Comfort book-buying (because it’s less calories than comfort cake-eating)

After some of the most exhausting and stressful days of my life this past month, up to and including 30 minutes of public speaking to a WI-type group about embalming (which is a bloody long time when it feels like the world has ground to a halt), a weekend in a caravan, and my vehicle breaking down in the middle of nowhere, I took myself to the Oxfam Bookshop, as it’s cheaper than booze, quicker than the waiting list for counselling.


I bought two books for me, and one for my daughter. When I was a child I had a great aunt who always wrote inside the covers of the books she gifted to me, ‘Happy Christmas – Β 1984, love Auntie Marge and Uncle Ron‘, and such. I loved this, and so I bought a Schiller play based on Mary, Queen of Scots, for my daughter as she’s about to start a German and French degree at Aberdeen, and this edition from the 1970s which has an introduction from a past professor, William Witte, who died in 1992, and is buried in Snow Kirk, the tiny cemetery in the grounds of the university. I shall write something appropriate in the cover, that will hopefully have some nostalgic value to her if she ends up turning into a sentimental old woman, like myself. And at Β£2.99 this has been the most reasonable thing I have had to fork out for this past few weeks. I used to complain at the cost of ‘Back to School’ stuff, buying yet more white shirts and gel pens, but now I’m enormously appreciative of cheap uniforms and books being supplied by the learning institution. To quote my mother when we once traveled to a wedding abroad and she was paying for yet more airport food, ‘Help! I’m hemorrhaging cash!’


One other fun thing recently was a trip to look about the university, and while I do usually like my libraries old, musty, and preferably haunted, the new library on campus, opened in 2012 by Liz and Phil, was pretty impressive. It has a cafe, ‘study pods’, and is open 24hrs a day during exam times, three things none of the libraries of my youth boasted.


And the two books I bought myself were Geoffrey of Monmouth’s fictional The History of the Kings of Britain, and The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black Legend of the Dudleys by David Wilson, because who doesn’t love a black legend?

This translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s (a title which always makes me think of Loki of Asgard, but less hot) originally Latin work finished in 1136 is from the 1960s, and has some rather lovely plates, as well as an introduction that explains just how much of the Highways Agency winter salt budget needs to be taken Geoff’s Arthurian ‘history’, as while he wasn’t always entirely making the whole thing up, a lot of the time, well, he actually was. Below is Geoff pictured as he appeared in the BBC’s Merlin, and also a wooden statue in Tintern that shows just what massive hands he had, which probably came in handy for sporting purposes when he was a PE teacher in Grange Hill.