My Christmas present from ebee
this year was a voucher for a "Reading Spa". This is a bibliophiliac experience at the lovely Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights
in Bath. And not, as I first guessed, a spa in Reading.
So, I trundled down to Ebee's on Thursday evening, and on Friday we got ourselves up and down the M4 to Bath. The M4 wasn't in a very good temper so we arrived a little later than expected, but figured we had just enough time to squeeze in lunch if we could locate some form of eatery near the bookshop.
Step forward Wild Cafe
, who furnished us with a most excellent lunch. They were friendly, and helpful, and had the sort of menu where you read it thinking: I'll have that... no, wait, that... or that
! I had potted brown crab on toast with (at my request, having observed they were still serving breakfast) two poached eggs on it. Nowt fancy, but if you make that with nice crab, nice eggs and nice bread it's awsome
I've never been to Mr B's before: it's exactly the kind of bookshop I wish would profilerate. They describe themselves as "a curated bookshop". Being far too tiny to have any hope of competing with the Waterstone's across the road, they go for sourcing unusual books you may not have heard of. If anyone else has fond memories of the QI bookshop in Oxford, then it's a bit like that.
Having grown up with the serendipity of second-hand bookshops, I've always found new shops disappointing. Sure if you go in with a goal, you can find it, buy it and leave. Which is useful. But I rarely find inspiration there for things I didn't know I wanted. But what the likes of Mr B's provides is the fun of browsing... oh look, that's got a nice cover... I've never heard of that guy... I didn't know she had a new book out! A nice selection of books, mostly displayed covers-out to tempt you.
Anyway, I settled myself down into a large, squashy chair in front of the fire[*]. With a big mug of tea and a frankly epic
piece of chocolate and brazil nut cake. And a nice chap called Ed sat in the next chair and started asking me about the books I liked. And the books I didn't like. And what I did or didn't look for in a book. And after a bit, he scooted off and came back with a big stack of books.
He ran through them, enthusing about each of them, and we chatted about them and wandered off into reminiscing about favourite books, and then he came back with another big stack. Ed was charming, and entertaining, and spectacularly well informed about books. (The only time I mentioned an author he didn't know all about was Lois McMaster Bujold, lathany
's recommendation for my new year booklist. I'm pretty sure he took it as a personal slight, too :)
Eventually, I was left in my comfy chair to fish through the stacks and pick out the ones I wanted to keep. Which was hard. I don't really feel I have a favourite genre, or style, or setting. Mostly if someone says "this is a good book", I'll trust them. And Ed had said that about every last one[**]. I whittled it down by a mixture of inclination, determination to read books I might not normally go for, and caprice.
And I went downstairs and scooped up Ebee, who'd also succumbed to the lures of the shop and collected her own big stack of books. And we chatted with the staff some more, and headed off laden down, into an extremely sunny and pleasant Bath. We squeezed in some more tea, and all in all it was a thoroughly excellent day.
Of course, the downside of all this book-related frivolity was revealed to me on Saturday morning. I have more books than is reasonable for someone with my level of bookshelf ownership (and my level of bookshelf ownership is dictated by the quantity of available wall). Accordingly, I girded my loins. Here is the out tray:
And here, for those interested, is the in tray:
(The shelves, of course, don't look any less full. How does
In summary: Mr B's is lovely, and anyone stuck for a present for a booklover should consider a book spa voucher ;)
[*] In their "Bibliotherapy Room". Which also contains a tiny booth which you can hire - complete with headphones, tea, and cake - for "uninterrupted reading" at £3.50 for half an hour.
[**] I think he went through about 25 books, of which only two turned out to be books I already knew. Both of which I love.