Posted by: Corri van de Stege | July 25, 2007

Working life and books

A mixture: have been away for work in London for three days and have only  just  got back.   Internet access in the hotel was down (was it the floods I wonder?).  Nevertheless, I always enjoy the travelling, it provides  lots of opportunities to watch people on trains, in meetings, and in sandwich shops and restaurants.  However, the thing I most enjoyed was spending some two hours in a Waterstones Bookshop just off Goodge Street after coming off the train in the early evening.  The bookshop is one I used to go to when I was a student at UCL, a long long time ago and it was not called Waterstones then.  It was pouring with rain so what way to better spend an evening in between checking into  your hotel and going back to order a room service,than putting on your flat shoes and walking across to a book store.  Spent a lot of time there on different floors and would have liked to take back tons of books, I collected them and then put them back again, as I knew that I would have to try and carry them all back with me, after two days of meetings, in my very small wheely suitcase, as well as carrying a laptop bag and meeting papers.  So I decided to be sensible and only came out with Amin Maalouf’s ‘Samarkand’ and David Lodge’s ‘the Art of Fiction’.  I was delighted when the till operator commented on the latter that it was ‘absolutely marvelous and the best book anyone could buy’.  And having dipped into it, I do think it’s great, especially I pondered Chapter 9 on Virginia Woolf and her writing in the stream of consciousness style.  It’s one I’ve tried in my story on Helena for my creative writing course.  It’s a bit scary though to think that ‘real’ and ‘professional writers’ use this style and that there is obviously an expertise attached to this.  Who am I to even try and emulate some of that?

Never mind, this kind of thinking does not really get you anywhere so I plod on with my ’10-minute writing bursts’ while eating my room service omelette, accompanied by a large (and very expensive) glass of white wine. 

The next evening after one meeting after another in the airconditoned cold-inducing hotel, I go out with a colleague and we end up in Charlotte Street.  Memories from a very long time ago flash through my mind, meals and lives long lost and gone.   It’s all still there though, but in different guises and I barely recognise the restaurants, but people are still young and there is still a vibrancy about the place.  London will never lose it’s attraction  as far as a couple of days meandering from meetings to bookshops to ‘patiseries’ and sandwich shops and restaurants are concerned.  It’s still part of me, I know it and feel comfortable in it even though I have not lived there for a very long time.

I’m leaving Samarkand to a time when there is more space.  I want to find out more about Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiaat, have always wanted to, but also know that I must give it the required attention.  Now is not a good time – not only is working life very demanding, the travel on top of it all tires one out.  Moreover, insisting on walking from hotel to meeting and back across London has given me blisters – punishment for wearing the wrong shoes! 

What  a nice suriprise to come back home and find that at long last my long awaited order from Amazone has arrived as well, including Caroline Smailes ‘In Search of Adam’, two books by Sarah Waters and Francine Prose’s ‘Reading like a Writer’ – all recommended by fellow bloggers on my blogroll.  When am I going to find the time to read them all though?

No matter: I love having them there, cosy on my shelf, knowing that I will get to them some time or other and come what may.


  1. I’m always looking forward to browsing bookstores in London, such a cultural and bookish city!

    I have David Lodge’s Art of Fiction on the shelf but still haven’t got to it yet. I plan to read it when I’m free from teaching the summer class and read it along with Literary Theory by Terry Eagleton.

  2. Hi Matthew: Had Terry Eagleton in my hands..could not carry them all! Will definitely get that on one of my next visits.

  3. You are really a reading machine, seachanges, if you permit me that expression. To catch up with you is hard, but try I will.

    Thank you for sharing all this with us.

  4. Aah Jose if only… There is not enough time in the day to read all the books I want to read.

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