Last week I finally had some holiday from work. It had been three months since I last got off the Isle of Wight, even for a day trip, and I usually like to at least go shopping in Southampton or Portsmouth once a month. But I made up for it on my recent London trip. I went to stay with my sister, and on Thursday was very excited to meet up with Bex and Laura for the first time for an epic book-shopping spree.
I got into London quite early, taking the train with my sister Jenny, who works in Victoria. After wandering down Oxford Street, desperately looking for a pair of jeans that were affordable and not skinny (I failed. Skinny jeans are sadly the default style these days.) I got to our meeting place in Waterstone's Piccadilly with a few minutes to spare. I was worried we wouldn't recognise each other, but - after apparently offending a passing man by accidentally catching his eye and causing him to swear under his breath at me - Bex found me, recognising me by my bag. Laura was not far behind, and we started from the top of the massive, five-storey bookshop and worked our way down. Bex had never been to this Waterstone's before, and I had only once. We didn't spend as long as we could have in there - you'd probably need a full day to do it justice - but we explored the children's section, the Shakespeare area, the Russian bookshop (oddly), and of course large sections of Fiction. I bought Robin Stevens' two schoolgirl murder mysteries, which have caused a bit of a buzz online this year: Murder Most Unladylike and Arsenic for Tea.
We left Waterstone's and went on a search for some lunch, but apparently Piccadilly doesn't have restaurants. We walked and walked before giving up and taking the next tube to Leicester Square, where we basically came out of the station and into the first cafe we saw, a cheap-and-cheerful noodle place with pink seats.
We took a detour from our planned bookshop route to go into Forbidden Planet - which does sell books, after all, as well as comics and all the geek memorabilia you could wish for. In the Doctor Who section I saw cuddly Adipose toys - squishy fat monsters - and commented that "they ought to make Adipose stress toys... they DO have Adipose stress toys!" After that, of course, Laura would not let me not buy one, as I had just somehow willed it into being. And it is so funny adorable that I don't think it would be possible to remain stressed while squishing it around. Look!
Oh, there was so much geek merchandise in Forbidden Planet that I could have spent my month's pay on before I even ventured down to the book department. Buffy and Firefly Pop figures! A giant Serenity ship (at £340!) All the Doctor Who and Star Trek things you could dream of. T-shirts! ALL THE THINGS, PEOPLE! Then, downstairs, we all managed to talk each other into buying at least one comic book or graphic novel: Bex got Hyperbole and a Half, Laura bought Watchmen, and I picked up Seconds, which I knew I'd read about somewhere but forgotten it was Bex's review that made me interested in the first place. It's awesome that people can know each other's reading tastes so well, especially when they're people who haven't met before. (I know Bex and Laura have met up plenty of times before but this was my first time on a bloggers' book-shopping spree and it was as awesome as I'd hoped.)
Unfortunately Laura then had to go back to uni for a Macbeth lecture, and we had to go on a big diversion to find the tube station thanks to all the work at Tottenham Court Road. Then, when we got through the station barriers Bex and I weren't sure we actually wanted the train from there after all, though we figured out a way to get to the Persephone bookshop. Most people hate the London Underground but I quite like it, if it's not too crowded and I don't need to worry about losing too many people. Neither of us had been to Persephone before; it is the shop of a small publishing company which reprints forgotten books, mostly by women, from the early part of the 20th century. It's an unusual way of shopping, in that all the books have plain grey covers (with pretty endpapers and matching bookmarks which are prints from fabrics made in the same year that the books were published.) All you have to go on is the title and the blurb. I bought Saplings, by Noel Streatfeild who wrote the classic Ballet Shoes.
Of course, no trip to London would be complete without visiting Foyle's in Charing Cross Road. The shop has moved down the road to an even bigger store, shiny and new and exciting - although, if I'm honest, I miss the old Foyle's and its layout. I was very tempted by the 80p mini-books that Penguin have published on every subject to celebrate its 80th anniversary, and Bex persuaded me that they would be too small to count towards my book-buying limit, but in the end I didn't get one of those. I did, however, find the last copy of Ms Marvel, and Deborah Johnson's The Secret of Magic, which I could have bought from work, but where's the fun in that? Finally, I picked up a writing prompt book - which doesn't count, because it was from the stationery section - of 642 Things To Write About.
