All the way there I was excited, skipping my way through the tube and along the road to the venue (Foyles) and generally smiling at passers-by as I looked forward to the evening ahead.
Then I walked in, late, and was confronted by a room full of groups of people I didn't know. Speeches were going on, which gave me time to catch my breath from all the skipping but also to become increasingly nervous as I stood at the back cursing myself for coming to an event where I knew absolutely no one, not even the person who'd invited me. I realised I had two options. I could stay where I was and try to look inconspicuous (I was wearing a bright red dress in a room full of dark clothing) or I could dive in and randomly start talking at people. I chose the second option.
Arriving at the bookshop I was greeted like an old friend, with the conversation resuming where we'd left off, returning to the party and covering theirs and numerous other bookshops. I couldn't have chosen a better place to start my day.
After we'd caught up and swapped stories I set about exploring the bookshop, with my only regret about my visit being that I was unable to stay for the rest of the day.
Beckhenam Bookshop is surprisingly large for an indie, but also bright and airy, even when at the very back. Well stocked with all the fiction and non-fiction genres you could ask for, I often found myself stopping to enjoy what I like to think of as 'special' books because they're great gifts but deserve more attention than being lost on your coffee table. And yes, I did fall for Much Loved (hint to any family members reading).
However, I couldn't afford the weight of carrying a large book around for a day-long bookshop crawl, so I left the beautiful book behind and instead asked for a light recommendation - something to balance the heavy reads I've recently been selecting. The answer? Magic for Beginners, a short story collection by Kelly Link. Not only was I fascinated by the recommendation, I was also kicking myself for having not thought of short stories before.
Indeed so helpful and friendly had they been that I was sorry to say goodbye, my consolation being that - like all good friends - I know I'll see them again.
42 High Street, Beckenham, Greater London, BR3 1AY
Tel: 020 8650 9744