I am having a fab time, but what else is new? As well as busy and productive working days, I’m catching up with old friends, making some new ones and Oxford has thrown me some beautiful spring days of the sort that truly gladden the heart. There may be more glorious places to be than this city in spring, but I’d need pretty stiff proof to believe it.
As a counterweight to this sybaritic existence (Wine! Chips! Hobnobs!), I am staying in the Austerity Hotel, where I’m living under the stairs and without a shower. Obviously, I have now been in the US for so long that this last fact was almost beyond comprehension. Baths are all well and good in their place, and thankfully there is endless hot water; but still, that place is not first thing in the morning when one is knackered and trying to get out in a hurry.
Before all this frenzied activity kicked in, what better place to battle Sunday’s jetlag than Blackwells? I was there for a good while, 4th floor (Classics and History) to Norrington Room (politics, sciences, travel etc). As usual, I could have bought out half the shop, but this time I was mindful of what happened in Edinburgh, when I got to the airport and almost had to pay an excess baggage allowance for Wolf Hall and the latest Ian Rankin. Behold my restraint:
- Pieces of Modesty – Peter O’Donnell – short stories, not bad, read them in the bath on Sunday. (Ok, so this is where the bath did come into its own.) Sadly, this was the only Modesty Blaise on the shelf.
- Black Diamonds – Catherine Bailey – apparently, not far outside Sheffield is a truly enormous country house, called Wentworth. How did I never hear of this when I lived in that area? The house is now privately owned by some wealthy recluse and the book is the story of how the family who used to own it lost/destroyed their immense fortune. This comes at a time when sundry people and things have reminded me of Sheffield, and I’m beginning to turn over ideas for getting back up there a little later in the year. Hiking would be good; Hardwick Hall is always worth a visit; and it being (O.M.F.G) 20 years this year since I went to university, a drive over Snake Pass and on into Manchester might be fun.
- The Gorse Trilogy – Patrick Hamilton. Leapt on with a yelp of excitement, purely on the basis of its being unread Hamilton. Will be happy to share with my fellow Hamilton fans.
- The Children’s Book – A. S. Byatt – Which, despite being a real door-stopper of a hb, is a perfectly normal sized pb. Buying this does something to assuage my guilt at abandoning the audio version when I realised it was going to take 30 hours.
- And a Barbara Pym, but for the life of me I can’t remember which one.
That’s it. I was so good that I’m almost disappointed in me.