Bookshops in London
BOOKSHOPS IN LONDON
On my tenth wedding anniversary, my boss gave me a bonus of RM10,000. After a short discussion with my wife, we decided to have our 10th wedding anniversary in Europe and England. England was very special to me because I got my university education at Sheffield University way back from 1973 to 1976. Since I graduated, I have not yet visited my alma mater. It is a good coincidence for me to celebrate my wedding anniversary and also pay a visit to Sheffield, England.
My reading culture started way back when I was 13 years old in Malaysia. When I studied in Sheffield, my love for reading grew and grew. I was inspired by a lady who read a book while waiting for the bus to arrive. This is something foreign to me in my country. When I was studying engineering subjects, I also took the opportunities to study social science through reading, watching TV and became a social observer in a country with a totally different culture to my life in Malaysia. As a student on a government scholarship, I did not have money to buy books to read but I made full use of the university library for technical books and the city library for general topics.
This photo was taken on the 3rd of May 2012 during my 2nd visit
On arriving in London in May 1987, I took my wife sightseeing and shopping. In between, I took some time off to be alone visiting bookshops. During my student days whenever I came to London, I did not have money to buy the books I wanted to read. So, I went first to pay homage to the grandmother of all bookshops in London- The Foyles at Charing Cross Road. After being there for two hours and spending £50 on books and my cup of tea and sandwiches at the cafeteria, I returned to my hotel a happy man. That night I planned another day of bookshops hopping while my wife was busy with her shopping at Oxford Street.
London has many bookshops-modern and antique. But before I got lost in some antique bookshops, I need to refuel my body with a great latte at an Italian Café on Carnaby Street. That is the only café in London that can be at par with the latte at St. Marks Square in Venice.
First thing first. I went to Books Etc. bookshop on Oxford Street and bought a map to help me find my way around. It has been more than a decade since I left London in June 1976. How I wish Google Map or Waze were around. After buying a few story books, I walked to Blackwell Bookshop. It has a bigger collection than Book Etc. but The Foyles is the biggest of them all. Here, I went around looking for management books that I could not get from bookshops in Malaysia. At that time, I could not order books online like today. I only had my email address in 1995. Those were the days.
The following day was a Saturday. If I were to go to London, one of the days must be a Saturday. Why? It is a must-visit for me to Portobello Street. I love the crowd, the sight, the sounds and the smell of the Bohemian lifestyle. We arrived early by a Black Cab and the first thing I did was to get a hot cappuccino and walked around with it. It kept my hand warm on a cold spring time at 10º C. We walked around to see how the locals bought their groceries and cheap clothes and jewellery on sale.
As I was walking I saw a cart selling old books. There, I got the classic edition of The Jungle Book written by Rudyard Kipling. To my lovely surprise, it was printed in 1951, a year before I was born. It cost me £6.00. What a steal!
Encouraged by this discovery, I asked if there is any antique bookshop around. The lady told me to walk 100 yards further up the street and it is on the first floor. We walked and there I found a few old things about Malaya( the old name of Malaysia). I only can afford to buy a copy of the old map of Malaya and South East Asia.
From my observations at that time(in the mid-80s), the British newspapers and the books are very cheap compared to in my country Malaysia. I would not miss buying The Sunday Times at 30p. It had great content. I will spend one week reading the Sunday papers! Looking at the price of books, the British people can afford to buy more books than my fellow Malaysians. A normal story book then costs £5 but in Malaysia, the book cost RM25.
London has many bookshops. I could not visit all the bookshops in my three days in London. I have to come again.