Thursday 23 October 2014

Meeting new friends

On Thursday, 9th October, I was invited to a party. And not just any party. It was the launch night of the second annual Books are my bag campaign.

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.

It could have all gone horribly wrong. Fortunately the first two people I approached turned out to be the ladies from Beckenham Bookshop, and they were lovely. Their friendliness put me at ease and helped set me on the path to meeting lots more interesting, booky people and enjoying what turned out to be a truly great party. Which is why, a few days later, I made their 'home' the first stop on my Books are my bag bookshop crawl.

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.

Book in bag, it was time to depart. But not before the ladies had kindly helped me to work out the route for the beginning of my bookshop crawl and shared the secret of navigating London buses. It was their support at the start that helped to make my day the success it became.

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.

Beckenham Bookshop
42 High Street, Beckenham, Greater London, BR3 1AY
Tel: 020 8650 9744


  1. Very brave of you to take the second option but alls well that ends well. Have you ever encountered Wenlock Books? A dream bookshop in a dream location.

    1. Thank you. Wenlock Books were actually somewhere I'd hoped to visit this weekend but too much traffic and too little time decided otherwise. They're certainly on my list as somewhere I need to visit so your description makes me regret missing them now.


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