Posts Tagged ‘bookshop’

A thing I used to do

When I was 17, I suddenly developed this preoccupation with the idea of being sophisticated. I thought it would be fantastic if I were like one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters. Charming and intelligent and educated and most of all, sophisticated. I read anything I could lay my hands on, got myself a complete works of Shakespeare and, after reading Hamlet, actually really loved it. I tried to accumulate as many facts as possible. My friend, Alison, (who will appear again in a minute), and I would go to the theatre almost every week and discuss the play at length afterward. We learned to eat our soup by scooping our spoons away from us, rather than toward us, like commoners. We presumed that any minute now, we would suddenly wake up and realise that we had become….. sophisticated.

There was a bookshop near school which had lots of university books in it, textbooks about things in medicine that I’d never heard of and huge anthologies of this, that and the other. The literature section was fabulous though, I understood what was going on there.

Upstairs in this bookshop, there was a cafe. Alison and I often used to go to the cafe if we had a free moment in our day. We liked to sit there because we figured that, with all the intelligence and learning floating around in there, some of it must surely stick on us? We would sit amongst the university students discussing intellectual things and try to appear sophisticated. We used to order tea and it would come in little teapots.

I am going to blame what happened next on the cafe. I mean, what kind of cafe has teapots that hold almost exactly the amount of liquid that fits in the cups?

We would pour out our tea into our cups. I think I remember, actually, that the first cup was fine. We would pour out, add milk and drink up. The second cup, however, was where the problem lay. We would pour out the tea and, as there was only a little bit left, we’d pour until the pot was empty. The problem then became clear – there was no space for milk. Black tea was not tasty, especially if it was the second cup so slightly overbrewed.

What to do? A full cup of tea with no space for milk? One cannot pour one’s tea from one’s cup back into one’s teapot, can one? That is, like, sooooo not sophisticated.

But never fear, Alison and I knew how to be sophisticated. We would rescue this situation. We took the lids off our teapots and pulled them close to our cups. Then we took our teaspoons and, scooping our spoons away from us, we transported our tea back to our teapots in little teaspoon amounts. It took a while but at least we were sophisticated about it.

This happened a few times, I remember, and yet we didn’t seem to learn. Perhaps that’s why I’m still so good at scooping away now. And being sophisticated….. I am sophisticated, aren’t I? Aren’t I?

Search terms 2

I’ve had a few interesting search terms recently so thought I’d do a second part to my previous Search Terms post. The last search term in this list worries me a bit, although I am pleased that people are stopping here to learn about social etiquette….

baobob
highgate bookshop roof
book maze festival hall lego
my first bikram
wealthymatters
london eye chairoplane
“unspoken rules if social etiquette”
first bikram class
yoga “notify me”
first hot yoga class
i ve made my first wedding cake
cows for brides
evil peppa pig
lasy son resit university
portmanteau words sandwich
gary barlow neighbour
smiking
bikram tickling legs
i can be a worst manager
is big mag cow or pig
all embracing naked photos on olympics
yggdrasil afghan for sale
preschool watermelon temple
renegade squats
sun glasses one direction in eygpt
national estimayed costs bird droppings
the emptiest swimming pool in sf
sexy peppa pig

As a P.S., I’ve tried checking whether big mag is a cow or a pig but the truth is, I may never know….

A day in Highgate

Now I’m not one to go to peices over a puppy or wax lyrical over my feelings and the inspiring patterns on a snowflake. But yesterday I spent an unexpectedly magical day in Highgate hunting down Samuel Taylor Coleridge. And I may, in this post, get a bit misty eyed and nostalgic. I’ll try to keep it under control but be prepared.

I started at Archway station and trekked up Highgate Hill. I had to double back and start again when I realised I’d missed the Whittington Stone.

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So I climbed the hill again and was pretty knackered by the time I finally got to the top. Having climbed so high, there was a fabulous view across London which I stopped and admired for a while (actually, I was just getting my breath back but I did look at the view once or twice).

Across the road from me was Lauderdale House, where Nell Gwynn first slept with Charles I, apparently.

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I saw Highgate Bookshop over the road too and obviously had go in. Obviously. In the spirit of my walk, I bought a book about Coleridge and one about the history of Highgate. It was £23.98. I had tons of pound coins on me and managed to count out £22! That’s why my bag was so heavy! I scraped together a few more coins and got to £1.50. I was 48p off. The coppers started coming out… I can do this! I can do this! The lovely lady in the shop was helping me. Eventually I said I’d have to pay by card because I was 20p short.

