Wednesday, 20 May 2015

My holiday: Places I went, people I met, books I bought.

Last week I finally ventured up north to York, a city I've been intending to visit ever since my sister went with her then-boyfriend and told me how much she liked it. I booked myself into a nice bed and breakfast about a mile or so out of the city centre, and spent my first couple of days being a proper tourist. I visited the Minster (where, unlike in Sunday's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, the statues were very still and well-behaved) the Castle museum, and took a bus tour around the city. The lady before me in the queue very kindly gave me a token for a free tour bus ticket, for which I was very grateful!

 York is a lovely city, although it took me a while to find my way around. It's full of history and narrow lanes, with so many little independent shops and cafes. Particular highlights were the Minster Gate bookshop, which had so many interconnected rooms of second-hand and discounted books. My best friend and I have a theory that these sorts of second-hand bookshops are connected by some sort of "L-Space," and if you take a wrong turning you might end up in another bookshop in a faraway town. It was that sort of bookshop. I also fell head-over-heels in love with the Little Apple Bookshop, which is only small, but packed full of interesting things, quirky books, funny and geeky gifts, postcards and badges and more. The staff were really friendly. Laura, there was a lot of Moomin merchandise there - in fact, there was a lot of Moomin stuff all over York!

My favourite cafe was called Lucky Days, which made the most delicious butterscotch toffee cake, and had an unusual loyalty scheme: you can have your own mug and personalised hook on the wall, and with your loyalty card, if you roll a six, your cake costs only £1. I was rather sad to admit I was only in town for a couple of days, so wouldn't be able to take them up on the offer, but what a lovely idea!

Of course I bought a few books in York, but I kept it down to three, so that I could go mad when I met up with Ellie and Hanna. From the Minster Gate bookshop, I bought Jo Walton's What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton, a very appropriate book after the rereadathon, as it is all about Walton's rereading of classic science fiction and fantasy books. From the Travelling Man comic book store I bought Through The Woods by Emily Carroll: a collection of sinister fairy tales in graphic novel format, and from the Little Apple bookshop, I came away with The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, which is what it says on the cover: one- or two-sentence stories, illustrated, that make you stop and think. A lot of them are poetry as much as story.

On the Saturday, I took the train over to Chesterfield to meet up with Ellie and Hanna and, of course, hit the bookshops and everywhere else that sold books. I'd met Ellie before, a couple of years ago, when she had her shop in Bakewell, but it was great to have her on the other side of the counter going quite mad with the book-buying. I am in awe! Hanna, too, is lovely and so much fun to go shopping with. I've met a few bloggers this year for the first time, and they're exactly the same in person as you'd expect after getting to know them through their blogs and other online places (in other words - awesome people!)

Picture nicked from Hanna's Instagram as I left my camera behind
and forgot to charge my phone the night before. Silly Katie.
We started off in the charity shops, thinking how frustrating it is when you find something awesome for a pound or two when you've just bought it full price. Ellie suggested Robin Ince's Bad Book Club, and Hanna recommended HhhH, which I've seen about the place, and read her and Charlotte's reviews, but had never got around to picking up for myself. Hanna rectified that!

We found a bookstall in the market, which, as well as selling the usual second-hand paperbacks, also had some books so new and in good condition that they couldn't possibly be used copies. Stephen King's Mr Mercedes was only £2.50. 2.50!!! I had been resisting this since its paperback release - only about a month ago - as I've already got three unread Stephen Kings, and had even ignored the various half-price offers I'd seen on it, but £2.50 was too ridiculous. So of course I bought it. Hanna also handed me The Vintage Girl by Hester Browne, which was my train read back to the Isle of Wight - a really cosy, feel-good novel, a romance but not overly mushy, with people and settings that feel real and homey.

We took various cake breaks in town, and I introduced Ellie to the CEX store, which she had never been into before. That is where I tend to get most of my box sets from nowadays: they sell second-hand DVDs as well as cameras and other technical stuff, and if I don't know if I'm going to like a film or series but want to check it out, CEX is the place to go! And I came out with three seasons of The IT Crowd as well as the new film Pride which Den of Geek has been raving about.

We ended up at the Waterstone's store, where I bought myself a new copy of Good Omens in the fancy new hardback edition. I also picked up Tigerman by Nick Harkaway, which I remembered someone fangirling about online when it was new. With my "read three, buy two" rule for 2015, that left one more book to choose, but there were so many possibilities I couldn't decide. Should I go for the next Geek Girl book, or a thriller, such as Disclaimer? Or maybe some non-fiction, or one of the book club choices? In the end I decided to go for The Peripheral by William Gibson, which Hanna drew my attention to with a comparison to Ready Player One, which I loved.

With my seven books, (or ten, if you include the ones from York) I was actually the most restrained person in the group. Apparently we got some strange looks in the cafe when we piled up our purchases on the table! Still, ten extra books were quite enough to try to pack into my suitcase for coming home to the Isle of Wight.


  1. I've left this soooo late, but:

    1) Lucky Days sounds amazing, I'd definitely have had a mug on the wall if it had been there a few years ago!

    2) Hanna is in fact going 2 for 2 with HHhH - she made me buy it during our LAST meet-up. EVEN THOUGH I ALREADY HAD IT OUT OF THE LIBRARY.

    3) We definitely got some funny looks in the cafe. I don't think they're used to literary ladies piling up books on the table in the middle of their coffee 'n' cake break!

    4) I'm so glad you had a lovely time - in BOTH places - and I hope one or two of these become the kind of book you can pluck from your shelf fondly in a few years and think, "I bought this with Hanna and Katie! Wasn't that a nice day..." :)

    1. 1. The waitress offered to set me up with a personalised mug, and I was very sad to say that I didn't live in the area. More cafes should do this I think! Although I guess it would make Lucky Days less special. And they do the most AMAZING sticky butterscotch cake, Ellie!

      2. Definitely a keeper then! I remember Charlotte's enthusiasm for it - I wonder if we'll catch it when we read it.

      3. It's just a shame we couldn't display our entire stack in one go, that would have been awe-inspiring. How many did we buy between us? About 40? 50?

      4. I still have books on my shelves that I look at and go "Ah, this came from Ellie's shop, happy sigh!" so I am sure these will have the same effect. In fact, I see Mr Mercedes at work and think that, as well as "Ahahaha! £2.50! Even with staff discount I can't match that!" And the Hester Browne Hanna handed me was really lovely, a happy book with happy memories.


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