I went to London last week – Charing Cross Road in particular – on the express mission of picking up a copy of 84 Charing Cross Road. So I guess you could say I had high expectations (well ok, there were one or two other reasons for visiting the UK, but this one was high up there).
I was in luck – first of all that there were still any second hand booksellers to be found on Charing Cross Road (see here, a fantastic interactive news item from the Guardian “Fading World of Books”). Secondly, I was lucky that when I DID manage to locate one of the last surviving stores, they actually had a copy in stock. Initially the salesman didn’t fancy my chances, as he lead me down the creaky stairs to the musty basement, sighing as he informed me “everyone comes in here looking for that”. Clearly I’m not going to be their most original customer of the year.
As it turns out, I found a lovely old paperback copy from 1976 (which included “The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street” – which I didn’t like as much;), the cover styled like an air mail envelope. I paid my 3 pounds and the nice man wrapped it in brown paper for me. From there I took the underground to Paddington Station, intending to take a train to Torquay. I missed my train (welcome to London, everyone said), so I wrapped up warm and opened my new old book. By the time I arrived at the coast some hours later it was done, and I was drunk on warm fuzzies. If anyone was sitting near me and couldn’t sleep for my chuckling, I do apologise.