“No,” she said sternly. “No, I won’t let you. Not after all this.” (We’d been there for ten minutes doing this!) “Bring me the 20p when you get change,” she said kindly. I knew I wouldn’t be coming back past the shop on my walk but I figured it would give me a reason to come back soon. I already liked Highgate a lot.

Over the road and further up slightly was my first Coleridge stop – the chemists with the side door to the ‘back shop’ where he used to pick up his opium.

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The chemist is now a generic estate agent but this side door has been left mostly untouched.

I was opposite a public area called Pond Square and South Grove ran alongside it. Here I found the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution.

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I knew you had to be a member to go in but I also knew they had a whole room dedicated to Coleridge things, manuscripts, paintings etc, that I was dying to see. I went into the hall but was super nervous. I couldn’t see anyone apart from someone behind one door on a ladder. The reading room to my right looked beautiful, full of ornate chairs, an open fire and loads of books and magazines. I knew it was members only but really wanted to go in. It was locked though, as was the other entrance door.

I didn’t mind not being able to get in because I was a stone’s throw from Highgate Cemetery so off I pottered, down Swain’s Lane, looking for the cemetery. It’s on both sides of the road and is £7 to get into the east cemetery and £3 to get in the west cemetery. Great! I’ll go in, look around, get some pics, this place is pretty famous, Dickens and Karl Marx are buried here, among others. Great. I entered the little hut to pay.

And that’s when I remembered! I’d given ALL my money to the bookshop! Every last little penny. I knew I was hoping for too much when I asked if they took cards. Dammit. I was all the way here and couldn’t get in! I took a few pics through the gates and left, feeling a bit annoyed. I should’ve just paid for the books on card!

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Back out of Swain’s Lane and the sun was coming out and beaming down on me. Damn me for wearing these skinny jeans! The air has NO chance of getting in. I was heating up unpleasantly. But then I stumbled across another Coleridge stop.

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This is where Coleridge came for tea with a doctor called James Gillman to ask for help with his opium addiction. Doctor Gillman suggested he come and stay in his house and he would treat him. Coleridge agreed and never left Highgate again! He spent the last 19 years of his life in this village. He later moved with Doctor Gillman to another house close by, which we’ll get to. But this is where he had the cup of tea and where he first lived in Highgate. The black iron gate and the pillars by the front door are the same ones from Coleridge’s day. Most of the other stuff was rebuilt after a fire though.

Further along the same road, toward the end, I reached St Michael’s Church, where Coleridge is buried. He was moved here from another site about fifty years ago. But it was closed! I was having another Highgate Cemetery moment, I was all the way here and I couldn’t do it.

As I was standing there, bemoaning my misfortune, a lady in a car stopped and said that if I waited til 2pm, the church would be opened and I could have a tour. It was ten to 2. I decided to wait it out. I sat on a concrete stub and noticed that I’d been smelling lovely perfumed smells for the past few minutes. I looked around for a particular flower but couldn’t figure it out. Then I realised it was just the smell of summery-ness, high up on a hill, where the cars were few and the trees were many. I walked about a bit, enjoying the smells until the church was opened. In the lobby, I found this.

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It says that it is the same level as the cross on St Paul’s Cathedral. I hadn’t realised I was so high until that point.

I located Coleridge’s gravestone and intended to move on but it was a really beautiful little church so I stopped for a bit longer, wandering around.

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(I can’t get this the other way round so you’ll have to lean to your right to read it)

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I came out of the church, blinking as the sun was even brighter and the floral smells were lovely and it all of a sudden seemed quite magical, this village on a hill in London with all this fascinating history.

I crossed over the road to a little pub called The Flask, which was Coleridge’s local during his stay in the second house he lived in in Highgate.

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From here, I crossed another road into a street lined with chestnut trees and started searching for number 3, not an easy task when it seemed the numbers were hidden for top secret purposes. Eventually I located it and peered over the gates to find two plaques, one saying Coleridge had lived there and one saying J. B. Priestley had lived there! Amazing! I hadn’t expected that at all and was quite excited.

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As I photographed the plaques over the gate, a man in a white van stopped behind me and said “Do you know who lives there now?” I walked over to him and asked who. “Kate Moss,” he told me.

What?! Now I’m not a Kate Moss lover, nor do I get star struck, but I was still reeling from the J. B. Priestley thing so was double surprised by this fact.

Suspicious, I asked, “Are you lying?”

“No,” he said and lowered his voice a little. Taking out a camera with a massive great lens, he said, “I’m paparazzi.”

