Second-hand book haul & a euphemism

It’s such wicked, funny weather in Brighton today. It was sunny when I left the house about an hour and twenty minutes ago, leaving my umbrella

Photo lovingly pilfered from

hanging up in the hall with a decisive “I definitely won’t need that!” Obviously, it started to rain. But it’s a soft, light rain, with the sun mostly managing to come through. It is the perfect weather for a British romance comedy couple’s emotional reunion to take place in (she’s got a plum coat and black suede boots on and he’s got chinos, a blue shirt and a tatty cardigan). Now I’ve parked up in the bay window with my favourite anti-cold-and-scurvy beverage: hot water with five drops of lime juice and a spoonful of sugar.

Living without a wage at the moment, I am always careful to avoid idiotic purchases. I build up a list of things I need to buy and then mentally justify them. If it turns out I genuinely require them, the items stay on the list. If not, they’re crossed out.

Happily, I don’t count books as “idiotic purchases” (and I hope you don’t, either). Today was one of those days when I managed to get everything I needed, and then some. My favourite Dutchman Jorik came back to the house yesterday with a bagful of second-hand books. Immediately my eye went to Atwood’s The Robber Bride, which  I pathologically need, and so I was both jealous and amazed. Inspired, I incorporated into my errands a trip to a couple of Brighton’s well-known second-hand bookshops: Brighton Books and Colin Page.

Brighton Books is a light, simple bookshop in Kensington Gardens. I fail to give a thorough report as I didn’t go down to the lower ground floor: charmingly, you’re required to leave your bags at the till, but I was all wrapped up with my satchel and a Boots bag in their proper places and was reluctant to dismantle myself. But browsing around through all the sections on the ground floor yielded something I’ve had at the back of my mind for a fair while. First, look at the brown paper bag packaging – all it needed was some string! Just lovely –  it’s all crumpled from being pressed to my chest to avoid an excessive rain soaking!

What lies within is brilliant both in terms of book-content and the cover (also check out my luridly pink nails):

This is the 1991 Quality Paperbacks Direct edition; I was a whole one year old when this was published.

Somehow, I always find that more incredible than seeing the date on much older books. Perhaps it’s because I can place it within a much more focused, personal frame of reference. It’s kind of like how, in Alien, the single alien has much more of an impact than the swathes of aliens in, er Aliens, because you’re completely fixed on a smaller dot on your radar instead of being overwhelmed and shutting down a bit.

On to Colin Page, and down the tight spiral staircase (be careful as you go down there, and hold on tight!), and I found myself in the Fiction A-Z and Poetry & Plays sections.

Almost straight away, I found something that’s been on my wishlist for a long time.

I’d been in a bit of a dilemma with regards to Amazon purchases after reading Martin Bekkelund’s now-viral blog entry.  Happily, Colin Page fairly held up Atwood’s book to me, saving me from having to reuse the ebook retailer just yet. Is this the first concrete evidence of a second-hand bookshop generating moral benefits?

The dustjacket on this has an excellent design. Quite frankly (and this may be my Hallowe’en senses all a-tingle) the back of this 2005 Canongate edition reminds me of The Exorcist DVD cover. Take a Google if you’re curious! Can’t wait to get stuck in to this.

As I was about to ascend the staircase, I gave the Poetry & Plays a quick scan. If you know me in real life, or follow me on Twitter, you’ll have a rough idea of how much I enjoy plays and theatre. I feel almost obliged to look at the plays on offer wherever I go.

That quick scan revealed a tiny little book sandwiched between the edge of a shelf and a much thicker hardback volume. This little book has been something I’ve hunted for for a while:

I’ve wanted my own copy of this for at least a year. If you think you have no idea what this play is, and you’ve visited the V&A and sat down to watch the video playing in the theatre section, you may have seen David Tennant in jammie bottoms, berating a woman doing the ironing. That’s Look Back in Anger. (That video also contains Juliet Stevenson with the most beautiful facial expressions in The Caucasian Chalk Circle.)

The play balances domestic cruelty with some absolutely choice dialogue. Here are two of my favourite bits:

“You’re like a sexual maniac – only with you it’s food.”

“You’re very beautiful. A beautiful, great-eyed squirrel.”

So I’m a very happy book-buyer today!

In case you wondered at the start what my other essential, non-idiotic purchases were, I bought nail varnish remover (to remove my very unprofessional pink!) and a couple of bottles of shower gel, which Boots had on offer for 97p each. There were a lot of options; in the end, I went for a creamy moisturising one, and then one with a distinctly cheeky name:



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About fictavia

Fictavia (noun): writer, critiquer of the publishing world and witty reviewer.

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