(Persephone plate designed by Eric Ravilious.)
As my birthday last weekend was such a disaster I am celebrating it this weekend but in such a low key way that no-one else has noticed.
Traybake bought me two presents from Persephone which is one of my favourite shops. Persephone both publishes and sells books, many of which were written in the last century and were long out of print, before being re-discovered. The shop is delightful and always smells of hyacinths. The customers have steel grey hair and PhDs and some of them are sensible shoe wearers. It's the kind of bookshop that looks as if it has been there forever but in fact is relatively new.
The book TB got me was well chosen but one I already had so this morning I decided to take it back. I was sure they would be fine about changing it as it was still in the gift wrapping from their shop and was unopened. I was wrong. The young woman who was working there today was sitting at a desk at the back of the shop (a counter would somehow be out of place) and looked quite shocked when I asked if I could change it. She told me they didn't normally take books back. I was surprised. She went on to say that people try to give books back which have been written on. After carefully examining the book for any errant scribbles she conceded and said I could change it. I wish now I had annotated it.
Flann O'Brien came up with the idea of providing a service to people who hadn't time to read their own books. As I recall there were different levels of service but certainly the service included the writing of clever comments on the margins of books, or if not clever, insulting. The books would also be well thumbed and have some of the pages turned down. If a friend was visiting and picked one of these books they would know immediately that not only had you read the book but you also had an opinion about the content.
Next time someone lends me a book I might try this out.
In contrast to Persephone when my sister took back a bag to Labour and Wait, another delightful but pricey shop, they changed it immediately. This despite the fact that the bag was several months old and she had no receipt.
I still have my cold and it is still very cold in London with damp sleet and snow all day.