I’ve been travelling a bit further to work the last few weeks, doing a few classes in the next county. There’s a bit of a drive involved, but it’s not too far, and it’s a route I don’t otherwise see very often.
The only downside to having a more distant destination is that I pass by so many intriguing places. Sometimes I catch glimpses of them, and make wild promises to myself that I’ll allow time to stop off, on my next journey. There’s always a strong reason why that doesn’t happen.
This week though, I had posters to deliver, so I needed to call in at Cirencester. The way I worked it out, was that if I had to make the effort to find a parking space, and walk to the museum, I might as well drop in on the charity bookshops at the same time.
This, I pointed out to my busy, scheduling-obsessed alter-ego, would mean I could look for the collection of Pritchett stories I need for a future class. It would take an hour, no more. I would count it as my lunch-time, and get straight to my desk when I got back. Who knows, I might find two copies.
The things I think of. You’d expect by now, that I might recognise my own tricks.
I managed to resist the museum, though it’s gone up a couple more notches on my list since that glimpse from the foyer. So I stepped briskly back onto Park Street with a feeling of efficiency. Office workers were drifting, tapping at their phones, but I was on a mission. I threaded through them, conscious of myself as a woman with a purpose.
Actually, my knowledge of Cirencester is sketchy, to say the least. Had anyone noticed my smug speed they would have grinned to see me brought up short, in the middle of the pedestrianized road, as the shops ran out, and I had to retrace my route.
Finally though, I made it to the Oxfam bookshop. The door pinged behind me and that calm biblio-ambiance enveloped me. I stepped up to the nearest bookshelf. Time dropped onto a slower cog. Names slipped past me, titles leap-frogged over each other, vying for attention.
None of them were Pritchett. I resisted. Kept browsing, drifting around the walls seeing titles I knew I’d never get round to reading. That’s how I arrived at the bargain table, the last stop before the door.
There, I found a name that I’d been discussing that morning, Rosamond Lehmann. Not a virago reprint, but a 1944 hardback from The Reprint Society. It was ninety-nine pence. Lack of a dust jacket didn’t bother me, I grabbed it before anyone else recognised its value.
Yet again, I had followed the rule that always applies to my second-hand book browsing, and went home with a different book to the one I set out to buy. At least, this time it was only one.
I knew for sure that this one was meant to be, when I found that it perfectly fitted the last bit of space on my shelf (after my Christmas reading binge). I suppose I’ll just have to keep looking for that Pritchett.
Perhaps I’ll try one of those little towns that punctuate my route home from the last class in Wiltshire, later this week.
It’s a hard, hard life, isn’t it?