But first: BOOKS! ALL THE BOOKS! On Wednesday I took a trip up to Coventry, a city I haven't been to since I was twelve, in order to visit the newly-opened Big Comfy Bookshop, whose progress I've been following on Twitter. With the rise of internet shopping, it was so encouraging to see a new bookshop business - if you google how to open a bookshop, the answer tends to be "don't bother." Of course, the Internet would say that...
The Big Comfy Bookshop was pretty empty when I went in there, but the owner, Michael, told me it had been crazy-busy at the weekend, and he was pleased to have the chance to fill up the shelves and price the stock. It seemed to be Fresher's week at Coventry university, and Michael later tweeted that he had had lots of students in the shop. It is a decent-sized shop in a new shopping village away from the city centre, with a great range of books. It also doubles as a coffee shop, with comfy sofas and good cake. My problem was narrowing my selections down to what would fit in my book bag. For myself, I chose two Stephen Kings: Needful Things, which I have a vague memory of my ex-boyfriend raving about years ago, and Cell. I also discovered three of the four Space Odyssey books by Arthur C. Clarke, which my dad has been reading, but which have not all been readily available in the shops. I have the first book, the second was bought new and the third came from the library. The Big Comfy Bookshop provided the fourth and final book in the series.
As it seemed silly to come all the way up to Coventry just to visit one shop, I got myself thoroughly lost in the city centre, but had a chance to look around the old cathedral, which was famously bombed during World War 2. I also ended up buying more books in Waterstone's (Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler, an author who has been brought to my attention by Alley's rave reviews) and Oxfam (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life In Space by Mary Roach, and Gravity by Tess Gerritson, which I know was reviewed by someone fairly recently, but I can't remember who. Sorry. Ellie?)
You'd think that might be enough books to be going on with, but my birthday happened yesterday, and it seems my mum has been cunningly intercepting the postman a lot this week. I had a stack of parcels from my lovely lovely blogger friends, and notice of some more to come. THANK YOU WONDERFUL PEOPLE! That was such a wonderful surprise!
So: the presents. From my parents:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3 DVDs, to add to my Marvel collection, and the William Shakespeare's Star Wars books: The original Star Wars trilogy rewritten in Shakespearean language and iambic pentameter. Right up my nerdy street.
From my sister:
A Spock figurine, a set of Lord of the Rings collectable Pez dispensers, a Lego Batman film, and the third season of Sherlock.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which she says she is also reading along with Hanna, and some delicious Thornton's chocolates. (I fear these will not last long.)
This is in fact the coolest birthday card ever as the cakes on it are made of fuzzy-felt, and you can rearrange them if you like. Also Kate Atkinson's Life After Life which I've been wanting to read for ages. Thank you Laura!
My fellow Swallows and Amazons-fan bought me this biography of the series' author, who led a very interesting life indeed when he wasn't writing innocent stories of children camping and sailing and playing at being pirates and explorers. When I went to the Lake District in August I looked for this book in every bookshop I went into, but even though Ransome is so strongly associated with the area, I couldn't find it anywhere. Hurrah for Bex!
From my other friends:
Judith bought me the red polka-dot handbag, which as you can see is a good size to keep a few books in. I always say a bag not big enough for books is no more than a purse (and not a lot of use.) She also gave me some chocolates, a pair or red earrings (not pictured) the gorgeous colourful cushion and Adventures with the Wife in Space, the account of a man who decides to introduce his wife to the other love of his life - Doctor Who, working through the entire classic series, episode by episode. My friend Sharon bought me a Tardis mug - which will go very nicely with my Tardis biscuit jar, and I got some interesting bath stuff from Sam and her twin daughters, Alice and Evie who are four.
It was a quiet sort of birthday, but my sister had come back from London to see me, Sam and the twins came over in the morning, which was a lovely surprise. I don't get to see a lot of them due to work - if I've got the day off, she tends to be working, and vice versa. We put on the Lego Batman film to keep them entertained, (and very entertaining it was, too. Batman and Superman team up and spend the whole time bickering, as do Lex Luthor and the Joker. If the forthcoming Batman vs Superman film is not as bickery as the the Lego versions, I will be very disappointed.) The girls are big fans of Scooby-Doo, and thanks to a Scooby-Doo/Batman crossover, they could name more of the villains than I could. They are learning young.
Last Christmas, I bought Alice and Evie a selection of picture books and Neil Gaiman's Fortunately The Milk. I hadn't heard how the twins got on with the latter book, but I was very pleased when Sam told me yesterday that they took it to school (they have just started "big school") and made their teacher read it to the class for story-time. Success!