Sunday, July 31, 2011

...because you can't smell a Kindle

Well, this is nice. Sort of like sitting down in an old but familiar room... In my mind,  the room looks sparsely  decorated -a wing-backed chair with a sheet over - and it's echoey from the floorboards, but we have high windows and it's quite bright. There are some dusty books left on the mantelpiece, and it has the air of a room that will make a good library. Thusly, as I am prone to saying for no good reason, was the wusly. I write about book-related things here. There y'are.

Despite having another blog that I don't pay enough attention to, I have been inspired to revive this unused bookish corner of my interweb and hit the keyboard by a recent trip abroad. I always find travel a useful fillip for writing. Whether it's a quick jaunt on the train to see some music, or, as it was in this case, a proper leaving on a jet plane kind of actual week in a different country type of thing, I get excited by and about the entire process. This even includes all the meandering round airports - driving travelling partner J to distraction the while by singing 'Airport' by The Motors, specifically just the synth riff and the word 'airport!', and then later any two-syllable word to the same tune (e.g. 'suitcase!', 'postcard!', 'kittens!'). How we laughed. Then it was Eggs Benedict and Guinness at 4am, because, well, you know, hols.

Anyway, the reason for this airport jaunt was a couple of friends' wedding, and the jaunt was to the south of France ('L'aeroport!'), where they work. A whole bunch of people made the journey. It was a lovely party. The friends live in a village called Le Somail, which is right on the Canal du Midi and a deeply beguiling port of call. While there, I was urged by fellow bibliophile guests to seek out the Librarie.

I'd already had a sneak preview of this bookshop/archive from J's tales of a previous trip. The Librarie Ancienne du Somail, to give it its full French fancy name, is superbe. It has around 50,000 books and has been in place in Le Somail since 1980, occupying a disused wine cellar (essentially a giant barn... from when Le Somail gave priorité aux raisins), and just the sort of place one might spend a happy hour or so just running fingers over the spines and murmuring 'Oh la la'. 

The selection is boggling. Everything... comics (bandes dessinées, "BD", for which substantial numbers of French readers have an admirable penchant), antique editions of Rabelais, magazines from various epochs and subject areas, postcards, art books... Although the majority of the tomes are, of course, French, they have large sections of other language books too. I flanned about for an hour or so, picking up and putting down a three volume set of May 1968 writings and trying to justify spending €15 of tightly-budgeted holiday money on Asterix & Cleopatra. In the end, I sated my addiction with three books from the '€1 each/ 6 for €5' section outside, and a bookmark. I left to mop my chin and start plotting my return with improved French and more money. 

Music on Record (Volumes 1& 2) by Peter Gammond. Charmingly obsolete guides to essential recordings of orchestral music for 'anyone who wants to get the best out of gramophone records'... However, worth  80p each (keep saying it) for the non-obsolete handy sketches of composers and their works.
Pelican Guide to English Schools, also completely obsolete (all three published 1963), but useful to see how much 'plus ça change' applies to my new profession ('A lot.'). 

Voyage Voyage - Desireless