Weighed down by bags of books, we headed back to Victoria for 6 o'clock, with just enough time to get a cup of tea or coffee and a piece of cake from Cafe Nero, where we found agitated text messages from Ellie demanding photos and details of our shopping trip. Well, Ellie, this may be a belated post, but I hope it will do.
Jenny met me at Nero's, and we took the train back to her house, where we watched the incredibly cheesy original film entitled Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was quite ridiculous, farcical, a long way from the vision Joss Whedon thankfully got a second chance of realising. The vampires hammed it up no end, took a long time to die, Buffy was far more fluffy-headed than Sarah Michelle Gellar, at least at the start (but that's fair; the series Buffy was implied to be an airhead before she got "called.") There were different elements to the mythology than we were familiar with, and though I could from time to time see elements of the character we know as Buffy Summers, the story just isn't the same without the strength of the supporting cast. Also, for some reason (wine?) the leading man's horrible patch of chin hair made me laugh hysterically for about five minutes straight.
Jenny took the Friday off work and we decided to celebrate her birthday a week early, with presents, cake and a meal out in the evening. It was a gorgeous sunny day - winter was definitely on its way out - so we drove out in her exciting new purple car to Richmond Park, spending a lovely afternoon taking pictures of trees, parakeets and deer.
The park closed at half past five but our dinner reservation wasn't until seven o'clock, so we popped into Wetherspoon's to pass the time. Jenny took out her phone to reply to a friend who had been messaging her through about three different apps (I do not quite understand the necessity of having three different ways of sending text from one mobile phone to another, but there you go.) I heard a sad "oh!" and Jenny told me that Leonard Nimoy, one of science fiction's most beloved legends, had died. It wasn't really a surprise. I knew about his lung disease, and that he had been taken into hospital earlier in the week. I followed him on Twitter, and each time he updated, I would think, "Oh, good, he's still alive then," but the last tweet, a few days before his death, made me feel uneasy at the time. Even then, I must have recognised the poignant finality to his words. The news may not have been unexpected, but I was still very sad. I am very sad. Though I am a new Trekkie, and it was Zachary Quinto who first made me interested in Spock, it was Leonard Nimoy who made me fall in love with the character, bringing a subtle humanity to this all-logical, apparently-emotionless alien. And - though (of course) I never knew Mr Nimoy personally , or even very well as a fan presumes to "know" someone they admire, but I liked him nonetheless, as a person as well as an actor. He came across as a real gentleman, wise, intelligent and compassionate. He'll be sorely missed, and of course my thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time.
Jenny and I went to Jamie's Italian restaurant in Kingston, a place I'd been meaning to go to since it opened. Being a Friday night it was very busy, quite loud, but the customer service was amazing. We were in the restaurant for two hours, but did not feel that we were either kept waiting or hurried. We enjoyed a delicious three-course meal (I had mushroom bruschetta, a sausage pasta dish and something very much like a posh Bakewell tart) and a lot of good conversation. The price was reasonable, the staff were charming, and we left feeling full but not uncomfortable. An excellent meal.
Friday's sunny weather gave way to a rainy, grey Saturday. I met up with Clare and Hannah, two of my best friends from university, who sadly I don't get to see very often any more, due to me working weekends and them working weekdays. We took the tram from Wimbledon to Ikea in Croydon, and spend the morning wandering around, looking for potential furniture for "when we can afford it" and stopping halfway round for meatballs (probably horse-free) in the cafeteria. None of us have cars, so the only shopping we actually did was for little things like tablecloths and cushions. I may or may not have spent a lot of time in the store humming Jonathan Coulton's "Ikea" song.
Afterwards, Clare left us and I went back to Hannah's flat. I hadn't planned to spend very long there, but we kept on talking, and then Hannah's husband Paul told me that they had a Wii with Mario Kart, so we had to have a game or two. And then Hannah and I spent nearly an hour talking out in the hallway when I was getting my coat on. In the end, I got back to Jenny's flat about four hours after I initially intended to. Oops.