn’t. It must have come up somewhere else recently and confused me! Obviously I’m going to read it (I actually started at about 5 this morning when I couldn’t sleep any more), but it’s a shame because I thought it was the only book I bought yesterday that was on my list; it turns out I bought none!
I made my way back up the high street, stopping in a couple of charity shops, Boots (where I weighed myself: going in the right direction but not good), and Holland and Barrett, where I eventually decided I couldn’t be bothered with it and walked out.
My final stop was my absolute favourite shop of all time: Oxford Street Books. This is a second hand bookshop and I love it – I have to visit every time I am in Whitstable! My story about this place is that when I first went in, I noticed that there was a big copy of a book by Barry Cooper, Beethoven, priced at £9.95. Having sworn during my gap year that I would never study Beethoven, I consequently noticed that this same book was there every single time I went in the shop. It made me sad, but I maintained that I wasn’t going to be the one to buy it. Fast-forward to last summer and I had somehow found myself coerced not only into studying a module on Beethoven, but on writing my dissertation about him! I went into Oxford Street Books, knowing exactly where to look and, alas(!), the book was gone! But so were all the other music books! I had quite a massive panic at this, before I was directed to the newly opened downstairs of the shop. I rounded a corner, and there was the very same Beethoven book from all that time ago. It now sits proudly on my academic book shelf, and I have read the whole thing!
Yesterday felt quite special, as for the first time I was enquiring about selling books to them. I’ve been told to bring them in and they’ll look, but everyone is doubtful about whether my copy of the complete Twilight saga will be taken off my hands. Apparently quite a lot of people are trying to get rid of that for some reason… If they don’t take it I’ll just give it to a charity shop – it’s in good condition and I really can’t be bothered keeping it!
After I’d done this business I got down to having a good look round. This is of course dangerous in every way and I ended up with such an eclectic mixture of books that I felt the need to try and justify myself at the counter, but I was told not to worry as they don’t judge!
I started off by adding to my more classic collection a bit, soothing the blow of once again being unable to find Brave New World by picking up another recommended Huxley book – Crome Yellow. I also read the blurb on the back of Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? and decided that I liked the sound of the story, so I added that to my pile.
My recent delving into the world of Britten saw me get far too excited when I came across copies of both Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, both of which I picked up. Ironically, I paid less for the James than Mum had to pay in library fines when she didn’t realise that the copy I’d borrowed on her account was still in my room… Oops! I’m actually really sad because I finished the Britten book today and I have enjoyed it so much! Also, I have never cried at the end of a biography before but when he died I got very teary! I’m now stuck in a book slump because I know that I have to read The Music Instinct next and, having started it before, I know that I just don’t want to! I’ve been trying this afternoon and I am not enjoying myself half as much!
My choice of opera-inspiring texts led me to the music section downstairs. It sounds a bit weird, but I love how the shelves sort of sandwich you in to this little alcove when you’re looking at the music books – it makes it really peaceful! I couldn’t find any more books on Britten (the last one they had is probably the book I bought last summer…), but I did come across a really interesting book about Shostakovich and Stalin. We played Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony in Symphony Orchestra at Christmas, and it is without a doubt one of my best experiences of playing in an orchestra. What a stunning piece! Having attempted to listen to all of his symphonies, and come across him in various unexpected places throughout the year, I thought that this would be a good book to read.
Finally – something completely different – I wandered into the crime/thrillers section and came across Steven King’s The Green Mile. My ex had me read Under the Dome and I really enjoyed it – something my English teacher said to me in sixth form gave me the distinct impression that I would never like him – so I decided to try and read some more. I know that it is grim, but there is something about his writing style that I really enjoy, and I’ve always enjoyed watching murderous programmes on telly, so trying to broaden out my reading into crime and such seems like a logical idea. I hope!
This post has taken on quite epic proportions! But it is about books, so I wouldn’t expect much less really. If you are a book lover and you are ever in Whitstable, I recommend that you have a nose in both of these shops; they are both brilliant and you will definitely find something that you want between the two of them – I am never disappointed!