Tuesday 5 November 2013

Say what you see for #BAMB

Returning to Books Are My Bag, the second stop on my bookshop crawl was Blackwell's on Charing Cross Road.

My first visit to this bookshop was in August 1998, when my then boyfriend insisted we make a trip to London because as an academic specialist Blackwell's was the only place we'd be able to buy all our university course books. The fact I was due to study English and therefore able to buy my set texts pretty much anywhere had passed him by (I should've known the relationship was doomed), but I certainly wasn't going to deny myself the chance to meet a new bookshop. 

I don't recall much about that visit, but I do remember the feeling of satisfaction as I struggled under the weight of several big bags of books on the long train ride home. I'm pretty certain it's the only time I've bought such a large haul in one go (raiding my shelves I've photographed only a random selection of old and new).

Heading off to university in Wales meant it was a long time before I returned to this branch of Blackwell's, but since moving back east it has become one of my go to destinations when I find myself with a few minutes (hours) to spare in London - including, obviously, several more bookshops, Green Park and the National Gallery

Slowly wandering round and round, and round, the er, round bookshelves for general fiction (they really do never end) it's (un)surprisingly easy to lose track of time as I gather a pile of books or, if time's really tight, just take a few minutes to relax and enjoy the beauty of all the spines on display. And that's before you take in the actual academic books, gorgeous children's section or various recommended areas you'll have walked through on your way in. The bookshop also has quite possibly the best carrier bags I've ever seen.

As well as being a wonderful place to visit, this particular shop also helps me to satisfy my bookshop fix on weekdays.

Working in a converted apple barn miles from anywhere means it's impossible to visit a bookshop on my lunch break, and that's before you take into account the fact I currently work in local journalism - taking an hour out for a break is not a common occurrence. But for a few minutes - sometimes seconds - at 2pm I take some time to myself for Blackwell's Charing Cross' Say What You See, a 'pictorial pondering of publications' for book lovers on Twitter. I'd explain further, but it's easier if you just log on and find out for yourself.

It may only last for mere moments, but that break from the news for some lighthearted fun is a welcome pause and change of pace to set me up for the afternoon. It's also helped cement my belief that this is a rather great bookshop and introduced me to a number of bookish people and bookshops around the British Isles - essentially Say What You See sowed the seeds that grew into this blog.

However this week is my last as a regular participant in the game to which I am so indebted, as on Friday I leave the world of journalism for an exciting new career (which will most likely turn up in a future post as it's conveniently located in a multiple bookshop town).

I've enjoyed my years as a sub-editor and my months as a participant of Say What You See, and should the opportunity arise I'll certainly continue to play but - for the next three days at least - I've a crown to regain*.

100 Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JG
Tel: 020 7292 5100

*At time of writing I'm in second place by half a point after months at the top of the table, my competitive side isn't happy.

UPDATE: On the last day in my job as a sub-editor two things happened to make my day: 1. My boss, who was on holiday for my final week, popped in to say goodbye and wish me well, I cried. 2. I won my tenth #SWYS, returning to the top of the leaderboard. I may possibly only stay there until 2pm on Monday, but to end my regular playing career in first place had me bouncing up and down with joy.

UPDATE: This bookshop has now relocated, you can read about its new incarnation here. Meantime, find them on Twitter as @BlackwellsHH.


  1. Erica, Hello there. Nice article. Do you ever review books or blog about authors? I would love to be the focus of your attention.

    1. Hi George, thanks for your comment.
      Each post is about a bookshop, so while books and authors will appear, the focus will always be on the bookshop and the story surrounding my encounter with it.
      Should you be doing an event in a bookshop or be the focus of a display or in any way involved in a bookshop then do let me know and I'll see if I can come along. However, if I was to write about you or your works then you would be secondary to the bookshop you were encountered in.
      I hope that helps.


Thank you for your comment. I've unfortunately recently been targeted by spammers, so I've had to put a limited amount of moderation on comments for the time being. If you're a human, your comment will be uploaded soon.

Best wishes,