I still have yet to write about my skipping and dancing up and down the paths of Kew Gardens, much like a wood nymph, smelling the flowers, talking to the trees , but I’ve just had a grand and dusty adventure in one of my favorite home spaces, and I just have to tell you about it.
But first, here I sit outside The Park Café in Hounslow, Isleworth, London. The server asks me if I want a small, medium, or large glass of wine.
“Medium?” he suggests.
“A large,” I say, “it’s not too early, right?” I look at my watch, but it says 9am (EST) and it’s 2 o’clock here. “Bring it,” I say with my best Americanism.
And there’s a Gemini sitting at the next table who I think is already drunk or perhaps just very friendly. I know she’s a Gemini because she told me so. That’s how friendly she is. And her friend soon joins her, and she has a glass of white wine as well. So all is good with the world.
But sadly for you, my friend, my falafel is here, so you will have to wait, for I’m going to eat now and drink my large glass of white wine.
My sincerest apologies! Lunch turned into a walk in search of a signal (turned out to be the settings on my phone, duh), and now I find it’s two days later, and I’m on a train to Cardiff, Wales, in search of The Doctor! I hope you haven’t been waiting here the whole time….
Now where was I? There was a falafel … and a glass of wine (and a lemon bar to snack on later) and they were delicious. The drunk girl stumbled out after hitting on the waiter, the one wearing the New York City t-shirt—having never been to NYC, having only bought the shirt because of the girl with the tattoos on it. Oh my, I do seem to be all over the place. Let me go back…
The bookstore …ah, the bookstore. There’s something about a bookstore that calms me. I can get lost in bookstores and the Osterley Bookshop was a place I let myself lose myself.
I found the sign noting classics, but there was a note alongside saying there were also classics behind the till, and I found more classics on shelves next to stacks of classics on the floor by the door. You get the idea?
I sat on the floor and dug through old volumes, eyeing Samuel Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison (I did write my dissertation on Richardson’s Clarissa–now if I’d found an old copy of Clarissa…) and found a copy of plays from the 1800s, a rubber band holding the cover and pages together. The first play was Thomas Southerne’s Oroonoko and as an Aphra Behn fan, I wanted to read the play written a decade or so after her novel of the same name. I started a pile of books by the till.
“Have you a footstool?” I asked the shopkeeper.
In the stacks up above, I was Indiana Jones looking for the holy grail (not exactly sure what the equivalent of the holy grail would be for a book worm—a first Shakespeare folio or maybe Hemingway’s lost manuscript that had disappeared from a train). I carefully moved books around, wiping dust bunnies off, wrapping books with new rubber bands the shopkeeper had given me after an old one broke. I don’t think anyone had been up in these tombs for quite some time—maybe centuries! Perhaps I was stirring the sleeping ghosts.
If there were ghosts, they were friendly, for the thing about bookstores for me is every long-dead author whose name I recognized, every book I had already read, they were my long-time friends, and I didn’t feel alone.
On this happy day, I left the shop with four books, a dusty sweatshirt, hands which looked
a lot like I’d just been digging in the garden, and a giant smile. It could have been the wine, but I’m pretty sure it was the bookstore.
Before I go, for my train is nearing its station, I do have these two bits of knowledge with which to leave you:
1. When traveling solo, if you are a book worm like me, get thee to a bookstore! It will make you feel better. I promise.
And more importantly,
2. better to go to lunch and drink your wine before you go getting yourself all dirty, before you go digging through the catacombs of a used bookstore.