I had one of those joyous days yesterday. The trains were on time; the sun shone; and I was surrounded by books. These were real books, physical books, and real people.
In a total of seven hours on trains, most of them hugely enjoyable, I encountered only one e-reader. There were plenty of books on the go, one was left behind on the seat for the next person that came along, deliberately. And there were only two annoying instances of that tinny racket that escaped earbuds, even in the ‘quiet’ coaches. No one yelled into their phone – I’m on the train.
And there was wifi, which was a brilliant facility. Despite the need to spend time with the latest Wanderlust, a brilliant issue covering the mysteries of the Avebury Stones, and the Nazca Lines and much more; and there was Slightly Foxed and notes of more books to read, authors to catch up on – Christopher Rush is still working on his Odysseus novel and I’m waiting patiently; Richard Haydn I want to find, and Tolstoy’s Hadji Murat. Despite all that I did have to keep an eye on emails and catch up with events.
One of those events takes place today, more trains. It’s a jolly to the capital, a March and Rally; speakers of the highest quality; and lots and lots of saltires. I’ll have more on that later but it’s going to be a great day.
Anyway, back to The Written Word. Yesterday’s trains took me down to York, to the first day of the annual PBFA Book Fair. Usually I attend on the Saturday but this year I had the advantage of being there for the opening, before the dealers have been snapping up the bargains.
But I didn’t expect to see a queue of a couple of hundred waiting on the doors to open. We are talking here of second hand books. This though is no ordinary book fair. A couple of hundred dealers gather with the pick of their stock; the things they hope will sell. It was busy, annoyingly so, as browsers bumped and got in the way and access to shelves required much indrawn breath at times.
There was a noticeable emphasis in authors who recently laid down their pens for the final time. There was much Seamus Heaney, PLF too, their signatures now inflated as no more were possible. I had a list of things to keep an eye out for, but I didn’t find them. Actually I found one, but not in the prized and sought after, by me anyway, first edition.
I had an eye on a couple of others I had found on my forays round the hall. But time disappeared and as I was finalising my buying intentions a glance at the time had me gasping. The day was done; the shuttle bus back to the station was the next target.
The pavement was bare. I had just missed one. Twenty minutes service; the train left in thirty. The driver need a pee; two passengers wanted an unscheduled stop. The train was platform 11. But I made it, and here I am. Exhausted after a good day out.
And isn’t it great that the written word still attracts. I’ve not seen the York book fair busier. And there was only one e-reader on the train. Now, where’s that saltire flag?