“Wow.”

“And George Michael lives over there,” he said, pointing two doors down.

“Wow.”

Now I decided at this point to believe him because it increased the coolness factor of my walk by fifty million percent. You, however, do not have to believe the man in the van. I did check afterward and apparently they both do live in Highgate, so it may be true!

Between two houses, I found a path and pottered down. The sun was out, the smells were lovely, the houses were beautiful and I got a bit poetical. I was also walking down the lane that was Coleridge’s favourite walk onto the heath and eveything just felt lovely and amazing for a while.

At the bottom, without warning, the trees and houses stopped and I found myself on the open fields of the heath. I turned right, heading to the top of Hampstead Heath, to a viewpoint, said to be the best in North London.

On my way I saw this sign…

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…and happened to have my swimming stuff with me, because I was planning to swim in the outdoor pool near home on my way back. It was too tempting. It had been hot and I longed to jump in the water. It was only £2 for a swim.

And that’s when I realised it! I’d given all my money to the bookshop lady! Dammit. I went to one of the lifeguards.

“Is there any way of paying by card? I don’t have cash on me and I’m dying to go for a swim!”

“It’s fine. Just pay next time you come.”

More kindness! Highgate was turning out to be a real winner.

I changed quickly and got in. It’s not a swimming pool as such. It’s just a section of lake/pond that ladies can swim in. Amazing. There were moorhens and ducks swimming too and the sun was shining on my face and there were lilies on the surface and I remember thinking that this was one of the best days I’d ever had since moving to London. I swam round a few times then got out an changed.

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(Proof!)

I just had one more stop to make, at the top of the hill. I found this lovely little gazebo…

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…with this amazing view over London (it doesn’t look so spectacular on a photo but it was, believe me).

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The eagle eyed among you might be able to spot the Gherkin and the Shard, which was officially opened last night.

And that was my magical day in Highgate. London-based people, go there if you haven’t already. Non-London-based people, write it into your itinerary for your next trip here. It’s already one of my favourite places ever and I’ll be going again next week (to pay off my debts to the bookshop and the bathing pond, if nothing else!)

The big 100!

Can you believe it? This is blog post number 100! It has been an interesting learning experience. I originally started it because I was having one of those days. We’ve all had them. I had a huge essay to write and I thought I’d take a little walk and stretch my legs before I started. I walked to the river, intending to potter to the next bridge, cross it, then return. And I walked. And I walked….

And I walked…

And walked….

And kept walking a little bit more.

And I couldn’t see any bridges. I had been out for hours. And my brain got ticking. I thought about my essay. I panicked. I’d never get it finished in time. I had no idea what to write. There was no way I’d get 4000 words out of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2006.

I had thought it’d be right up my street when I chose the question. Then I read the Act. It was not juicy and interesting. There was no gossip to be had. It was rules and regulations. Wordy ones. I worried about not finding it interesting as it meant my ‘life plan’ might be in danger. I was worried that my back-up life plan consisted of coffee making and that I’d one day be really old and grey, with rollers in my hair, and a Zimmerframe, standing behind a coffee machine, steaming milk. Forever.

I had a bit of a panic. How can I be approaching thirty and not be in charge of the world already?! I was slacking.

So, for the three and a half hours it took me to get to the next bridge (!) and the hour it took to get to a town centre on the other side, I felt pretty annoyed at myself. I couldn’t believe I’d been trundling along doing ‘not much’ for so long. And I went into a bookshop because that always makes me feel better and somehow found myself holding a book called The Happiness Project.

The author talks about being honest with yourself about the things you find fun (having a book and free time, for example) and doing things you enjoy. She is a writer and enjoys writing so she starts a blog. I thought that I’d start one aswell as I enjoy writing, although I hadn’t done any in years. I’d sort of been contemplating doing one for ages too but couldn’t think what I’d write about. And that’s how this came about.

There have been highs (getting to read Chat magazine and call it ‘research’), the have been lows (eating everything in sight during revision). There have been silly moments (the invention of the catterpony), there have been serious moments (…wait a minute…. have there?). There have been various themes (freedom, the alphabetChat magazine, the way we speak).

But mostly, there has been…. lots of words…. and a high proportion of nonsense.

I am proud of my nonsense. The Happiness Project book introduced me to the idea of being honest with yourself about what you’re good at and what you enjoy. And as much as I wish it were the opposite, making social commentary on the current political climate is not what I want to write about at the moment.

So, here’s to the next 100 posts! I wonder what I’ll be saying then???